Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2023: NLC Local Indigenous Leaders

October 6, 2023 - (4 min read)

As we pause to reflect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2023, it is appropriate to highlight and celebrate NLC’s Local Indigenous Leaders (LIL). 

For the first time in 30 years, NLC launched a new Constituency Group at its Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC. In March 2023, Local Indigenous Leaders joined NLC’s five other constituency groups to form a caucus that provides municipal officials who identify and ally with Indigenous Peoples to connect with their colleagues, share ideas, and develop leadership experience. LIL also works within NLC to uplift the perspectives of Indigenous communities and educate the greater organization on historical and current issues facing Indigenous and Tribal communities. 

LIL Overview and Vision 

LIL serves as a gateway to a safe and welcoming place for members to name the challenges, explore solutions, debate policy issues, and contribute to the success of Indigenous People in American cities, towns, and villages. 

The governance of LIL is conducted by a Leadership Circle currently comprised of six individuals who have played an active role in the formation of the group. At our first formal meeting in March 2023, we in the Leadership Circle ratified the new constituency group’s bylaws stipulating that going forward, the Leadership Circle will be comprised of no fewer than six and up to 10 individuals.  

We also articulated the purpose and goals of the group. LIL is committed to addressing generations of invisibility of lndigenous Peoples. Historically, we have not had a space to impact our own destiny. LIL will increase our visibility, inclusion, and partnerships in all spaces. Our goals include: 

  • To meet and connect with other local Indigenous leaders 
  • To create and ensure access to a safe space — a place to be authentic 
  • To identify and acknowledge past barriers for coming together 
  • To discuss municipal / Tribal partnerships 
  • To create a space to celebrate and keep alive our culture where it may not be encouraged or is actively oppressed
  • To identify, encourage, and support other local Indigenous leaders 
  • To create and foster relationships with Federal officials and national organizations 
  • To engage and connect to all of NLC to listen and ask questions of LIL 
  • To be an information source to NLC on advocacy, influence, and expert speakers on Indigenous issues
  • To establish and expand strategic partnerships 

Many cities, towns, and villages across the United States have moved to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day 

One of our top priorities is to ensure that the NLC Municipal Action Guide – Roadmap to Repair: A Guide to How Cities Can Acknowledge and Address the History of Harm to Indigenous Peoples, Rebuild Trust, and Repair Relationships with Indigenous Populations, remains a dynamic resource that is continuously shared. While the publication offers significant guidance to municipal leaders on acknowledging past harm and intentionally moving toward repair, we would also like to highlight the valuable guidance on recognizing and celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Many cities, towns, and villages across the United States have moved to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. The nonprofit organization Running Strong for American Indian Youth reports that cities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington have already made the change. Cities like Tempe, AZ, and Portland, ME, made the change with the support of Indigenous city council members, passing formal resolutions. The City of Tempe passed the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution on September 13, 2023, and the City of Portland has issued its 2023 Indigenous Peoples’ Day Proclamation. The Municipal Action Guide provides city examples and links to resources to help you consider similar actions. 

Join NLC’s Local Indigenous Leaders Constituency Group!

Consider joining us as we work to build this new and vital constituency group. Whether you identify as Native American or Alaska Native or seek to learn more and become an ally for our efforts, we would welcome your engagement.  

Authored by Mayor Roberta “Birdie” Cano, (Navajo) Winslow, AZ;

Councilmember April Fournier, (Navajo) Portland, ME;

Councilor Lisa Ford, (Choctaw) Broken Arrow, OK;

Councilmember Doreen Garlid (Navajo), Tempe, AZ;

Councilmember Chris Roberts, (Choctaw) Shoreline, WA, and

Councilmember Sigvanna (Meghan) Tapqaq (Iñupiaq), Nome, AK 

About the Authors