Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Indigenous Peoples Day
I hope you enjoyed your Fourth of July holiday.
Of all the holidays we Americans celebrate, the meaning behind Independence Day is pretty clear. Less clear, is the reason we recognize Columbus Day.
Governor Bill Walker recently signed legislation replacing Columbus Day in Alaska with Indigenous Peoples Day, joining South Dakota in recognizing the contributions of the first Americans.
The response on KTVA’s Facebook page was rapid, with Alaskans expressing both pride and condemnations, with the story shared more than a thousand times and generating more than 175 comments– many of them, sadly, downright racist.
Many consider the designation as an attempt at revisionist history.
So here’s your Reality Check.
If you think Christopher Columbus discovered America, it’s time to go back to third grade where you likely learned that.
Historians now credit Leif Erickson and his merry band of Vikings with landing on the shores of North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus was born.
As for Columbus, he never set foot in North America. He landed in the Caribbean Islands, where he committed brutal atrocities against the indigenous people.
He was, to put it mildly, a bad dude.
And if you think he proved the world was round, you¹re wrong about that, too. The shape of the world was already accepted science by the time Columbus set sail.
Historians say the first Columbus Day was celebrated in New York toward the end of the 18th century to honor Italian-Americans. And it was FDR who turned it into a national holiday in 1937.
But, the fact is, neither Leif Erickson nor Christopher Columbus discovered America. Neither is deserving of that honor.
Scientists now believe the first people to discover our continent lived just to the west of us in the land of Beringia, the land bridge that stretched between Alaska and Siberia.
As their home began to sink into the sea with the end of the last ice age, the Beringians, if you will, moved east, settling first in Alaska and then throughout North and South America.
The direct ancestors of the Inupiat people of Alaska were the first to discover North America some 13,000 years before the Vikings or Columbus– give or take a millennia or two.
So, it could not have been more appropriate for Governor Walker to sign the proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day in Uqtiagvik surrounded by the real first Americans.
That’s not revisionist history, it’s simply history.
No offense to Leif or Christopher, but in this neck of the woods, they were simply the first foreigners to be discovered by Americans.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
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