Giving Compass’ Take:
• Renee Gokey and Dennis W. Zotigh share the history of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day and explain how we can honor native peoples by teaching and learning history.
• How does representation in the form of a holiday help to shape the public understanding of history? How can funders help schools and other academic programs better teach American history?
The first documented observance of Columbus Day in the United States took place in New York City in 1792, on the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s landfall in the Western Hemisphere. In 1934, at the request of the Knights of Columbus and New York City’s Italian community, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the first national observance of Columbus Day.
In the forefront of the minds of many Native people throughout the Western Hemisphere, however, is the fact the colonial takeovers of the Americas, starting with Columbus, led to the deaths of millions of Native people and the forced assimilation of survivors. Generations of Native people have protested Columbus Day. In 1977, for example, participants at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas proposed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. And it urges Americans to rethink history.
The movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day has gained momentum and spread to states, cities, and towns across the United States.
Even so, in 2018 Columbus mythology continues to be young American students’ first introduction to encountering different cultures, ethnicities, and peoples. Teaching more acccurate and complete narratives and differing perspectives is key to rethinking history.
Read the full article about Indigenous Peoples’ Day by Renee Gokey and Dennis W. Zotigh at Smithsonian Magazine.