Indigenous Peoples Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates the Indigenous peoples of America and commemorates their shared history and culture. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, and is an official city and state holiday in various localities .Dozens of  cities and entire states, including MinnesotaAlaskaVermont and Oregon, have also replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day on the second Monday of October. And South Dakota celebrates Native American Day.

Today is celebrated as Columbus Day in the rest of the USA. Banks, and Government agencies are closed, including the Post Office, county library and Public Health.  It has been a national holiday in the United States since 1937.  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue is a ditty all school children learned when I was a child. In reality,  Columbus never set foot in North America. During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts.

It is deemed a significant event in history and is generally deemed by historians as the start of the Colonial Period (1492-1763). Application of the term “Indian” originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for India, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies.

Spanish explorers followed, lusting for gold, and with them came disease that decimated indigenous populations especially in South America. Columbus opened up America to Spain, which was an expansionist power at the time. He was the one who made it possible for them to conquer the Western Hemisphere — and to bring with them the diseases that apparently wiped out 90 percent of the population.

The first map of the world to show these newly discovered lands across the Ocean Sea appeared in 1507, a year after Christopher Columbus’s death. The mapmaker, Martin Waldseemüller, named the New World “America,” after the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who had explored the coastline of South America and was the first to realize that it was a separate continent, not part of Asia.

Europeans actually arrived in North America centuries earlier.  Around the year 1000 A.D., the Viking explorer Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, sailed to a place he called “Vinland,” in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland. Erikson and his crew didn’t stay long — only a few years — before returning to Greenland.

Leif Erikson may not have been the first European to arrive in the Americas.  According to an ancient manuscript, a band of Irish monks led by Saint Brendan sailed an ox-hide boat westward in the sixth century in search of new lands. After seven years they returned home and reported that they had discovered a land covered with luxuriant vegetation, believed by some people today to have been Newfoundland.

But this isn’t intended to be a history lesson. This is to make the case to rename Columbus Day into something more relevant, like Indigenous Peoples Day.

Before European explorers arrived, the Americas were home to tens of millions of native peoples. While those Native American groups differed greatly from one another, they all performed rituals and ceremonies, songs and dances, that brought back to mind and heart memories of the ancestors who had come before them and given them their place on Earth.

The Americas have always been lands of immigrants, lands that have been “discovered” time and again by different peoples coming from different parts of the world over the course of countless generations—going far back to the prehistoric past, when a band of Stone Age hunters first set foot in what truly was an unexplored New World.

Archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.  Several dozen European-style stone tools dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, are proposing that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling (over the ice surface and/or by boat) along the edge of the frozen northern part of the Atlantic.

Asian-originating Native Americans entered the New World via the Bering Straits or along the Aleutian Islands chain after 15,500 years ago. Humans arrived in the Americas through Beringia—the area encompassing parts of present-day East Asia and North America, connected by what was the Bering Land Bridge.

Archaeological debate continues as to the origins and timeline of Indigenous People, all of who were also “immigrants.” All of whom also migrated from their country or land of origin to the America’s, settled here and made it their home, just as Colonial Europeans did. Indigenous People were here first, which is why it would make more sense to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’Day instead of Columbus Day.



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