|The Abenaki who lived in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire|
For nearly 40 years there has been a movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. My state, Vermont, has already made this change.
So why the change in holidays? Well for starters, contrary to what’s been previously taught. Columbus never discovered the Americas and for that matter, he never set foot on either continent. Some other facts: He didn’t prove the world was round, that was already known as far back as the Greeks. In fact, he thought the world was pear shaped. His voyage was economic so slave trading was a lucrative opportunity and he captured natives for such purposes. Columbus’ men brought syphilis back to Europe and they also brought small pox and other diseases that caused the deaths of millions of indigenous people. While Columbus may have been a very brave and skillful sailor, he was also deeply flawed human who set the stage for the Spanish conquistadors who looted and killed natives by the thousands.
There are many issues around the idea of Columbus’s “discovery.” Leif Ericksson arrived well before Columbus in what is today Newfoundland and it’s very possible that St. Brendan’s voyage took place 500 years before Ericksson and 1,000 years before Columbus. However, all of them are “Johnny come latelies,” as the Americas were already occupied possibly as early as 16,000 years ago.
Ways to prepare for Indigenous Peoples Day
• Learn more about the settlement of the Americas:
First Humans Entered the Americas Along the Coast, Not through the Ice: Evidence mounts against the traditional story of early human migration through an ice corridor.
A 24,000-year-old horse jawbone is helping rewrite our understanding of human habitation on the continent
• Learn about the indigenous people in your area. Start by checking your state’s historical society.
• Make plans to attend an event hosted by a Native group, organization or cultural center near you.
• Check out Vision Maker Media for Native related films to watch
• Read a book on or by Natives. For various titles check American Indian Books.