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Most of us grew up learning about Columbus Day. Then, I was informed that as a Native American I should be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. But, I didn’t know why.
Both holidays are on the same day, so you might be asking yourself which holiday you should be celebrating or teaching your own children about. Here is what I’ve learned and how I choose to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with my kids.
What Is Columbus Day?
Columbus Day is a federal holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and because of his nationality, many Italian Americans wanted to celebrate him. That’s how the holiday got started. Recently, many people objected to celebrating Columbus Day because he is seen as the starter of colonization of the Americas, thus creating the slave trade, and consequently the death of many indigenous people due to murder and/or disease.
What Is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to celebrate the people who first called this land their home. We reflect on the hardships they endured by colonization and honor their contributions to America’s history.
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It became a federal holiday in 2021, and is recognized on October 10. You can celebrate with the Native American tribes you often associate with the United States, but it really encompasses all Indigenous people of North America including Canada, Mexico, and the Pacific Islands.
How Can I Celebrate the Day with My Kids?
I feel that history is the key to learning how to be respectful about the holiday. Here are a few ways to celebrate with children:
Tell Stories :: Through stories, I can explain who Columbus was and why he has a day named after him.
Then, I can teach my children why we also call that day Indigenous Peoples’ Day and how we can celebrate it. There are many Indigenous groups to learn about, but I think it’s best to pick one to focus on at a time. Learn about the culture, the tools the tribe used, what happened to them after colonization, and where they are now.
Once you have some history, you can dive deeper into the fun by reading children’s books by Indigenous authors. I recommend picture books like
- Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard for younger children.
- Stolen Words by Melanie Florence is a great choice for slightly older kids who can understand the message better.
I find storytelling videos on YouTube are another great resource for my nine year old. Check out this one I found about Coyote the Trickster.
Try an Authentic Recipe :: I’m always looking for fun activities to do with my kids on the cheap. Cooking is a great way to incorporate educational topics at a low cost.
A colleague of mine who is from the Chippewa tribe actually shared this Wojapi recipe with me, and I thought I’d pass it along. You can eat it alone, or pour it over your protein of choice, slices of bread, or even ice cream! The American Indian Health and Diet website is a great resource for recipes.
I also found this book for more authentic recipes to try in the future.
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Do a Respectful Craft Together :: I love crafting, and I think it’s a fun way to teach my kids about cultures. It is important to note though that any crafts you choose to represent a culture be respectful.
For example, when I was a kid it was common to make headdresses for Thanksgiving at school. Headdresses are not a respectful choice of craft. Headdresses are a symbol of strength and bravery and are only worn by the most influential members of a tribe. It is an honor to wear a headdress and should not be made into a plaything.
I think a totem pole that tells a story about the individual crafting it, a drum, brown paper drawings that tell a story, or Indian corn paintings are more respectful choices.
As a mom, I choose to teach my children about all the historical facts. I feel they should know about Christopher Columbus, but as a Native American, I also want my children to know their ancestry and celebrate their heritage.
So this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I will celebrate with reverence by sharing some history, reading stories, trying an authentic recipe, and enjoying crafting with them to further their education. I hope you will, too.