(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — In recent years, Columbus Day has also been referred to as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. A day to honor the history and culture of Native American people.
Tonight, we heard from experts on the significance of the holiday.
Columbus Day is federal holiday, one that not all Americans choose to celebrate.
Historians and sociologists say celebrating Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America overlooks Native American people’s presence in North America.
A professor from PennWest Edinboro University said to this day, the history of Native Americans is not included in school curriculum in more than 20 states.
“They receive a history that does not include the dominate people that were here before Columbus came. So I think it’s quite important that young kids at an early age learn about Native American history and learn about their experience in this particular country,” said Umeme Sababu, professor at PennWest Edinboro University.
Professor Sababu said this region has its own history that should be celebrated.
“The Erie Native Americans lived here before there was Erie, Pennsylvania, and the question is what happened to them? And what happened to their land? Just down the road we have a Seneca Nation that still exists itself, so we’re living on the land that was once lived on by Native Americans or indigenous people,” said Sababu.
One Gannon professor said for many Native Americans, honoring Christopher Columbus on this day reminds them of a painful past.
“A large population of Native Americans are offended by the name Columbus Day because it doesn’t drive the historic points that need to be made about a particular group,” said Dr. Parris Baker, a professor at Gannon University.
Dr. Baker said millions of Native Americans were killed by violence and disease brought by European colonizers over centuries.
He said this holiday serves as an opportunity for Native Americans to reclaim Columbus Day.
“That group with this incredible history and contributions to this America have been overlooked for so long. So Indigenous Peoples Day, let’s pay attention to the group, not to revise the history, to learn the history and how can we use the history to inform us of what we need to do today for that group,” Baker added.