Indigenous Peoples’ Day

When I was growing up, October 12 was a school holiday – Columbus Day, celebrating Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. In recent years the holiday was shifted to the second Monday in October.

Starting this year, we’ll be celebrating National Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. Or is it Peoples Day? Or People’s Day?

If you’re into grammar, the word people creates some thorny problems. Like men, group, team, and similar words, people refers to more than one person – but it doesn’t end in “s.” Yikes! Where does the apostrophe go?

The good news is that you never have to mess with that complicated singular/plural rule they taught you in school. There’s a much simpler way that works 100% of the time: spell the word, find the last letter, and put the apostrophe there.

men‘s shirts

our group‘s neeting

the team‘s captain

people‘s votes

But there’s another complication. (Ain’t English fun?) The word people can also refer to an ethnic group, a community, or a nation:

We’re studying the peoples of the South Pacific.  CORRECT

Notice that now the last letter is s: peoples.

So Indigenous Peoples’ Day is correct.

But wait, there’s more! You can decide that Indigenous Peoples is an adjective, not a noun. (Hey – it’s a free country!) Then you can just forget about the apostrophe.

When President Biden decided that we would celebrate our Native Americans every October, I wish he’d taken that extra step and banished the apostrophe. We don’t need it, and life is simpler without it.

A celebration for Indigenous Peoples Day


Leave a Reply