This piece originally appeared on AL.com.
In fourteen hundred ninety-two - Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day; He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know; How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board; Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep; And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land; They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true; You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried; His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not; It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice; They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold; To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again; Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American? No, not quite. But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.
Somewhere in a classroom near you, this poem is most likely still being recited even though only half of it is true. What it leaves out are the acts of genocide and slavery perpetrated to the now almost nonexistent Tainos and Hispaniolas on first contact.
Like many indigenous throughout the country, we are still dealing with the historical trauma associated with the original acts of “Discovery” and then the following “Doctrine of Discovery.” The fact that Indigenous people are still here is a miracle and a testament to our resilience. We survived Indian termination policies, multiple Trail of Tears, illegal land grabs, wars/massacres, and assimilation policies designed to save and civilize.
Withstanding all of that, Indigenous people continue to retain culture, language and self-sustainability as sovereign nations. The First Nations People are and will remain an integral part of American history. Among us are WWI and WWII code talker heroes, scholars, authors, musicians, artists, poets, scientists, inventors, physicians, lawyers, politicians and more. We are the direct descendants of the original inhabitants (First Nation People) but little is known about us.
One of the ways we can change that is by changing the narrative. Christopher Columbus did not “find America.” He found people, millions of whom were subsequently decimated via slavery, murder, disease, and land grabs, all in the name of establishing “civilization.” Continuing to celebrate him is a celebration of genocide.
Instead, by abolishing Christopher Columbus Day and changing the name to Indigenous Peoples Day, we can reconcile the past, heal, and create better, more inclusive policies regarding Indigenous people for the next generations.
It is time for change. We ask for all Alabamians to stand with us and other Indigenous People. Call out to your city council and demand that we as a city and state honor truth and instead celebrate the contributions and resiliency of Indigenous people.