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The History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day takes place each year on October the 12th. It’s a holiday that commemorates the many Native peoples of the Americas, and has largely replaced Columbus Day. The holiday is observed in Canada and the US, despite much backlash against removing Columbus Day altogether. Let’s look a little closer at this relatively new holiday.

A Dark History

The annals of history are filled with amazing feats of science, engineering, and social conquest, but they are also filled with brutality, bloody conquest, and genocide. One such genocide, which is rarely even mentioned, is the genocide of the Native American peoples at the hands of European settlers. In the early days of the settlement, curiosity dominated the relations between the Europeans and Native Americans. We’ve learned of various events like “The First Thanksgiving” and more, but those are often a veil for the slaughter that was to come. Beginning in 1565, the Spanish began a long and bloody conquest of Central, South, and parts of North America. The British, French, and Dutch would also participate, and over the course of about 2-300 years, millions of Native Americans would be killed or displaced in the name of conquest.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that is long overdue, and is the least we can do for those who have lost their entire culture and way of life. The brutal conquest of the Europeans left Native American tribes impoverished, marginalized, and largely forgotten by history. After all, history is written by the victor.

The Need For Recognition With Indigenous Peoples’ Day

So, what’s the point of recognizing such events in our history? Why do we set dates to commemorate something as horrible as a genocide? The answer is simple: so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. As we see social upheaval in parts of the world, it brings into focus the deep-rooted feelings certain groups share. The genocide of the Native American people was rooted in ideas of racial, theological, and political superiority. To put it simply, the Europeans viewed themselves as “superior” to Native Americans in every way. Many accounts describe the natives as “savages”, and they were certainly treated as such. These are ideas we’d like to leave in the past, and never repeat again.

We recognize such events so that we can grow from them. Once something as serious as genocide is forgotten, the people involved become only a distant memory. Often, the lessons therein are lost to antiquity. The bottom line? We must keep track of such events in our history, if only to make our children more thoughtful, aware, and empathetic citizens.

To Replace Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is set to replace Columbus Day, and has largely done so already. This is because Columbus was not only an explorer, but also participated in the marginalization and slaughter of the Native peoples. It’s true that Columbus sailed to the Americas in 1492, but history seems to forget what he did there. Columbus wasn’t just the person who “discovered” The Caribbean for Spain, but also the person who would dominate it. He engaged in the slave trade, slaughter, and other unsavory practices with Native Americans as his victims.

As history progresses, it’s important to recognize things for what they really were. Columbus’ famous voyage may have been cause for celebration among the nations of Europe, but for the North, Central, and South American natives, it marked the beginning of the end. Great civilizations were trampled to dust, culture and monuments were lost, and an entire race of people were all but eradicated.

Even when Europeans weren’t actively slaughtering Natives for conquest, sport, or supposed stashes of gold, they brought another weapon—disease. In fact, it’s largely believed that epidemics caused by new pathogens brought to the Americas by Europeans wiped out the Aztec nation. The natives had never been exposed to such bacteria, and had no modern antibiotics. They had no medicine of any sort, aside from medicinal plants, to fight the disease(s). This unfortunate string of events would lead to countless civilizations and peoples being destroyed in the wake of plague and conquest.

Celebrate Diversity and Truth In History

The holiday is a great way to bring light to something so important in our history. It’s also to celebrate the incredible diversity that we’re gifted with as a nation. People of all races, religions, and ethnicities congregate in our cities, and we should be grateful. To have so much diversity around us is to be part of a larger human family. We must remember the bad as well as the good, in order to create a better future for everyone.

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day by attending an event, gifting a basket from our selection, or just educating yourself on the truth behind the history.