Canadian Thanksgiving
A Canadian Thanksgiving centerpiece (Photo: Christopher Porter, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Today, our team at NPI is observ­ing two hol­i­days: Cana­di­an Thanks­giv­ing and Indige­nous Peo­ples Day, both of which fall on the sec­ond Mon­day in October.

Unlike in the Unit­ed States, Cana­di­an Thanks­giv­ing is cel­e­brat­ed clos­er to har­vest time. In its mod­ern incar­na­tion, dat­ing back to 1957, it is cel­e­brat­ed in grate­ful­ness for a boun­ti­ful har­vest. (The Unit­ed States, mean­while, still has a month and a cou­ple weeks to go before its Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day will arrive.)

“Thanks­giv­ing is a time to cel­e­brate the abun­dance of the fall har­vest and to share nature’s boun­ty with our fam­i­lies, our friends and our com­mu­ni­ties,” British Colum­bia Pre­mier John Hor­gan said in a state­ment. “It is a time to come togeth­er to give thanks for all that we enjoy and to help those in need.”

“We are blessed to live in a beau­ti­ful province of bound­less oppor­tu­ni­ty. Our gov­ern­ment is work­ing hard to make sure every­one enjoys the ben­e­fits as we build a stronger British Colum­bia together.”

“This sea­son, we have so many to thank as we con­tin­ue the fight against COVID-19. We also owe thanks to those who bat­tled for­est fires, and many oth­ers who con­tin­ue to serve on the front lines of the poi­soned drug cri­sis. Thank you for all that you have done and con­tin­ue to do.”

“I want to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to also thank all those who vol­un­teer to make their com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter and those who donate to food banks and oth­er char­i­ties. Shar­ing makes our lives rich and meaningful.”

“To every­one cel­e­brat­ing, have a safe and hap­py Thanksgiving!”

Canadian Thanksgiving
A Cana­di­an Thanks­giv­ing cen­ter­piece (Pho­to: Christo­pher Porter, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Cana­di­an Thanks­giv­ing is not a hol­i­day rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment, but that doesn’t mean Amer­i­cans can’t keep it. If you ask us, the only thing bet­ter than Thanks­giv­ing is two Thanks­giv­ings! Every day is a good day to give thanks and enjoy a good meal in the com­pa­ny of fam­i­ly and friends.

Today, we are also cel­e­brat­ing Indige­nous Peo­ples Day, which is rec­og­nized by many juris­dic­tions in the Unit­ed States in place of Colum­bus Day.

This year, for the first time, Indige­nous Peo­ples Day is being com­mem­o­rat­ed by the White House. Pres­i­dent Joe Biden signed a procla­ma­tion mark­ing the day last Fri­day, at the same time that he restored three nation­al monuments.

The procla­ma­tion reads:

Since time immemo­r­i­al, Amer­i­can Indi­ans, Alas­ka Natives, and Native Hawai­ians have built vibrant and diverse cul­tures — safe­guard­ing land, lan­guage, spir­it, knowl­edge, and tra­di­tion across the gen­er­a­tions.  On Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Day, our Nation cel­e­brates the invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions and resilience of Indige­nous peo­ples, rec­og­nizes their inher­ent sov­er­eign­ty, and com­mits to hon­or­ing the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­men­t’s trust and treaty oblig­a­tions to Trib­al Nations.

Our coun­try was con­ceived on a promise of equal­i­ty and oppor­tu­ni­ty for all peo­ple — a promise that, despite the extra­or­di­nary progress we have made through the years, we have nev­er ful­ly lived up to.

That is espe­cial­ly true when it comes to uphold­ing the rights and dig­ni­ty of the Indige­nous peo­ple who were here long before col­o­niza­tion of the Amer­i­c­as began.

For gen­er­a­tions, Fed­er­al poli­cies sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly sought to assim­i­late and dis­place Native peo­ple and erad­i­cate Native cultures.

Today, we rec­og­nize Indige­nous peo­ples’ resilience and strength as well as the immea­sur­able pos­i­tive impact that they have made on every aspect of Amer­i­can soci­ety. We also recom­mit to sup­port­ing a new, brighter future of promise and equi­ty for Trib­al Nations — a future ground­ed in Trib­al sov­er­eign­ty and respect for the human rights of Indige­nous peo­ple in the Amer­i­c­as and around the world.

