9 Ways to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Austin
Show up and pay tribute to the region’s vibrant Indigenous communities.
Whether you know it or not, Central Texas has long been a hotbed of Indigenous culture. Indigenous folks settled here 15,500 years ago, with the two most prominent tribes being the Caddo and the Tonkawa. To increase visibility and representation of this often marginalized community, the city of Austin voted to officially recognize Indigineous Peoples’ Day on what was once Columbus Day back in 2017, shifting the focus from celebrating the country’s violent colonial past to rightly honoring the region’s Native American population, instead—their land, their history, and their culture. And while things are not quite on the scale of Juneteenth, Women's History Month, or LGBTQ+ Pride just yet, Indigeneous Peoples’ Day events are definitely gaining momentum around Austin, both in terms of awareness and festivity.
In celebration of Indigenous People’s Day this October 11th, we’ve rounded up a few ways to learn more about the community, get involved, and work towards making this the occasion it deserves to be.
This Monday, Indigenous Cultures Institute (ICI) will be uploading an online resource bundle in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The package includes details on all the organizations dedicated to advancing Indigenous rights, promoting social justice, and navigating pressing issues. Get online and see what you can do to support the cause.
State Capitol Building
A bit late to the party but here all the same, Texas passed legislation officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the state level just earlier this year. To toast the occasion, a party will be going down on the State Capitol’s south steps on October 11. Drummers from the Lipan Apache Tribe, renowned hoop dancer Kevin Locke, and a fleet of local performers and speakers top the bill.
Knowledge is power when it comes to building mass awareness, and thankfully the Austin Public Library stocks plenty of resources in print, ebook, and audio format. Recommended beginner titles available include adult and young adult versions of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States as well as the kid-friendly American Indians in Texas. Once you’ve covered the basics, dive deeper into the Staff Picks for Indigenous People’s Day.
Celebrating its 20th year, the Bullock Museum delves into the full story of how Texas came to be. This, therefore, includes an exhibit documenting early American Indian civilizations that cultivated the region prior to European arrival, colonization, and the global politics that influenced the growth of early Texas. The venue spans three floors of exhibits, plus a theatre, cafe, and gift shop, making it the perfect day-long outing.
WYLD is the only gallery in Austin dedicated entirely to Native American Art. Founded by Ray Donley, a local attorney who has been collecting since the 1980s, the intimate space showcases both traditional and contemporary fine art by Indigenous makers. Many items on display are also for sale, and you’ll need to book an appointment with Ray to view them in person.
Austin Powwow is an annual social gathering of Native American communities coming together over song, dance, food, and other long-held traditions. Run by the nonprofit Great Promise for American Indians, everyone is welcome to join in their beautiful celebration of Native cultural heritage. And while the 2021 event has been postponed, you can still throw them some funds and find out about future volunteer opportunities via their website.
Get inspired—and perhaps even make a purchase—by scoping out vibrant works from top designer Nan Blassingame of Native American Notions. Her intricate jingle dress has already been showcased in The Bullock Museum (jingle is a native dance accompanied by a dress full of jingle cones attached, which mimic the sound of rainfall), while other creations have made appearances at a variety of fashion shows across the country.
Spring Lake Outdoor Academy is a fun series of classes designed for students from kindergarten to 12th grade, encouraging them to get outside and experience nature firsthand. This year’s October 12 edition is devoted to Indigenous Cultural Exploration, instructing kids on the folks that lived and thrived in Central Texas for thousands of years via hands-on games and crafts.
On your road trip to San Marcos, schedule a stop into The Price community center. It’ll be hosting a special exhibit about the ICI, curated by Paulina Dosal-Terminel. Items on display will include dance regalia, ceremonial jewelry, youth art, and videos of the ICI’s important work.