It’s time to recognize Indigenous People’s Day

From a young age, students are taught about the explorer Christopher Columbus in a positive light, reciting verses like “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and “The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.” Thus, for many students in high school, it was a shock when they learned that Columbus was not the hero they were conditioned to think he was.

Not only should Columbus be discredited for his “first exploration” of the Americas, as Viking Leif Erikson led an exploration to North America 500 years before Columbus was even born, but Columbus also committed mass genocide and decimated the Native American population.

According to, Columbus started the slave trade of American Indians, paraded dismembered bodies through the streets after rebellion, forced them into labor for sake of profits and brought European diseases. This inspired similar treatment of the native population by other nations who settled in North America, such as France and England.

This has left a lasting impact, even now, on Native American communities. As stated by, 28.8 percent of American Indians live below the poverty line, 40 percent of on-reservation housing has been deemed inadequate by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and 90,000 are homeless or underhoused. Furthermore, 82 percent are more likely to die from suicide than caucasians.

Claire Garland, member of the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs, told Hi’s Eye, “Their indigenous cultures were erased, and their languages erased. The history of the Spanish in the New World is not very positive. So, most indigenous people do not honor Columbus because it means their whole way of life was disrupted and destroyed.”

With all this in mind, it is incredibly disrespectful for Columbus Day to still be widely recognized in New Jersey and in the nation as a whole. While in fourteen states Indigenous People’s Day has replaced Columbus Day or been added as another holiday on Oct. 11, New Jersey and Westfield both do not acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day, despite it being established in 1992.

This is unacceptable, especially because we live on Native American land. According to, when Union County was settled by the Dutch and English, the Lenni Lenape Indians already had flourishing communities due to abundant resources in addition to hosting a criss-cross network of Indian trails. Additionally, as stated by, “Many of our parks and neighborhoods remain named after them, including Mindowaskin Park, Tamaques Park, Lenape Park and the Indian Forest residential section.”

Still, this is not enough. Westfield should take part in recognizing the holiday and educate its students from a younger age about the rich traditions of the Native Americans that preceded us rather than focus on Columbus and his “achievements.”

With everything that has happened since exploration, we owe it to the American Indians to stand in solidarity and protest Columbus Day.