Opinion: Wyoming Should Recognize Indigenous Peoples Day
I'm sure many of you reading remember the stories told in schools about Christopher Columbus. That he sailed the ocean blue, "discovered" America, and met the friendly Natives. Maybe that we called those natives "Indians" because ol' Chris was confused and thought he'd sailed across the whole world, or that Columbus was an American hero.
None of the things above, aside from Columbus sailing the ocean blue, is true.
Christopher Columbus was held up as a hero by recent Italian Immigrants to the United States as they fought to carve out their own American story. Having an Italian who "discovered" America would go a long was towards giving those immigrants a solid foot to stand on while fighting their own xenophobia. The true story is full of rape, disease and massacres, all of which took place in the caribbean, not on the contiguous US.
Not only had America not needed to be "discovered," as it had been inhabited for centuries before he sailed the ocean blue. Columbus wasn't even the first European to set foot on the continent, with Leif Erikson taking that honor nearly 400 years earlier. I was taught that Columbus discovered America myself in school, which really wasn't that long ago, and I was frustrated with the school system when I learned the truth.
Indigenous Peoples Day is the replacement for Columbus Day, started in South Dakota in the 1980s. To date, it has been adopted by hundreds of cities across the US, and several states, but I feel like it's well past time that the Equality State add its name to that list.
Wyoming was the homeland of dozens of Native Americans. The Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Crow, Ute, Cheyenne all called our state home. Today, the Wind River Reservation sits within the borders of the state itself, as well as part of the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota, and the Medicine Bow in the Big Horns. We hosted rendezvous with Native Americans and fur trappers, both of which became the basis for names of towns and counties in our state.
It's time that Wyoming recognize that Columbus Day was a holiday created simply to give Italian-Americans a hero to point to, not as an actual celebration of anything meaningful that he may have done. It's time for the Equality State to reach out to our Indigenous brethren and celebrate their culture that had been here long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Abolish Columbus Day, Wyoming. Today is Indigenous Peoples Day.