Indigenous People’s Day

I know when we were kids we got taught that “Christopher Columbus discovered America.” He didn’t. In truth, he didn’t “discover” anything, because people already lived where he landed. And, more specifically, he didn’t land anywhere on what is the modern day USA.

It isn’t “revisionist” to look at the facts of what transpired in the late 1400’s (and onward) rather than perpetuating a white-washed fairy tale. Columbus wasn’t a good person; he immediately saw the indigenous populations as people that could be exploited and enslaved. He didn’t “prove the world was round;” educated people at the time understood that this was true. He did significantly underestimate the circumference of the Earth, so he’s lucky there was a continent located here or his entire expedition would have been lost. He isn’t a hero for Italian-Americans since he never stepped foot on continental America.

He is only important from a strictly western-European perspective, as his voyages opened up trade routes that were previously unknown. Unfortunately, all of this new trade was exploitative and destructive from the perspective of indigenous peoples. It’s important to understand that aspect of history, and with such understanding it becomes more difficult to think of Columbus as someone to be celebrated with a holiday.

The point of shifting the focus of this day from Columbus to indigenous people is to remind us all that other people had a story, and that the white European story isn’t the only one that matters. It is about having an equitable view of our history, and maybe learning from it so that we might have a more equitable future. White supremacists are threatened by this and lash out against it, because for them an equitable world is undesirable. They rely on exploitation even today to maintain their power and wealth, so recognizing the historical truth of “colonization” and “exploration” from the perspective of those exploited undermines their efforts.

That is why it is important for the rest of us to look at all sides of the story, and to realize that, in order for there to be equity in the future, we must acknowledge and learn from the inequities of the past and present.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day.