Photo by Charlotte Gintert, 2019

City of Akron - Summit County North American First People’s Day

In 2018, the Akron City Council adopted a resolution declaring the first Monday of October as a day to honor Indigeneity. The initiative was prompted by students at The Lippman School of Akron, which has a longstanding exchange relationship with the Northern Cheyenne Nation of Montana. The celebration was extended the next year to include all of Summit County and has since grown into several free events leading up to and following the official date.

These events are organized by the Portage Path Collaborative, comprised of The Summit County Historical Society, The Lippman School, Summit Metro Parks, Akron Public Schools, the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Akron Art Museum, and the Institute for Human Science & Culture at The University of Akron. Two individuals, La Donna Blue Eye, a member of the Choctaw Nation and Akron artist Chuck Ayers are also members of the group. Yearly NAFPD events at the Institute include:

  • a featured contemporary arts exhibition;
  • an annual Fall lecture;
  • behind-the-scenes tours highlighting materials from the Oak Collection that are not currently on display;
  • a Teach-In, where local middle school students can learn about Indigenous art, culture, lifestyles, and history from Indigenous artists, knowledge keepers, storytellers, and other experts. The Teach-In has been held for over a decade at various Akron Public Schools with the support of The Lippman School and was moved to the Institute in 2023.

The Institute is actively seeking contemporary artists to be featured in our galleries. Indigenous artists of contemporary or customary arts are invited. Send questions to apply, please complete this form.

Our 2024 North American First People's Day events have not yet been announced. Please check back soon for more information.

2023 Events

Peter B. Jones headshot

Featured Contemporary Artist: Peter B. Jones

New exhibit opens September 29, 2023. An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 29 from 4:00pm – 7:00pm.

Peter B. Jones is a renowned potter and sculptor who resides on the Allegany Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians. He has been instrumental in reviving historical Hodinöhsö:ni’ (Haudenosaunee) styles and techniques of pottery making, while also developing a body of figurative pottery that highlights and reflects the issues that have impacted the Haudenosaunee communities, past and present. His newest exhibit, O-bit-u-ary focuses on the 5800 Native women have been found murdered or are missing across the United States and Canada, bringing this horrific reality to the forefront of public awareness.

Malinda Maynor Lowery headshot

Fall Lecturer: Malinda Maynor Lowery

October 5, 2023 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm.

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a historian and documentary film producer who is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She has written over twenty book chapters or articles, on topics including American Indian migration and identity, school desegregation, federal recognition, religious music, and foodways, and has published essays for popular audiences in places like the New York Times, Oxford American, and Daily Yonder. Her presentation, Beyond Myths and Truths: Finding Native American Women in History will consist of a lecture and film screening, followed by a Q&A session.

Curator Francisca Ugalde

Behind-the-Scenes Tours

September 29, 2023 from 3:00pm – 4:00pm.

Institute Curator Francisca Ugalde will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oak Native American Ethnographic Collection, including exclusive entry into temperature-controlled storage to view objects not currently on exhibit. Attendees will learn about how the private collection came to The University of Akron, what it offers in terms of vast geographic representation of diverse Indigenous Nations, and some of the research questions that are currently being explored.

Educators at a teach-in event


October 2, 2023. This is an invitation-only event.

Local school children will engage with Indigenous Nation representatives and take part in teacher-created educational activities.

See the Full 2023 Event Calendar