Indigenous Peoples’ Day vs Columbus Day: Which one is used more?

InclusivitySEO + Content Marketing

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October and is a Federal Holiday as of 2021. The day celebrates and honors the cultures and contributions of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. However, the second Monday in October is still celebrated by 14 states and about 130 local governments as Columbus Day. 

For many Native Americans and Indigenous peoples, Columbus Day is a painful reminder of colonization, violence, and exploitation. In recent years, there’s been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day across the country.

Columbus vs Indigenous Peoples’ Day Holiday Timeline History

  • 1492: A directionally challenged, but well-funded Columbus thought he found a new route to Asia. He “found” the Bahamas. Made 4 more trips and kicked off a European invasion of an already occupied land, while setting the stage for the transatlantic slave trade and genocide.
  • 1700s: Columbus Day was unofficially celebrated in pockets across the U.S.
  • 1937: President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Columbus Day a national holiday.
  • 1946: The United Nations Charter is signed, without any mention of indigenous peoples.
  • 1972: The United Nations finally recognizes the rights of indigenous people with the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. 
  • 1977: Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed by a UN conference held to address discrimination against Native Americans.  
  • 1989: South Dakota becomes the first state to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ day. 
  • 1990: The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is passed, giving indigenous peoples some measure of control over their ancestral remains and sacred objects.
  • 1992: Five hundred years after Columbus’ voyage, the United Nations General Assembly adopts the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. 
  • 1994: The United States ratifies the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which includes protections for indigenous peoples. 
  • 2004: The US creates an official holiday to recognize Native Americans: National Native American Heritage Month (November).  It is later renamed Native American Heritage Month.
  • 2009: President Barack Obama signs a proclamation making October 12th a day to “celebrate the accomplishments and resilience of Native Americans”  
  • 2021: President Biden officially makes Indigenous Peoples’ Day a Federal holiday, replacing Columbus Day.
  • As of 2022: 14 U.S. States still do not recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.


What do people search for?

Besides looking at state and local government holiday laws, there is another way of looking at the adoption of either Columbus or Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Google Trends, which shows the unbiased data behind searches reveals that there is a long way to go for the adoption of the new holiday. 

This is a good proxy for adoption because many of these searches are for general information about ”when the holiday is” so they can mark a calendar. The same search for when “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is” would yield the same information, especially as it has now been named a Federal Holiday as of 2021. So, for the purpose of brand recognition measurement, it makes sense to use search volume as a proxy for adoption.

Scanning back to 2004, the earliest data Google offers, we can compare the searches made for both “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. This reveals the dominance of Columbus Day as the standard by an order of magnitude in search volume. 

Google Trends Columbus day vs Indigenous Peoples’ Day

However, starting in as early as 2014, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” begins to show up in comparison at a 89:1 volume ratio. Dialing this view into the past 5 years from 2022, the slight rise of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”  becomes more visible.

Google Trends past 5 years Columbus vs Indegenous

Traditionally, progressive laws lag behind public opinion, as was the case with the Women’s Suffrage movement and Civil Rights movement. In the case of Columbus, the divide between people and policy still appears quite large according to search interest. This interest also cuts across political state lines, as a regional breakdown shows New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in the top 10 for “Columbus Day” search volume.

Google Trends by state region

This gap will take a long time to close, as traditions have a way of sticking in the mind. Removing a statue, or renaming a school may work in a local area, but changing a nationally branded holiday clearly will take time. 

As your organization looks to check content around the use of Columbus Day, the has added “Columbus Day” as a flag in our database, recommending the increasing use of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.