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Unlearning Columbus Day

At a young age, many students learn about an Italian navigator who was the first to explore America. Christopher Columbus was a familiar name in classrooms, even for seven year olds. Only, Columbus wasn’t the first to discover America; Indigenous peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European colonization resulted in Indigenous peoples’ loss of land, people, and culture. The settlers’ intrusion upon Native land continued to increase, so did the number of Indigenous peoples face enslavement and theft of resources. Celebrating Columbus and other explorers like him ignores the cultural disruption and losses experienced by Indigenous people.

Reimagining Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day was first introduced in 1977 at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination. In 1992 Berkeley, California, became the first city to make the change. Following Berkeley, several other U.S. cities (and states) have renamed Columbus Day (including Hawaii, Oregon, and Michigan). Indigenous Peoples Day now celebrates and remembers Native Americans’ culture and losses.

Ways to support Indigenous people include educating yourself about issues faced by Indigenous people, supporting Indigenous- run businesses, and taking action to protect Indigenous land defenders.

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