A member of the Sioux (soo) tribe at a ceremony in South Dakota

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Honoring Our Past

Why are so many cities and states celebrating a new holiday?

As You Read: Think about why many people believe it’s important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Like most kids across the country, 13-year-old Amara Hena will be off from school on the second Monday of October. That’s Columbus Day. But Amara’s school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will be closed for a different reason. 

This year, New Mexico joined a growing number of states and cities that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The holiday honors the indigenous, or native, people who were living in America long before Columbus arrived.

“This is a big deal to our people,” says Amara, who is Native American. “We should be celebrated and recognized.” 

Amara Hena will be off from school on the second Monday of October. That’s Columbus Day. Most kids across the country will also be off from school. But 13-year-old Amara’s school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will be closed for a different reason this year.

New Mexico recently joined a growing number of states and cities that have replaced Columbus Day. Instead they’ll celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The holiday honors the indigenous, or native, people who had been living in America long before Columbus arrived.

“This is a big deal to our people,” says Amara, who is Native American. “We should be celebrated and recognized.”

A Stolen Past

In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain, a country in Europe. He was looking for a faster route to Asia. Instead, he landed on an island in what is now North America.

But Columbus wasn’t the first to set foot on that continent. Millions of indigenous people had already been living there for more than 10,000 years.

Columbus’s crew started what would become centuries of mistreatment of Native Americans. They enslaved or killed many Native people and stole their land. 

Indigenous people continued to suffer as more European settlers arrived. After the United States became a country, the government repeatedly broke agreements with many tribes. Many Native Americans were forced to abandon their culture, language, and land. 

Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 from Spain. That’s a country in Europe. He was looking for a faster route to Asia. But he landed on an island in what is now North America.

Columbus wasn’t the first to set foot on that continent. Millions of indigenous people had already been living there. They’d been there for more than 10,000 years.

Columbus’s crew started what would become centuries of mistreatment of Native Americans. They enslaved or killed many Native people. They also stole their land. 

Indigenous people continued to suffer as more European settlers arrived. The mistreatment continued after the United States became a country. The U.S. government repeatedly broke agreements with many tribes. Many Native Americans were forced to abandon their culture, language, and land.  

Jim McMahon/MapMan®

Rethinking History

Today, more than 5 million Native Americans live in the U.S. They belong to nearly 600 tribes or nations, each with its own history and heritage. But some people mistakenly think of Native Americans as one group.

That has a lot to do with the way Native Americans have been represented. Nearly all U.S. public schools teach about Columbus. But not many students learn about individual Native American tribes. 

“We were never taught about our history and culture in school,” Amara says. “And it’s important to learn about indigenous peoples so that we are not forgotten.”

Derrick Lente hopes Indigenous Peoples’ Day will help change that. Lente is a state representative in New Mexico. He helped make the holiday official in the state.

“We can’t change or erase history,” he says. “But with this holiday, kids will be able to celebrate indigenous peoples in a bigger way.”

More than 5 million Native Americans live in the U.S. today. They belong to nearly 600 tribes or nations. Each has its own history and heritage. But some people mistakenly think of Native Americans as one group.

That has a lot to do with the way Native Americans have been represented. Nearly all U.S. public schools teach about Columbus. But not many students learn about individual Native American tribes.

“We were never taught about our history and culture in school,” Amara says. “And it’s important to learn about indigenous peoples so that we are not forgotten.”

Derrick Lente hopes Indigenous Peoples’ Day will help change that. Lente is a state representative in New Mexico. He helped make the holiday official in the state.

“We can’t change or erase history,” he says. “But with this holiday, kids will be able to celebrate indigenous peoples in a bigger way.”

1. What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Explain its significance.

2. What is the section “A Stolen Past” mainly about?

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What Amara Wants You to Know”?

1. What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Explain its significance.

2. What is the section “A Stolen Past” mainly about?

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What Amara Wants You to Know”?

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