Leif Erikson Day
This past Friday was Leif Erikson Day, a U.S. holiday that honors the Icelandic explorer whom some believe was the first European to reach North America.
Leif Erikson Day doesn’t get as much recognition because it’s overshadowed by Monday’s Columbus Day—which, unlike Erikson’s day, is a federal holiday, meaning government employees get off work, as do many students and private-sector workers.
Christopher Columbus and his holiday are controversial today largely because of the way he and subsequent European explorers and settlers treated Native Americans. For years, there have been campaigns to celebrate an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, many people had a different problem with Columbus. They argued that the real credit for discovering North America should go to Erikson, whom they believed arrived 500 years before Columbus. Plus, unlike Columbus, he wasn’t Italian or Catholic.