March to The White House for Indigenous rights, photo by 350.org via Flickr

By Lauren Claggett, age 12 

Most U.S. citizens have heard of Columbus Day, which is observed every year on the second Monday of October. The holiday was named after Christopher Columbus, who claimed to have found the “new world.” Although this holiday is very well known, it isn’t based on facts. Christopher Columbus was not the first person to set foot on North America. 

Indigenous peoples lived on the continent of North America long before Columbus’ arrival, yet they got little credit for it—that is, until now. As of 2019, at least eight states and more than 130 cities nationwide now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day, according to USA Today, in what is a growing trend to honor those who really founded North America. Advocates for the name change say that Columbus Day whitewashes American history because it is covering up the true history of this country.

Some people disagree with the move to rename the holiday, one reason being that they have been celebrating Columbus Day for so long and don’t want to ruin tradition. Many schools teach kids that Christopher Columbus was the person who discovered North America, so kids often grow up believing it as a fact. Fewer children learn the truth about Indigenous history in school.

Jackie Menjivar writes on DoSomething.org that Indigenous Peoples’ Day “recognizes the legacy and impact of colonialism on Native communities. It also celebrates the cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.” Jackie Menjivar’s insight plays a very important role in why U.S. citizens should respect and honor Indigenous peoples and their fight to protect their land. The United States shouldn’t celebrate a holiday that covers the truth of an important part of American and Native American history.

 

Glossary

Advocates: A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy
Whitewash: Anything used to cover up wrongdoings, faults, or errors, or absolve a wrongdoer from blame