Please join me in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day today.
The official Federal Holiday that has allowed my Beloved to be home today is Columbus Day. Traditionally, it’s been celebrated as an Italian-American ethnic celebration, and I heartily believe that Italian-Americans have good reason to be proud of their heritage.
But as anyone who reads this blog regularly is aware, I have serious problems with the idea of making Christopher Columbus the hero of anything. So while I uplift the idea of Italian pride, I’ll be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day today.
The “Columbian Exchange” created disruption all over the world, some of it positive and some of it negative. There’s a strong argument to be made that it benefitted much of Europe. However, its effects on the so-called “New World” of the Americas, and ultimately on Africa (especially via colonialism and the slave trade) and the rest of the world were not so benign. It could even be called a disaster for the 90% of indigenous Americans who died from plague after plague for which their immune systems were unprepared.
It was enormously consequential–but it’s been egregiously misrepresented in school curricula for literal centuries, although many teachers have begun to grapple with the gaps in the traditional narrative. Still today, however, this information from Scholastic is representative of the kind of things being taught.
It’s time to push for a more complete view of history, and more balanced representation. It does need to take root in schools, certainly. But if it’s only confined to schools we’ll have a “diversity backlash.” Some people will persist in seeing the narrative of a dominant monoculture as the “most important” part. They’ll argue anything else is just political correctness run amok.
We have enough of that kind of thinking already. Countering it is a long, slow process, but for me it will include persistently celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to “World of Wellesley” from Wellesley, MA, for the Indigenous Peoples Day design; to Freedonia State University of New York for the “Columbus Day X-out” image; and to Illuminatives for the infographic about Native American representation in the school curricula of the United States.