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Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Learning About and Celebrating Houston’s Oldest Culture

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October, serves as a touching and essential tribute to the rich tapestry of cultures that predates the European arrival in the Americas. It is a day of remembrance, recognition, and respect for the indigenous communities who have inhabited the land for millennia. It is also a day that is becoming increasingly popular as a replacement for Columbus Day, which celebrates the explorer who sailed with a crew from Spain on the well known ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, in 1492.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day holds significant importance to the history of Texas and the Houston area. Before European settlers arrived, this region was home to an estimated 50 indigenous tribes, including the Karankawa, Akokisa, Atakapa, and Caddo. These indigenous communities cultivated a deep connection with the land, leaving a lasting cultural legacy.

The Karankawa tribe were the first reported Native Americans in Texas. They lived along the Gulf Coast from Galveston Bay to Corpus Christi Bay. For over 10,000 years, these groups lived on the Gulf Coast and surrounding plains cultivating their homes with fishing, hunting, gathering, building and truly living off this land. Today, roughly 70,000 indigenous people live in the Houston area but there is little to no cultural services, centers or representation.

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in and around Houston by browsing the Gordon Smith Collection at the Museum of Natural Science. You can also take a virtual tour of the Southern Plains Museum and Cultural Center which was founded by fellow Lipan Apache Chance L. Laundry. There is no better way to celebrate than to support local Indigenous-owned businesses such as the Cloud Chief & Co. and the Crow’s Nest Art Gallery, to name a few.

This day encourages dialogue, education, and unity, creating a space where the diverse voices of indigenous peoples can be heard and their stories appreciated, not only in Texas but across the nation.