Oakland celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous Peoples Day 2020
Indigenous Peoples Day 2020

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Oakland. The holiday is celebrated on the second Monday in October and honors Native American peoples and their histories and cultures. 

Origins of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The holiday started as a counter-celebration to “Columbus Day” which honors explorer Christopher Columbus. Berkeley began Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, 500 years after Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. Oakland’s celebration began two years ago in response to activism by Merritt College students in the Intertribal Student Union. 

Indigenous Peoples are Still Here in the Bay

The Ohlone are the primary indigenous group of the Bay Area, in addition to the Bay Miwok.  The Bay Area region was one of several relocation sites many groups came to in the 20th century with the Indian Relocation Act. The forced resettlement led to Indigenous activism, like the 1969 Alcatraz takeover, and the development of many institutions, like the Intertribal Friendship House, est. 1955, Native American Health Center, est. 1972, and the American Indian Child Resource Center, est. 1974. (This summer, Oakland Voices hosted a webinar with Native American Health Center)

As the Bay Area Equity Atlas points out, “Despite the atrocities of colonization and genocide, Native communities persist today and are active in efforts to preserve and revive the culture.” 

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Today

In recent years, many activists and academics make land acknowledgements to recognize our various relationships with colonialism and land theft. More recently, urban indigenous women have launched the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust to rematriate indigenous lands. Bay Area dwellers living on occupied Ohlone land are encouraged to pay the Shuumi Land Tax as a way of acknowledging the land we live on.

Author Profile

Rasheed Shabazz is a multimedia storyteller, urban planning historian, and youth development professional based in the Bay Area. He is co-director of Oakland Voices. He recently completed his Masters of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. 

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