In the first week of my Admin­is­tra­tion, I issued a mem­o­ran­dum reaf­firm­ing our Nation’s solemn trust and treaty oblig­a­tions to Amer­i­can Indi­an and Alas­ka Native Trib­al Nations and direct­ed the heads of exec­u­tive depart­ments and agen­cies to engage in reg­u­lar, mean­ing­ful, and robust con­sul­ta­tion with Trib­al officials.

It is a pri­or­i­ty of my Admin­is­tra­tion to make respect for Trib­al sov­er­eign­ty and self-gov­er­nance the cor­ner­stone of Fed­er­al Indi­an pol­i­cy. His­to­ry demon­strates that Native Amer­i­can peo­ple — and our Nation as a whole — are best served when Trib­al gov­ern­ments are empow­ered to lead their com­mu­ni­ties and when Fed­er­al offi­cials lis­ten to and work togeth­er with Trib­al lead­ers when for­mu­lat­ing Fed­er­al pol­i­cy that affects Trib­al Nations.

The con­tri­bu­tions that Indige­nous peo­ples have made through­out his­to­ry — in pub­lic ser­vice, entre­pre­neur­ship, schol­ar­ship, the arts, and count­less oth­er fields — are inte­gral to our Nation, our cul­ture, and our society.

Indige­nous peo­ples have served, and con­tin­ue to serve, in the Unit­ed States Armed Forces with dis­tinc­tion and hon­or — at one of the high­est rates of any group — defend­ing our secu­ri­ty every day.

And Native Amer­i­cans have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, work­ing essen­tial jobs and car­ry­ing us through our gravest moments.

Fur­ther, in recog­ni­tion that the pan­dem­ic has harmed Indige­nous peo­ples at an alarm­ing and dis­pro­por­tion­ate rate, Native com­mu­ni­ties have led the way in con­nect­ing peo­ple with vac­ci­na­tion, boast­ing some of the high­est rates of any racial or eth­nic group.

The Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment has a solemn oblig­a­tion to lift up and invest in the future of Indige­nous peo­ple and empow­er Trib­al Nations to gov­ern their own com­mu­ni­ties and make their own decisions.

We must nev­er for­get the cen­turies-long cam­paign of vio­lence, dis­place­ment, assim­i­la­tion, and ter­ror wrought upon Native com­mu­ni­ties and Trib­al Nations through­out our country.

Today, we acknowl­edge the sig­nif­i­cant sac­ri­fices made by Native peo­ples to this coun­try — and rec­og­nize their many ongo­ing con­tri­bu­tions to our Nation.

On Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Day, we hon­or Amer­i­ca’s first inhab­i­tants and the Trib­al Nations that con­tin­ue to thrive today.  I encour­age every­one to cel­e­brate and rec­og­nize the many Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and cul­tures that make up our great country.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, do here­by pro­claim Octo­ber 11th, 2021, as Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Day.  I call upon the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States to observe this day with appro­pri­ate cer­e­monies and activities.

I also direct that the flag of the Unit­ed States be dis­played on all pub­lic build­ings on the appoint­ed day in hon­or of our diverse his­to­ry and the Indige­nous peo­ples who con­tribute to shap­ing this Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have here­un­to set my hand this eighth day of Octo­ber, in the year of our Lord two thou­sand twen­ty-one, and of the Inde­pen­dence of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca the two hun­dred and forty-sixth.


“On this Indige­nous Peo­ples Day, we cel­e­brate the con­tri­bu­tions and resilience of America’s Native com­mu­ni­ties, and the work they have done today and every day to bring this coun­try clos­er to our ideals,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair Jaime Har­ri­son and DNC Native Amer­i­can Cau­cus Chair Rion Ramirez.

“Democ­rats are com­mit­ted to car­ry­ing for­ward the impor­tant work nec­es­sary to ensure dig­ni­ty, sov­er­eign­ty, and oppor­tu­ni­ty for our nation’s five hun­dred and sev­en­ty-four Fed­er­al­ly Rec­og­nized Tribes.”

“The Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion has hon­ored this com­mit­ment to uplift and sup­port America’s Native com­mu­ni­ties from its very first week, when Pres­i­dent Biden issued a memo pri­or­i­tiz­ing fed­er­al agen­cies’ con­sul­ta­tion with Trib­al Nations. The pres­i­dent also appoint­ed Deb Haa­land the first Native Cab­i­net sec­re­tary, and the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan includes the largest-ever invest­ment of resources in Trib­al com­mu­ni­ties in U.S. history.”

“The admin­is­tra­tion is work­ing to address the issues that mat­ter to Trib­al com­mu­ni­ties, from the new Fed­er­al Board­ing School Ini­tia­tive to uncov­er the truth and help heal affect­ed com­mu­ni­ties, to restor­ing fed­er­al pro­tec­tions to land and waters such as Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment, which is sacred to Trib­al Nations.”

