Indigenous Peoples’ Day began with a 1989 resolution to honor and celebrate our Native American people and their histories and cultures on the second Monday in October in South Dakota. Since then, several states have followed suit, including Alaska, New Mexico and Oregon. Indigenous Peoples' Day activities range from awareness-raising events to markets, parades and traditional dances. In New Mexico, where approximately 11% of the population is Native American according to the Census bureau, a bill was passed in 2019 officially recognizing the day previously known as Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Navajo leaders hope that this renamed holiday will inspire people to appreciate the rich heritage and move toward healing and growth.
At Comagine Health, we support several projects that actively engage our Native American partners in many states. In the Partnership to Advance Tribal Health (PATH), we work with Indian Health Services Hospitals in Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota to accelerate quality improvement in patient care and drive change in vulnerable communities with high rates of health disparities. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light some of those vulnerabilities as the outbreak affected American Indian/Alaskan Native populations disproportionately.
As we anticipate a new four-year scope of work in this important area, we recognize the relevance of taking a patient-centered, holistic approach to interventions and the delivery of services. With each tribal nation comes distinct language, values, traditions, structure and social environment that must be honored and respected. Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives the PATH team and perhaps all of us an occasion to pause and reflect, celebrate and hope.