I want to add my voice to those who support Indigenous Peoples Day because it will provide us — all of us, including our children and grandchildren — the opportunity to educate ourselves about a more accurate history of what happened to the Native Americans when Europeans first arrived and very quickly expanded across the continent with disastrous results for the 10 to 20 million inhabitants.
Currently schools in Massachusetts emphasize “21st-Century Skills”— Collaborative Problem-Solving, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking. We should very much want students to think critically about the master narrative we have all come to believe about the treatment of Indigenous Peoples by our European ancestors. Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day as a day of study, teaching, learning, discussion and reflection — will be an excellent and highly appropriate way for all of us to increase our knowledge and educate ourselves about a sad and by-and-large unacknowledged aspect of our history. Examining our myths will help us create a more authentic, accurate and meaningful narrative.
The new Massachusetts History and Social Sciences Framework offers excellent advice for looking back at history:
Effective instruction celebrates the progress the U.S. has made in embracing diversity, while at the same time encouraging honest and informed academic discussions about prejudice, racism and bigotry in the past and present.
I see Indigenous Peoples Day as an important opportunity to “encourage honest and informed academic discussion about prejudice, racism, and bigotry in the past and present.” It is my fervent hope that next year on the second Monday of October, instead of honoring a man who truly did not discover America but did, in fact, commit atrocities, we spend the day celebrating, honoring and learning about the original inhabitants of this beautiful town, state and nation.
Reprinted with permission from The Wellesley Townsman. This letter to the editor was originally published on October 17, 2019.