What You Need to Know About Indigenous People’s Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates Native American peoples and recognizes their histories and cultures in a progressive counter-celebration to the federally recognized Columbus Day. Many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people reject celebrating Christopher Columbus because of the violent colonization he represents as a historical figure. The grade-school notion of “Columbus discovered America” erases the humanity of the hundreds of Native tribes who occupied the continent long before Columbus set foot on what he believed were the West Indies.

The History

Columbus, an Italian sailing for Spain may have crossed the ocean blue in 1492, but the children’s rhyme leaves out some key facts. The explorer was also the harbinger of colonization and genocide against the Native communities who had occupied the Americas for centuries before his arrival.

Columbus’ trip was intended to find a direct route from Europe to Asia in search of riches, but Columbus was not the first to propose the possibility of reaching Asia by sailing West from Europe. The idea dates back to the notion that the Earth is round, which was recognized as far back as within the teachings of ancient Rome. He was not even the first European to discover the Americas — Viking Leif Erikson sailed to Greenland and Newfoundland in the 11th century. Instead of reaching Asia, Columbus landed in the Caribbean.

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