California Native American Day


Celebrating Native American Day is a time-honored tradition in the Native American community. For many years California tribes have celebrated the fourth Friday of September by renewing their ties to the Earth and keeping alive the ways of their ancestors. Then Governor Ronald Reagan first acknowledged California Indians in 1968 by signing a resolution to designate the date as American Indian Day, a move meant to help inform the general public about Indian heritage and the problems confronted by Indians.

Today, people of all ages commemorate Native American Indian Day by learning more about the culture, heritage, and traditions of the California Indian. The celebration is capped off each year at the State Capitol, where hundreds of people and over 300 state agencies gather to enjoy vendors, food trucks, and traditional activities such as:

  • Blessing Ceremonies
  • Honoring our Veterans and our Elders
  • Cultural Presentations
  • Tribal Leader Speakers
  • Traditional California Indian Arts
  • Dance Groups 

Each year, the event is coordinated by the California State Native American Liaisons of California. Participating organizations include Native American organizations, Tribes, federal, state, and local governments including Caltrans, State Native American Heritage Commission, California State Parks, Department of Consumer Affairs, State Native American liaisons, Department of Fair Employment and Housing Commission, California Department of Justice-Attorney General’s Office, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Water Resources, and Department of Housing and Community Development.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that “California Native American communities represent the best of who we are and who we can be as Californians. The actions we take today move us closer toward the goal of reckoning with our past, making space for healing, and promoting equity. I thank our partners in the Legislature and everyone who made possible these important advancements, especially the tribal leaders, whose persistent advocacy has compelled these changes.”

However, California Tribal Liaisons made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Native American Day celebration at the State Capitol, originally planned for September 24, 2021. We look forward to future Native American Day celebrations when we can gather safely and responsibly to honor the legacy and cultural heritage of our people.  

Historical Facts

  • Native American Day began in California in 1939 when Governor Culbert Olson dedicated October 1st as “Indian Day.”
  • The Native American Day is an official State holiday, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1953 (Baca), signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson on September 21, 1998. In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. wrote a Governor’s Proclamation highlighting this momentous and important day.
  • As of August 2021, Assembly member James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla tribe), has submitted a bill to the floor to grant judicial employees the first-ever paid holiday recognizing Native Americans.  The bill has cleared both the assembly and the senate and now sits on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature.  Ramos said he expects Governor Newsom to sign the proposed legislation, and for the bill to effect in September 2022.