Engineer Inclusion

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Learn about IPD

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day

It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day and I wanted to celebrate by sharing some of my experiences with you. The man in the photo above is my ancestor, James White Cloud. You can check out his famous (according to my mother anyway) Bearclaw necklace at the Ioway Cultural Institute

Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been officially observed by the United States for a few years now, but it has not yet been recognized as a federal holiday. A little more than a dozen states recognize some version of the holiday in place of Columbus Day. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes the rich history, culture, and contributions of Native people. It’s an opportunity to educate others about tribes, challenge the prevalent negative stereotypes, and highlight the Indigenous community’s issues. It’s not just about celebrating our past but also about acknowledging present struggles and looking forward to a future where equality and respect are commonplace.

In October 2023, lawmakers from the House and Senate reintroduced a bill that would make Indigenous Peoples’ Day a federal holiday, replacing Columbus Day. The bill has garnered support from numerous cosponsors in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Balancing Academics and Cultural Identity on Columbus Day

Growing up with a dual heritage, specifically Native American (Lakota) and White (of Scottish descent), has been a journey of self-discovery and understanding. My education was a blend of two worlds – the public school system, which taught one view and my home, where I learned about the rich history, ongoing struggles and generational trauma experienced by Indigenous people.

Navigating the celebration of Columbus Day in public school was a particularly uncomfortable experience. While the day is often marked with activities and lessons glorifying Christopher Columbus, in my home, it was a stark reminder of the painful history and ongoing struggles. 

I have always enjoyed being a good student but I was very uncomfortable completing these lessons. I found it difficult to participate in these celebrations at school, but I also worried that it may affect my grades. The lack of understanding from peers and teachers about my reluctance was disheartening. The overall attitude I faced throughout public school on this was to do the lessons or take the F.  It underscored the need for more comprehensive and inclusive education about the diverse histories and cultures that make up America.

In 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I was long out of public school. However, the adoption of celebrating IPD over Columbus Day in more places means that fewer children will have the experiences that I did. Embracing this holiday gives a voice to those who are not heard often enough. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a reminder that we are all on this land together, and that we have a responsibility to learn from and respect each other.

Lakota saying

Let's Celebrate

It is important to recognize this holiday to honor the resilience and contributions of Indigenous peoples. So, how can you celebrate IPD?

  • Write a land acknowledgement for your property, business or school.
  • Read a book by an Indigenous author
  • Support an Indigenous-owned business in your community.
  • Take time to educate yourself and others about the history in your own area.


My favorite way to celebrate is to support the community through donations and sharing. There are numerous charities working tirelessly to aid Indigenous communities in the United States. Two I would like to highlight today are:

  • Native American Rights Fund (NARF) provides legal assistance to Indigenous tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide who might otherwise have gone without adequate representation.
  • Native Hope works on various issues, including the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.


Thank you for celebrating with me!

Headshot of Dr. Meagan Pollock

Meagan Pollock, PhD

Dr. Meagan Pollock envisions a world where personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving potential, and where kindness, inclusivity, and conservation prevail.

An international speaker, teacher, engineer, and equity leader, her mission is to provide services, tools, and resources that inspire awareness and initiate action.

As an engineer turned educator, Meagan Pollock is focused on engineering equity into education and the workforce.

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