Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona With These 7 Fun and Educational Events

Navajo warrior performs raditional dance near Paige, AZ. Image via Ruslan Kalnitsky / Shutterstock

By Rebecca L. Rhoades

October 7, 2022

Here are some ways that you can recognize and honor Native American history and culture.

Monday, Oct. 10, is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and across Arizona, many schools, businesses, organizations, and individuals are choosing to commemorate this newly recognized holiday instead of Columbus Day, which traditionally has been observed on the second Monday of the month. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates the resilience and diversity of Native American people throughout the US. It was first proposed at a United Nations conference in 1977 as a way to acknowledge the country’s treatment of Indigenous communities and honor Native peoples’ contributions. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation recognizing the holiday. He is the first president to acknowledge the day officially. And while Arizona continues to recognize Columbus Day as a state holiday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a proclamation to include Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the celebration.

There are 22 federally recognized Native American tribes in Arizona; this includes the Zuni tribe of New Mexico, which has land holdings in Apache County. In fact, Arizona is home to five of the 10 largest Indian reservations in the US, including the largest, the Navajo (Diné) Nation in the northeast corner of the state. Each tribe has its own language, customs, and history. 

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona With These 7 Fun and Educational Events
Image via Rebecca L. Rhoades

While Indigenous Peoples’ Day has not yet been declared a federal holiday, Native communities across the country are using the day as an opportunity to pay homage to their heritage and traditions and educate others about their diverse cultures.

Here are some of the celebratory events taking place in Arizona. 

1. 8th Annual Indigenous Peoples Day Arizona

The three-day celebration coordinated by grassroots organizations addresses issues that affect the earth and its people. All events are free to the public. 

• Oct. 8; 7:30-11:30 a.m.; 2801 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix. The weekend begins with trash pickup at Rio Salado. Held in partnership with Keep Nature Wild and Chispa Arizona, this activity is designed to foster community and reconnect with nature. 

• Oct. 9; 8 a.m.; Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. The Day of Movement includes a spiritual run and a half-mile walk for laying down prayers. 

• Oct. 10, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m., 1937 W. Adams St., Phoenix. The IPDAZ Gathering starts with a half-day conference at Puente, which includes sessions on self-care, sovereignty, and land preservation. Live music, dancing, food, poetry, and more begins at 4 p.m. 

2. Native American Connections’ 38th Annual Parade

When: Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: starts at Third and Oak streets and continues to Indian School Road, Phoenix
Time: 9-11 a.m

The long-awaited return of NAC’s annual parade commemorates two important dates: the 50th anniversary of the organization and the 75th anniversary of the Phoenix Indian Center. Representatives from both NAC and PIC will serve as grand marshals. See colorful floats, lively dancers, and participants dressed in native regalia. An open house at the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center follows the parade.  

Phoenix Indian School Memorial Hall Tours

When: Saturday, October 8
Where: Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
Time: noon

In 1922, Memorial Hall was built to honor 62 Native American boys from the Phoenix Indian Industrial School who enlisted to serve in the first World War. Two were killed in action. A special commemoration program will take place inside the hall, with musical guests and a reading of the boys’ names. Tours of the Visitor Center and a screening of a 30-minute documentary about the Phoenix Indian marching band are included. 

Phoenix Indian Center Indigenous Market, Social Powwow, and Gourd Dance

When: Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
Time: market opens at 8 a.m.; gourd dance noon-5 p.m.; powwow 6-9 p.m.

This free outdoor event celebrates Phoenix Indian Center’s 75th anniversary. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Our History, Honoring The People.” Local food trucks and indigenous arts and crafts vendors will be on-site throughout the day, and members from Native communities across the state will gather to sing, dance, and honor their cultures. Spectators are encouraged to bring their own chairs and canopies. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Heard Museum

When: Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Time: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona With These 7 Fun and Educational Events
Photo by Craig Smith

Celebrate American Indian art and culture with a day of music and dance, storytelling, artist demonstrations, and food that the whole family can enjoy. Performers include Thunder Boys drum group, Hoop Dance champion Sampson Sinquah, violinist Sage Cornelius, and heavy metal musician Sage Bond. Guests can enjoy Native American-influenced dishes at the museum’s Courtyard Café or sample the regional fare of Emerson’s Frybread and Paletas Betty

Flagstaff Indigenous Peoples Day

When: Monday, Oct. 10

Where: Online and 211 W. Aspen Ave., Flagstaff

Time: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The city of Flagstaff hosts this virtual and in-person celebration. Titled “Honoring the Voices of Our Youth,” the event will feature in-depth discussions as well as cultural performances. The day begins with a proclamation by Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy, followed by a forum about climate change. The event then shifts from the screen to Flagstaff City Hall with a youth panel that examines the contributions of the city’s indigenous community. Dance performances by Yoyhoyam, a collective of Hopi and Tewa people, and Danza Mexica Mexicayotl round out the festivities.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest

When: Monday, Oct. 10
Where: First and Garfield streets, Phoenix
Time: 3 p.m.-10 p.m.

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona With These 7 Fun and Educational Events
Photo by Danny Upshaw

The second annual festival transforms Roosevelt Row’s Arts District into a family-friendly cultural block party featuring art, music, film, Native cuisine, and more. The free event includes a Native market, skateboard competitions, food trucks, and live musical performances on the main stage. A paid VIP experience at The Churchill begins at 6 p.m., with food and drink, a fashion show curated by Native Guitar Tours, and a performance by Mato Mayuhi. The celebration is sponsored in part by Cahokia PHX, a female-owned, Indigenous-led art space.

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