One of my kindergarten memories is playing “cowboys and Indians” with friends. No one wanted to be the Indians. Because history is told by the victors.
Growing up in Oregon, I learned about Lewis & Clark, Captain Cook, and Christopher Columbus “discovering” America.
Fascinated by Native Americans, I probably got more exposure than many white children:
I learned about Sacajawea, Chief Seattle, Chief Joseph, and other Native heroes.
I visited a longhouse on a field trip.
My fifth-grade class had visiting indigenous students from Barrow, Alaska. A girl named Elizabeth stayed with us for a week. I recall she didn’t seem very happy. I cringe now to wonder what the experience was like for her.
When my family traveled through South Dakota in 1976, I loved the Crazy Horse memorial statue in progress.
I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee on my own in high school.
But my history was so whitewashed. I didn’t learn about the Doctrine of Discovery until a few years ago. I didn’t realize so much what I’ve seen or read was warped by racism and manifest destiny.
Manifest destiny is a cultural belief that American settlers were destined to expand across North America.
We live on stolen land, and that’s why it’s important to retake this “Columbus Day” as Indigenous People’s Day. Here's why this is important.
Join me in unlearning history! Here are a few ways to start:
Learn about the Doctrine of Discovery and how it continues to be used to dispossess Native peoples of their land. This link also has some excellent resources at the bottom for further education.
Read books and listen to podcasts about what really happened. I’m reading Murder at the Mission, by Blaine Harden. It dismantles the myth that Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and their fellow settlers were martyrs. It also delves into how their killings sparked further land grabbing, colonization, and murders of Indigenous people.
Read books and listen to perspectives by Indigenous people. My friend Marcia made this excellent list of books she’s found helpful. Search “indigenous” or “Native American” on TikTok, Instagram, or your podcast channel. Look for documentaries that tell the real story.
Educate yourself on how to support Native Americans in your community and workplace. You can start with a few articles I wrote last November: “Eight Ways to Support Indigenous People, Part 1,” and “Eight Ways to Support Indigenous People, Part 2: Recruit, Retain, and Engage Native Employees.”
After you unlearn your history, support Native organizations with your time and money and spread the word about how history has been told by the victors, colonizers, and oppressors.
Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day is a great place to start.
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