How to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in PDX

Hit the Portland Art Museum, support great organizations working on Native rights, and buy from Indigenous makers.

By Cami Hughes October 8, 2021

Dancing at the Delta Park Pow-Wow, in pre-COVID times.

This Monday marks the first statewide celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day in Oregon, which this year became the 11th state to formally recognize the holiday, after a bill to do so passed the Oregon Legislature and was signed by Gov. Kate Brown.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day first replaced the celebration of “Christopher Columbus Day” in South Dakota in 1990. Its goal is to set the record straight about Columbus’s “discovery” of America by acknowledging the true history of the event, the centuries of abuse, subjugation, and death against Native Americans that followed, and to teach the public how this history impacts Indigenous communities to this day.

Here are some ways to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

Find out whose land you’re on here. Portland is on the land of the Cowlitz, Clackamas, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. 

Research the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and why the celebration of a colonizer causes lasting damage to Native communities. Here is a three-minute podcast from NPR in 2019 that is a quick introduction to the movement to change the day to celebrate Native people instead.

Educate yourself on the long-term impacts of the historical treatment of Native Americans: Here is a previous Portland Monthly article on the impact of COVID on Native communities and the historical inadequacy of Indian Health Services that dates back to the 18th century. When you're done, read all about the rise and fall of Kah-nee-ta and the state of the Indigenous people living on the Warm Springs Reservation and delve into the persistence of unemployment and poverty in Native communities.

Support Native focused and founded organizations:

Oregon Native American Chamber of Commerce: Dedicated to advancing educational and economic opportunities for Native Americans in Oregon and SW Washington through funding scholarships, creating free development courses, gathering community through events like networking luncheons, and providing a voice for their community to advocate for economic justice and transformation.

Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA): Works to enhance the strengths of Native youth and families through community work and outreach through emphasizing cultural identity and education. It’s a collection of multiple tribes and voices focused on sustaining tradition by providing culturally specific programs and services that guide members towards success and cultural empowerment.

Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice: This nonprofit focuses on creating, implementing, and teaching sustainable and regenerative earth practices, and hopes to be a model of natural farming methods that support humans while protecting nature. The website offers resources for people to learn about the decolonization movement.

Attend these events that celebrate and educate the public about Native American history and culture: 

Portland Region and online events 

Portland Indigenous Marketplace

October 11, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Online event, plus exhibits at 701 SE Grand Ave, Portland

Price: Free

The Portland Indigenous Marketplace is holding a virtual event that showcases Indigenous artists' and entrepreneurs' work. Vendors will post their wares on the event page and customers can contact the sellers directly to purchase. Even though the event is online, there will still be music and storytelling. In addition to this virtual event, the marketplace has exhibits of cultural artifacts collected from demolished buildings with a focus on stained glass and historic signage, as well as a pop-up reading room from their library.

 Native American Art at Portland Art Museum

Wednesdays to Sundays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

1219 SW Park Ave, Portland

Price: $17–20

Visit PAM’s collection in the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Center for Native American Art, which is on the second and third floors of the museum’s main building. The collection holds more than 3,500 prehistoric and historic objects from around 200 different cultural groups in North America. There are galleries dedicated to different regions, such as the Arctic, Woodlands, Southwest, and from our own regions, the Columbia Plateau and Western Oregon.

Conquering Columbus lecture

October 11, at 11 a.m.


Price: Free

Confluence, a nonprofit that connects people to the history, cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous people, is hosting a “Conquering Columbus: Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.” At this event, four scholars will discuss the historical concept of the discovery of new land and consider what the long-term impacts of this doctrine are, and how it continues to influence us today. 

Willamette Valley

Museum of Natural and Cultural History

October 11, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

680 E 15th Ave, Eugene

Price: Free

The museum is breaking its normal schedule and opening on Monday with free admission in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Its Native artifacts span more than 14,000 years into the present day to highlight Native culture.

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Tuesdays–Saturdays, noon–5 p.m.

700 State St, Salem

Price: $3–6

The Hallie Ford Museum has a collection of traditional art from Northwest tribes and, in specific, tribes from the Willamette Valley. The collection also includes contemporary art from Native American artists including Rick Bartow, Marie Watt, and Lillian Pitt, with a selection of these pieces being on permanent display.

We recognize that this is far from an exhaustive list, and we welcome any recommendations for more ideas, resources, and organizations to celebrate. Get in touch at [email protected].




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