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What is Indigenous Peoples' Day and why should it replace Columbus Day?

For all they've endured, Native Americans should be celebrated.

"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue!" Because of that, we celebrate Columbus Day!

Ask someone who Christopher Columbus is, and you'll get some variation on that chant about the man who "discovered" America. We're told this really romanticized story about a brave man who crossed the ocean to discover a brand new world.

Thanks, Chris! Sure, you can have a national holiday. You've earned it.


How America was settled, as told by "Schoolhouse Rock!" GIF from "Schoolhouse Rock!"

But, as we know, Columbus didn't so much "discover" America, as "land on an already inhabited continent and claim it as his own."

Did it take bravery to sail off into the unknown? Absolutely. But it's kind of disrespectful to the land's indigenous people to claim Columbus "discovered" it.


Image by AFP/Getty Images.

That, along with a host of other reasons — Columbus and his crew's penchant for murdering, raping, and enslaving the locals, for example — is why there's been a real push in recent years to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in place of Columbus Day.

The idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day is starting to catch on in a number of cities across the country.

Seattle; Minneapolis; Albuquerque; Alpena, Michigan; Olympia, Washington; Anadarko, Oklahoma; Bexar County, Texas; St. Paul, Minnesota; Lawrence, Kansas; and Portland, Oregon have all made Indigenous People's Day a reality! Good for them!

A 2000 Columbus Day protest in Denver. Photo from Mark Leffingwell/AFP/Getty Images.

Why not just have a separate holiday for indigenous people? It kind of goes back to that whole "Columbus was a really bad dude" thing.

In Seattle's resolution to adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day in place of Columbus Day, they explained it like so:

"The City of Seattle has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards Indigenous people in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating disproportionate health, education, and social crises."

The United States' history regarding the Native American population has been filled with everything from genocide to theft to systemic discrimination and exclusion. Throwing a party and parades for the guy who started that whole mess doesn't make things better.

And no one is saying that Christopher Columbus' contribution should be erased from history.

Columbus existed. He had a massive impact on history. But maybe he's not worth celebrating as some sort of savior or hero. If anything, this is a call to remember Columbus' history in a more thorough, accurate sense.

Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Image.

The mythology of Columbus is rewritten history and it's time that changed.

Just about anything learned in U.S. history classes frames everything as being a battle of good (America) versus evil (anyone we don't like). We frame ourselves as saviors in our contributions to wars and culture and technology and innovation.

For example, one of the most well-documented attempts to revise U.S. history has been an attempt to rebrand the Civil War as being about states' rights, taxes, or just about anything other than slavery.

Hey, I get it — no one wants to be like, "Remember that time we went to war because we wanted to own people? Yeah, that's embarrassing." So, Texas, for example, decided to just add that slavery was just a Civil War side issue (Just a side issue, guys! NBD! People make mistakes!) into its guidelines for textbooks.

Another example is how we talk about — or rather, don't talk about — the fact that the U.S. ran a bunch of Japanese internment camps around the time of World War II. We hear a lot about what happened at Pearl Harbor, us dropping bombs, and how we basically saved the rest of the world (You're welcome, BTW) in the process (Yay, America!). But we sure don't like to talk about parts that paint us in a less than pleasant light.

If those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, we're doomed.

We shouldn't erase history. We should embrace the real history of our nation — as ugly as it can sometimes be.

We must celebrate those who truly "discovered" the land. And that means honoring the indigenous people who were here before ol' Columbus came along.

For some people, every day is Independence Day. For Janis Shinwari, this will be his first 4th of July as an American citizen. And boy, he earned it.

"If I was in Afghanistan—if I didn't come here, I wouldn't be alive now. I would be dead." Shinwari told CNN Heroes in 2018. Shinwari risked his life for nine years serving as a translator for U.S. forces in his native country of Afghanistan. He risked his life everyday knowing that should he be caught by the Taliban, the consequences would be severe. "If the Taliban catch you, they will torture you in front of your kids and families and make a film of you." Shinwari said. "Then [they'll] send it to other translators as a warning message to stop working with the American forces."

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