Every second Monday in October, Americans across the country have become acclimated to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, commemorating the explorer commonly taught as discovering America in the 15th century.
This routine holiday has been etched in the history of this country since it became a national holiday in 1937. But after years of research and study, most Americans now know that Indigenous people were thriving communities with well established traditions and lifestyles long before Columbus was born.
Even though Columbus didn’t officially discover America, his voyages in the Caribbean opened the door to more European explorers invading and colonizing countries in the western hemisphere.
After Columbus opened the doors to the new world, many explorers traveled to the Americas bringing diseases like smallpox to the area. According to reports, colonizers like Columbus also enslaved Indigenous people to work for them while they continued their quest for gold and spices.
Eventually, the genocide of Indigenous communities would estimate to more than 12 million deaths in the Americas since 1942, according to a report by researchers at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Right now, Native Americans make up 2.09 percent of the overall U.S. population and 1.18 percent of the population in Texas.
On Friday, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to formally recognize Indigenous People’s Day as Oct. 11, but also proclaimed Columbus Day as a national holiday as well. “For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in a press release. “Today, we recognize people’s resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society. We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.”
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.