Arizona’s first state-recognized Native American Day occurred Sunday, commemorating the date — June 2 — when then President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924.
That act granted United States citizenship to any Native American born within the country.
The day’s recognition came via the passage last year of Senate Bill 1235, introduced by Navajo state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock. It was was signed into law last April by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Ducey posted about the day on Twitter Sunday.
“Today, Arizona recognizes and celebrates the rich contributions and history of the Native American people in our state,” Ducey wrote.
There didn’t appear to be many events celebrating the occasion Sunday, though the Arizona Diamondbacks held a Native American Recognition Day as part of game festivities on Saturday.
Peshlakai, a U.S. Army veteran, also sponsored legislation to name three Arizona highways after Native American veterans, which were approved by the Legislature last year.
“Arizona is a unique state built upon the sacred homelands of our indigenous people,” Peshlakai said. “As a mother, veteran, and leader, I know that we must celebrate our history, our identity and our truth. I thank the 53rd Legislature and governor for signing this legislation in 2018.”
Native American Day originally was proposed for July 15, the anniversary of a 1948 Arizona court decision that gave Native Americans the right to vote, but the date changed in later drafts of the bill.
Some states and cities states recognize Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day to honor Native Americans. The states include Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii (where it is called Discoverers’ Day) and South Dakota (where it is called Native American Day).
It is also celebrated in around 60 cities, including Phoenix and Flagstaff.
Peshlakai said she is going to continue working to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in Arizona.
“That was always my original intent,” Peshlakai said.