2017 Update: Indigenous Peoples' Day at Harvard


Updates and Developments

As of October 6, 2017

Harvard University

Harvard Graduate School of Design

  • Soft update of only "academic text calendar" that reflects federal holiday (Columbus Day) and City of Cambridge holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day)
  • Faculty calendar and Academic Calendar remain unchanged

Harvard Graduate School of Education

  • Dean Ryan announces that HGSE will recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day going forward, Oct. 5, 2017


Dear Friends,


                Last year, President Faust convened a group of deans to consider whether to change the name of the Columbus Day holiday at Harvard.  (To be clear, Columbus Day is a federal holiday, which obviously no school—not even Harvard!—can change; the only question is whether Harvard should recognize Columbus Day or something else.)  That group, of which I was a member, deliberated and made recommendations to the president.  After careful consideration over the past few months, President Faust recently determined that such a decision was best left to individual schools.


Rather than make a unilateral decision for HGSE, I brought this question before the Senior Faculty.  After thoughtful conversation, the faculty voted to recognize “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” consistent with the City of Cambridge, as well as municipalities, states, schools, and organizations across the country.  Many arguments were made in favor of the change, including the fact that this offered an opportunity to recognize a group of people who were historically brutalized and continue to be too often marginalized and forgotten.  Given that our community at HGSE strives to shine a spotlight on students who are too often marginalized or forgotten, recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day seemed in keeping with our effort to work toward equal opportunity for all and would, our faculty hoped and expected, be a welcome and meaningful change within our community.  


                The name will be changed on HGSE calendars, communications, and other resources beginning this year.  This change is obviously symbolic and a small step.  Our plan, over time, is to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day with programming at HGSE that is consistent with the spirit behind the name change.  The limited amount of time we had to consider the name change prevents us from pulling together meaningful programming in time for the holiday this year. 


For now, my thanks to those who have been involved in these and related conversations over the last several years, and my best wishes to all for a well-deserved holiday.  







James E. Ryan
Dean of the Faculty

Charles William Eliot Professor

Harvard Law School

  • Harvard Law School Student Government adopts resolution that calls on Harvard University to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day, Fall 2016
    • Resolution link at bottom
  • Harvard Law School Student Governement adopts addendum to reaffirm previous year's resolution and calls for a memorial to Massachusetts tribes, Fall 2017
    • Addendum link at bottom
  • Harvard NALSA releases statement calling for Indigenous Peoples' Day, Oct. 5, 2017

Harvard Medical School

  • Dean Daley announces that HMS will recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, Oct. 6, 2017


Dear Members of the Harvard Medical School Community,

After thoughtful consideration, and spurred by the advocacy of our medical students, I want to share with you that we have made a decision to recognize the second Monday in October, the federal holiday Columbus Day, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day at HMS.  

As we commemorate and honor the history of the native peoples of the western hemisphere, it is important to acknowledge the significant contributions that the original inhabitants of the Americas have made. Native Americans have greatly influenced who we are as a culture, and those who share this heritage, including members of our HMS community, continue to do so today.

My hope is that this day will provide a time for reflection on our shared values and the common humanity of all people. We recognize that while our nation has an imperfect past, our school cherishes the bedrock values of diversity and inclusion and works toward a more just future for all people. We are the product of a multicultural past, and the immigrant experience is a powerful symbol central to the idea of America. 

As our students so eloquently expressed, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a matter of concern to all of us who are caregivers and biomedical educators. The Native American population today faces health disparities with roots deep in the collision of cultures that began many centuries ago. These include higher death rates in Native American populations from chronic illnesses, assaults, homicide and suicide than in other Americans.

This day of commemoration serves to remind us that we must all continue to work to build an ever more inclusive environment at HMS. As healers, we must redouble our efforts to eliminate health disparities that First Nations people and other marginalized groups continue to face.  

I know you share my unwavering commitment to extend the promise of modern medicine and the gift of health and well-being to all people, and I welcome your thoughts.


George Q. Daley


Harvard Medical School



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addendum_to_indigenous_peoples_day_resolution.docx12 KB