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It's Not Enough to Simply Acknowledge Indigenous People's Day. Here Are 4 Ways Employers Can Take Action, Help and Support Native Americans. On Indigenous Peoples' Day, commit to ending performative allyship and invest your time or money to take action to support Indigenous Peoples.

By Nika White Edited by Maria Bailey

Key Takeaways

  • Besides simply acknowledging the holiday, here are four additional ways to celebrate the day and show respect to those who came before us.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Two historic holidays occur on the same day in October: Columbus Day and Indigenous People's Day. Depending on your view of history, one of these holidays may resonate with you more than the other. However, one thing remains true: Indigenous people were in the Americas before Columbus arrived and the various tribes, cultures and communities that still live here do not receive the same acknowledgment as the explorer does.

I choose to celebrate Indigenous People's Day as a sign of solidarity and compassion for the struggles and triumphs Indigenous people have experienced in the United States. For this upcoming Indigenous People's Day and for future ones, I invite you to join me in focusing on what we can do to shed light on the contributions, innovations and history of Indigenous people. Besides simply acknowledging the holiday, here are four additional ways to celebrate the day and show respect to those who came before us.

Related: 5 Ways to Honor and Respect Indigenous Colleagues as a Leader

1. Make Indigenous People's Day a paid day off

If you haven't already, make Indigenous People's Day a paid company holiday. Like other paid holidays, this is a day for people to rest, reflect and step away from work to acknowledge the significance of the day.

Giving people time off also amplifies the history and day as a whole. If people are buried in work, they don't have time to read articles, watch videos or engage in discussions about the history of Indigenous people. We saw this when Juneteenth became a national holiday. Those who had never engaged with the topic of Juneteenth suddenly had a reason and opportunity to look it up and learn more.

Indigenous People's Day has the potential to not only become a relaxing paid day off but also a moment of reflection on the role Indigenous people play in the U.S. national identity. In addition, the goal would be to allow people the space to learn more and reflect on how we got to where we are as a nation.

2. Acknowledge the Indigenous land you stand on

Where are you currently located? Does the land you occupy used to be Indigenous tribal land? The answer is most likely yes. Every inch of land in the United States used to be occupied, visited, or revered by Indigenous people. Take the time to search what tribe used to occupy the land you work, live, and enjoy time on, and choose to acknowledge that in your business correspondence.

For example, I live in South Carolina. This land was originally occupied by several tribes, including the Cherokee, Creek and Cusabo. In my LinkedIn bio, at the end of an email, or when I begin one of my diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) trainings, I might say, "I acknowledge the original inhabitants of this area are the Cherokee, Creek and Cusabo."

It's a simple statement, but it has an impact. It's a sign of respect that the businesses we run, the homes we sleep in and the places we call home used to be someone else's ancestral land. On this Indigenous People's Day, an acknowledgment — whether written or verbal — can honor and respect the Indigenous people of the land you occupy and put into people's minds a bit of humility and gratitude for the places we live.

3. Support and partner with Indigenous-led organizations

Many communities have an Indigenous-owned business or organization that's doing good work. Explore who those organizations are in your community. Perhaps there's a non-profit organization that your company can donate to regularly. Or, if education is a key value in your business, donate to a scholarship fund that helps Indigenous students attend university. If there's an Indigenous-owned restaurant or food business near you, take your employees there to enjoy a meal or purchase a few of their products for the company kitchen.

There are numerous ways to support Indigenous-led groups and organizations in a way that's economically empowering. The key is to want to support these organizations and to use your business' economic privilege and power to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of Indigenous people near you.

Related: From Indian Country Comes Word: 'Native Business' Wants to Empower Native Entrepreneurship

4. Have intentional conversations about Indigenous history and futures

I'm all about having intentional conversations. In fact, I run a video podcast called Intentional Conversations, and the goal of that podcast is to have much-needed discussions on race, identity and DEI. Having an intentional conversation can happen anywhere. It can happen in an organized group session in the office. It can happen offsite at a restaurant. It can also happen online amongst colleagues in a shared group chat.

However, if your business chooses to host an intentional conversation, make it a point to explore the topic of Indigenous people and our country's history with Christopher Columbus. Not everyone will be for or against the same issues in the conversation, but there is an artful way to engage in historical dialogues that explain the truth of what happened while also leaving room for disagreement and further inquiry.

Related: From Faith to Politics: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

Final thoughts

No matter how one feels about the course of history, we should all be able to acknowledge that Indigenous people were on the North American continent first, and they deserve respect. Whether that be discussing the history that brought us to where we are today or exploring where Indigenous people are heading into the future, taking the day off to reflect and show respect to Indigenous people is a powerful way to bring their struggles and triumphs into the spotlight.

My hope is that we will use this day to build more empathy and understanding for those who came before us and shepherded the land we all have the privilege to enjoy today.

Nika White

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President & CEO

Dr. Nika White is a national authority and fearless advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. As an award-winning management and leadership consultant, keynote speaker, published author and executive practitioner for DEI efforts across business, government, non-profit and education.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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