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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Remembering first Americans; Ditching Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day


Nita Gardipee in the Learning Resource Center. In an attempt to pay respect to the cultures and populations that existed long before 1492, many states and cities are now annually celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. Ryan Middleton | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

Remembering first Americans; Ditching Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day

Colorado Springs, ca. 1993. Mom is irate. The memory is faint, but I remember her going on about some picture my older sister brought home from her first grade class. It looked like a page ripped out of a children’s coloring book. There was a man that looked pirate-esque with a bird on his shoulder. I remember he had boots up to his knees and a funny-looking hat. He was on a large boat, and there were two more of similar appearance in the background. What was my mother was so upset for? All of her colors were perfectly inside the lines.

I later came to understand what her fuss was about.

In school we were told his story; we were taught that he was a great explorer, the first to arrive here from the old world. We learned many things about him. We learned that he was “the man who discovered America” or “the man who proved the Earth was round.”

We were hard-pressed for the truth. Contrary to the myths we had heard, Italian admiral Christopher Columbus did not prove the earth was round. He was not the first European to establish colonies in the Americas. He did not discover America.

What we weren’t told was how he exploited and enslaved peoples of the Indigenous populations he met, or how his journeys would be followed by an onslaught of Europeans hoping to “colonize & chill,” bringing disease, famine and assimilation as party favors.

To pay respect to the cultures and populations that existed long before 1492, many states and cities are now celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

Currently, however, neither the state of California nor the city of Sacramento observes Indigenous Peoples Day. As members of a modern society, it is our responsibility to demand that our city councils and our state legislatures do so.

We must also demand that our public school systems incorporate a culturally inclusive history curriculum, which begins and focuses on the indigenous populations and discusses the mass genocide and mistreatment by colonizers.

I’ll never forget an experience in my high school U.S. history class. Our teacher, Mr. Stein, asked the class to shout any and all ideas or concepts that they associated with Native Americans as we began a new chapter about Native Americans.

Unable to comprehend that we would spend just one week of the entire year discussing Native Americans’ presence in America, I listened shamefully as my white classmates listed things such as “tipi’s,” “smallpox,” “reservations,” “scalping,” “hunting and gathering,” “chiefs,” “buffalo jumps” and “arrowheads.” My teacher listed them on the blackboard.

My own silence was my telltale symptom of embarrassment.

At the end of the class hour, my teacher asked me to stay behind. He wanted to know why I didn’t contribute to the board.

“I guess because I’m Native American,” I said.

He looked surprised but I think he understood what I was trying to say.

You can purchase medicines online cheap generic sildenafil by placing an order online for it. Kids are the most creative creatures because they let their imaginations run wild. sildenafil cheap This medicine is available in many different forms like polo, jelly, effervescent, soft tabs and tablets. generic cialis in usa find out for info Where you should go to take Kamagra Pills? 1) It online viagra mastercard is preferred to consume the product during evening period.2) Make sure the person consumes after assessment so as to find quality solution post consumption.3) Consume the product daily. We both knew that the purpose of the exercise was to purge any and all misconceptions about Native American culture. However, this made it all the more obvious that my fellow students had the misconception that Native Americans lived only on the reservations, were poverty stricken, alcoholics or that we lived primitively, camping in tipis and hunting with bow and arrow on horseback.

My classmates didn’t appreciate the culture that I was immersed in, and I started to feel that I didn’t fit in with them.

It was hard growing up as one of the few Native students in school in Montana. Most of my classmates were white, had lived in the same place for the entirety of their young lives.

Occasionally the other kids in school would ask questions like, “Do you live in a tipi?” or “What’s your Indian name?” Or worse, sometimes the other students referred my family as “redskins” and “savages.” It was all so embarrassing.

I was always deeply affected by their misconceptions of my ethnic identity. I began to develop a certain amount of shame over my Native culture; I didn’t feel safe.

The situation took a serious turn when one chilly evening in January 2008 I was physically assaulted and thrown to the ground by a schoolmate’s boyfriend who called  me a “prairie nigge,r”among other racial slurs. The incident resulted in a severe break to my ankle for which I had surgery and went through months of physical therapy. I sought legal recourse, which was never resolved.

It’s true, however, that most of the time when I explain my heritage, people are genuinely intrigued.  

“I’ve never met a real Indian before,” they’ll say, as if we existed only in the past, or in dated westerns or on reservations, never considering how the indigenous peoples of today might actually fit into society.

From these experiences, I’ve learned that ignorance and misunderstanding manifest hate and fear. I don’t believe that my classmates understood that the questions they asked or the stereotypes they believed were as damaging as they were.

Eventually I’ve learned to change the narrative of these racial discussions.

I make it known that my family are upstanding citizens of  modern society. I want people to know that my mother is a biologist, and my father a retired army officer; that together, our family managed a high-functioning bison ranch, and we honored our heritage through powwow dancing and other ceremonial traditions.

Renouncing Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day should be the first of many actions taken to right wrongs of our history. We need to demand more awareness and education around all the diverse cultures that are a part the history of our country. In doing so we acknowledge and honor that this country was not founded on a nation of immigrants, that this country was not “discovered” by Europeans.

Because of my experiences and my advancement in higher education I now feel responsible, not only as a student—but as a proud Indigenous woman, a journalist and an active voting citizen—to insist that we educate ourselves on the acts of violence and greed that were committed throughout the history of this country.



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