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What Are We Celebrating?

October 11, 2021

Christopher Columbus is about to embark on his ship, August 1492.
Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Columbus Day Or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

It’s the second Monday of October and people living in the United States have the day off. It’s a federal holiday, after all, but while some states call it “Columbus Day,” more and more places around the country are calling it “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” or even simply “the second Monday of October” (no, we’re not joking!). But why all the changes? For many years, the story was that Christopher Columbus discovered America. But let’s face it, can you really “discover” a place when thousands of indigenous people are already living there? The truth is that while Columbus was an explorer, he didn’t discover America. What’s more is that, unlike how past US history books glorified Columbus and his relationship with the indigenous people living on the land already, he actually treated them really poorly.

As the entire story of Columbus’ arrival to America has been revealed over recent years, places around the country have questioned whether or not Christopher Columbus should be honored with a federal holiday. That’s why many cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Thanksgiving Or Truthsgiving?

Similar to Columbus Day, the story of Thanksgiving has also become a controversial one. Some people have even informally named it “Truthsgiving.” Why? The story that’s taught in schools around the United States is that the first Thanksgiving was a celebratory and friendly meal between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. However, the story told by the Wampanoag people is quite different.

The First Thanksgiving 1621, GPA Photo Archive, CC BY-NC 2.0

According to the Wampanoag people, the pilgrims stole from their ancestors and they were never invited to the first Thanksgiving. Instead, an army of Wampanoag people showed up to the celebration after hearing gunfire. After the first Thanksgiving, there were many deadly conflicts between the pilgrims and Native Americans.

Interesting how history can be recalled and told in different ways depending on who’s telling it, right?