Yup'ik dancer
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Lexi Qass’uq Trainer

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day in Alaska

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day in Alaska

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Alaska. Alaska was the second state after North Dakota to recognize it as a holiday. It has a relatively short history as a celebration, having only been recognized since 2015. In 2017, then Governor Walker declared that “Alaska is built upon the homelands and communities of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the state would not be possible.” Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a celebration honoring the original people of Alaska. Long before written history, people were living and thriving on this land, and this special day honors their contribution to our great state.

In addition to Alaska’s vast and varied landscape, the state has a cultural landscape that is equally vibrant. Indigenous Peoples’ Day’s growing list of celebrations honors and celebrates the state’s Alaska Native culture. Many of the day’s events are aimed at local audiences, but visitors are always welcome and the number of Indigenous Peoples’ Day events around the state are increasing every year.

  • The University of Alaska is a major partner with many local indigenous groups in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and its website is often one of the best resources for finding such events.
  • Deep in the Interior of Alaska, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) hosts celebrations on the lands of the Lower Tanana People. In 2022, UAF hosted a local screening for “Awake,” a short film about the past, present, and future of Alaska Native language revitalization, as well as speakers, small workshops, and a fry bread taco fundraiser. UAF updates its website yearly with information about Indigenous People’s Day happenings in Fairbanks and other campuses in the UAF family.
  • Southeast Alaska is a popular visitor destination, and is the home of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. In the southeast, University of Alaska has campuses in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, and these campuses host events centered around this holiday. The Southeast celebration includes panels, films screenings, and activities such as Native Youth Olympics demonstrations, ornament making, and paddle painting.
  • The UA Kuskokwim campus is in the hub city of Bethel in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region. This is the home of the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Athabascan peoples. The local campus, in partnership with local indigenous groups in Bethel, hosts a potluck, presentations and craft workshops before an Indigenous Peoples’ Day march that ends with a traditional dance celebration.
  • Nome is the home of the Inupiaq people and the finish of the roughly thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. UA’s Northwest campus partners with local organizations to host a film festival with fresh baked goods. And, in 2022, the nearby Alaska Native Village of Solomon organized an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration at the Nome Community Center featuring local speakers, a potluck, and a fashion show, and singing and dance performances by local individuals and groups. Events are primarily advertised on Facebook, but all are open to the public.
  • In Anchorage, the home of the Dena’ina Athabascan peoples, Alaska Pacific University (APU) hosts a celebration in partnership with UA, local non-profits, and tribal organizations at the APU campus. This celebration includes dance performances, a potluck, and local speakers honoring the importance of this day of celebration.

Alaska’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day formally recognizes and celebrates Alaska Natives’ contributions to the history of this state. If you happen to be in Alaska during the month of October, feel free to come and celebrate with us!

Snowy mountain peaks in Alaska

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Immerse yourself in Alaska Native heritage and learn how to experience the living culture of the state's Indigenous peoples.