Last month, the Princeton town council passed a resolution marking the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. With this resolution, Princeton became the second municipality in New Jersey to observe the day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates the peoples and cultures that thrived in the North American continent prior to the arrival of European colonists. While many cities throughout the United States have replaced Columbus Day celebrations with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Princeton did not hold Columbus Day celebrations prior to passing the resolution anyway. Princeton officials see recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a way to reaffirm the town’s commitment to the well-being of indigenous communities and “encourage the development and dissemination of truthful representations and acknowledgements of wrongs.”
The idea for the resolution was brought to the council by two non-indigenous residents last year. The council referred the idea to the Civil Rights Commission to do further research. The Commission worked with indigenous leaders in South Jersey, like Rev. John Norwood of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, to develop the proposal. Norwood said collaboration with indigenous peoples is important even for well-intentioned people because “if they don’t have a community right there near them to interact with, there will be presumptions sometimes based on stereotypes.”
Besides recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the resolution also acknowledges that Princeton was built on the land of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation and notes the nation’s recent struggle to regain state recognition. Princeton does not have much Indigenous Peoples’ Day programming planned because the resolution was only passed last month. However, the city intends to collaborate with Princeton University to develop more programming for next year.
In 2017, Newark became the first city in New Jersey to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day.