Happy Woolly Mammoth Day!
Ah, another Woolly Mammoth Day. Wait, it’s what day? Columbus? Well, that doesn’t make any sense. Sure, we all know the story: back in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered North America. Yep, no one had ever discovered it before, so what do we Americans do but go ahead an anglicize ol’ Chris’ name, give him a holiday where a lot of people don’t have to go to work, and give him the capital of Ohio.
Except, that guy wasn’t the first person to discover the North American continent. In fact, he wasn’t even the first European to discover it. Roughly 500 years earlier, Leif Ericksson heard a tale about a great place called Vinland and, taking after his father Erik the Red, set off from Greenland and found his way to the northern North American coast. While no one is yet certain where exactly he landed, it appears to have been somewhere around Labrador or New Foundland in Canada.
Maybe we should change Columbus Day to Leif Ericksson Day! Nope, there already is one of those. Since 1964, the President of the United States has been authorized to declare October 9th as Leif Ericksson Day (you’ll probably still have to work). You probably forgot to celebrate this one.
There’s one more thing we haven’t yet addressed here: how do you discover a place where people are already living? After all, if they’re already living in a place, they must have previously discovered it. There’s credit given to one European with a few boatloads of people, and something close to credit given to another, but what about the people who were before Columbus, before Ericksson, who probably numbered in the millions? Surely they’ve been around awhile. They probably didn’t just pop into existence here. There were hundreds of unique groups, as well. So which group of these natives was the first to set foot on North American soil? We already know they’ve been here at least 13,500 years, and possibly as long as 40,00 years.
Got it. Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Almost a dozen cities have already tossed out Columbus day for this one! Problem solved. Or is it? I mean… why did these people come here? They were, at that time, hunter-gatherers, meaning they were following a food source. It would surely have to be a good food source for them to travel so far. Enough to feed a large group, probably for more than one meal. There were plenty of large animals back then, but the real prize was the woolly mammoth.
And there you have it. Columbus discovered something that was already discovered by Ericksson, who discovered what the people living here had known about for thousands of years, who themselves discovered it just after the woolly mammoths they were hunting discovered it. So the real reason some lucky folks don’t have to work today is that magnificent beast. Happy Woolly Mammoth Day.