Christopher Columbus did not discover America — millions of people were already living in North America upon his arrival in 1492. In fact, to say that he “discovered America” erases the rich histories, cultures, and contributions of the indigenous people of the Americas. A history centered on the experience of Indigenous people has never been our country’s dominant narrative, but this needs to change — it is time to diversify our country’s historically white, male perspective, and embrace a more accurate and inclusive national story.
So, we are uplifting a history that recognizes and values Native people and their culture as the first inhabitants of this land, including the lands that later became the United States of America. That means on October 14 we’ll be celebrating the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples rather than observing Columbus Day, which celebrates the colonization of Native people, forced assimilation of survivors, and stolen land.
Across the country, six states and 130 cities have abolished Columbus Day in support of Indigenous People’s Day. The movement to reconcile our American history and work towards healing, acknowledgement, and change is underway. As states and cities continue to push for celebrating our Indigenous people and calling for change, it is imperative that others join the movement.
In the environmental movement, as we observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we must recognize the contributions and leadership of Indigenous groups who have fought for the protection of our waterways, land, fish and wildlife. For centuries, they have taken care of the planet and live in balance with nature, so we must ensure that their voices and leadership are centered in the environmental movement and brought to the forefront as we protect our home.
We are no longer continuing to observe a holiday that celebrates the oppression of people of color. By reclaiming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we are upholding values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.