“We will nev­er for­get the sac­ri­fices, bru­tal­i­ty, assim­i­la­tion, and dis­lo­ca­tion inflict­ed upon Native com­mu­ni­ties. Today, we hon­or the five hun­dred and sev­en­ty-four Trib­al Nations and the sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions they have made to our coun­try, and com­mit our­selves toward build­ing a future marked by jus­tice, promise, and equal oppor­tu­ni­ty for all.”

“As we take time to observe this Indige­nous People’s Day, may we hon­or and cel­e­brate the Native peo­ples that are such an inte­gral part of our his­to­ry, cul­ture and future — espe­cial­ly here in Wash­ing­ton State,” said Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Murray.

“Impor­tant­ly, I’m glad to see Pres­i­dent Biden acknowl­edge the painful his­to­ry and hor­rors Indige­nous peo­ple have endured for gen­er­a­tions through efforts to dis­place, assim­i­late, and elim­i­nate Native cul­tures and com­mu­ni­ties in the first ever White House procla­ma­tion des­ig­nat­ing today offi­cial­ly as Indige­nous Peo­ples Day.”

“As we recov­er from a pan­dem­ic that has led to dev­as­tat­ing health and eco­nom­ic con­se­quences in Indi­an Coun­try, we must con­tin­ue work­ing to right the wrongs of our his­to­ry by rec­og­niz­ing Indige­nous peo­ples’ inher­ent sov­er­eign­ty, hon­or­ing Trib­al treaty rights, and mak­ing long over­due invest­ments in Trib­al com­mu­ni­ties — I will con­tin­ue to stand firm as a voice for Wash­ing­ton state’s Trib­al gov­ern­ments and people.”

White House recog­ni­tion of Indige­nous Peo­ples Day is a big deal, but Indige­nous Peo­ples Day is not yet a paid fed­er­al hol­i­day — and it ought to be.

While our team has no objec­tion to hon­or­ing and cel­e­brat­ing Ital­ian-Amer­i­can her­itage, we should not have a hol­i­day that hon­ors Christo­pher Colum­bus. Colum­bus did not “dis­cov­er” the Amer­i­c­as. Colum­bus’ voy­ages across the Atlantic result­ed in pain, suf­fer­ing, dis­ease, enslave­ment, and death. That’s sim­ply not a lega­cy deserv­ing of hon­or or cel­e­bra­tion. Hon­or­ing the peo­ples who have inhab­it­ed the Amer­i­c­as for mil­len­nia instead of one man who thought he could reach India by sail­ing west­ward (he was wrong) makes so much more sense.

Here in the Pacif­ic North­west, we have many trib­al nations work­ing to pro­tect and safe­guard the majesty of our region, from our moun­tains and riv­er val­leys to our salmon runs, orcas, and beau­ti­ful Sal­ish Sea.

At the Wash­ing­ton Tribes web­site, you can learn more about each of the fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized trib­al com­mu­ni­ties that have called this region home since time immemo­r­i­al. There are more than two dozen:

Wash­ing­ton state is home to twen­ty-nine fed­er­al­ly-rec­og­nized Indi­an tribes. Trib­al gov­ern­ments are improv­ing people’s lives, Indi­an and non-Indi­an alike, in com­mu­ni­ties from Neah Bay to Usk.

Rev­enue from gam­ing and oth­er trib­al enter­pris­es is tax rev­enue for trib­al gov­ern­ments. The mon­ey is used to cre­ate jobs and busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties for all Washingtonians.

It helps pay for hous­ing, health care, pub­lic safe­ty, environmental/natural resource pro­grams and transportation.

As trib­al gam­ing mon­ey flows through the Wash­ing­ton econ­o­my, it gen­er­ates hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in tax rev­enues for local and state gov­ern­ment. Trib­al gov­ern­ments and their enter­pris­es are a major fac­tor in Washington’s econ­o­my today – gen­er­at­ing more than 30,000 jobs and invest­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in goods and ser­vices, and on cap­i­tal projects.

View a map of Washington’s fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized tribes:

Washington's federally recognized tribes
Each mark­er on the map above shows the loca­tion of a fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized trib­al com­mu­ni­ty in Wash­ing­ton State (Cour­tesy of Wash­ing­ton Tribes)

Again, Hap­py Thanks­giv­ing and Indige­nous Peo­ples Day!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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