We need to teach the truth of U.S. history

In first-grade I was told that Columbus discovered America, that the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn so they could survive and the first Thanksgiving was celebrated with peace and thanks with the Indians. In fifth-grade I learned the Vikings had arrived in North America around 1000 AD. I felt betrayed by my teachers and social studies books that I was not told this earlier. I can’t remember when I learned that the Indigenous peoples of the Americas probably walked over the Bering Strait 20,000 years ago. As we celebrate American independence we need to rethink how we teach history.

It is very possible that the racism in the U.S. comes in part from children in all schools not learning the full truth of the first peoples of the Americas and the horrible suffering of Africans enslaved to make the white colonialists richer and more comfortable.

Ninety percent of the first peoples to live on this continent died from diseases brought by Europeans. Sophisticated societies had developed agriculture, architecture and astronomy to rival any known in Europe but they did not have guns or steel. If they didn’t perish from disease, they died by the sword and firearms.

When gold and silver were discovered in the West, white men broke treaties and stole native lands to mine minerals wherever it suited their greed. The U.S. government ordered the bison herds slaughtered to destroy the food source of native Plains Indians and force them into starvation and subjugation.

Teaching the truth of our history could awaken Americans to understand the horrible loss of life that has led to comfort and wealth for some in this country and to poverty and oppression for others. Americans must learn humility from an early age so that we develop empathy rather than the arrogance that determines much of modern U.S. politics.

Remember: All men are created equal. And we still need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and make sure all people have access to excellent education and social justice!

Illene Pevec