Over the last few years, the number of states, cities, and local communities opting to celebrate Native American history and culture in lieu of Columbus Day has been growing. There is an Indigenous People’s Day celebration being observed on the campus of Marshall University and West Virginia University will be holding its 25th Annual Peace Tree ceremony on October 10th. If you are not able to make it to Huntington or Morgantown but would still like to learn more, here are three simple ways you can expand your knowledge.
1. Learn and share with your family and friends the historically accurate story of Columbus and his trip to the Americas.
This piece of history and the outcomes of this initial European contact with the existing population of the Americas is an important part of our history that is often misunderstood and continues stereotypes. Check out "10 Things You May Not Know About Christopher Columbus." Two great books for 3rd to 5th grade elementary students are “Morning Girl” by Michael Dorris and “Encounter” by Jane Yolen. These two books tell the story of Columbus’ arrival from the point of view of Taíno children.
Also, take the time to learn about the Doctrine of Discovery and its effects on the Native population in the Americas. Below is a short video testimonial by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) on the Doctrine of Discovery and how it has effected them for hundreds of years.
2. Actively fight against Native American stereotypes.
Firstly, many ideas, images, and phrases have entered popular American culture that are derogatory, negative, or flat out wrong. Understanding Prejudice has created a great list of some of these cultural items that we can all stop using or allowing to be used.
Secondly, we can pay attention to the way that Hollywood has shaped how the Native American is viewed in popular culture via film.
Personally understanding that Native American culture is not homogenous, nor should it be spoken about as a past event relegated to our history books is an important step as well. Native American culture is richly interwoven in thriving communities throughout the nation today.
3. Use today to celebrate Native American culture and to shine light on issues facing Native American citizens of the United States.
From joblessness, violence, poverty, and other challenges, Native Americans are facing a plethora of issues that are not widely covered by the media. Take some time to research these issues and then speak up.
Use your voice to bring light to these issues on Indigenous People’s Day!