Phoenix Replaces Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Phoenix Replaces Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix City Council declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day an official city holiday, replacing the traditional Columbus Day commemoration. 

The holiday, which will take place annually on the second Monday in October, was approved by the council during Wednesday’s meeting. 

“Phoenix is proud to recognize the roots on which our city was founded,” stated Mayor Kate Gallego. 

The city’s resolution falls in line with the recent precedent set by President Joe Biden. The president first declared the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2021.

Biden’s resolution followed up on a memorandum honoring Native Americans that he issued within the first week of his inauguration. The 2021 resolution declared that Indigenous communities had contributed greatly to American history and culture, and had been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden’s resolution also commended Native Americans for having some of the highest rates of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

“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,” wrote Biden. “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.”

Biden’s presidential proclamation exists without holiday privileges like bank closures, however. Only a congressional act could establish Columbus Day as an official federal holiday. 

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced Columbus Day a national holiday in 1937 to commemorate Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas on October 12, 1492, attributed as the discovery of the “New World,” as the Americas were then known. 

Christopher Columbus garnered controversy in recent decades for enslaving some of the Native Americans he encountered, as well as the perspective that he encroached and overtook land that wasn’t rightfully his. Efforts to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day trace back to post-Sexual Revolution movements. In 1977, a United Nations-sponsored conference combating discrimination against Native Americans discussed replacing the holiday.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that cities and states began to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day over Columbus Day. 

While former Gov. Doug Ducey signed a proclamation in 2020 announcing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Phoenix is the first Arizona city to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, Ducey didn’t renew the proclamation by signing another in 2021 or last year.

Some local leaders across the state, such as Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, have wished to see greater local support for the holiday. The recorder told KOLD in 2021 that only her husband, who isn’t Native American, was able to take the day off. 

“They had school, I had work, the only person in our household who had today off for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is my husband, who is not Indigenous,” said Cázares-Kelly.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to