Even if we just realized it now, many of us ultimately learn that what we learned during our adolescense and from our elementary teachers may not have been what we know now.

Students in the United States who manage to be educated at all about Native Americans are often only taught the bare minimum. They learn some variation of the first “Thanksgiving,” learn about the California Spanish mission and maybe, if they’re lucky, learn about the Trail of Tears. Still, education about the colonization and genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas is hardly ever comprehensive or thoughtful.

We asked FIERCE readers about how they ultimately learned the truths about the genocide of indigenous peoples in the Americas and the answers were pretty eye-opening.


Check them out below!

“IN UNDERGRAD.” –erixcii

“When I picked up Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” at a yard sale when I was in Elementary school maybe 8 y/o. I was the book worm that picked up books instead of toys.” –cardcrafted

“Elementary school “Trail of Tears” … You know what’s the BS part about it?. The teacher at the time said that a lot of them died because it was cold and the snow killed them. And there was no emphasis on how the Europeans had killed most of the people before this happened. Like we were made to believe oh it’s the snows fault. … I think her name was Ms. Lambo … Something like that 5th grade…”- magdalena000888

“U mean the part about disease?”- joshstrick

“Just found out I’m 50% Mexican indigenous.” –keepingupwmarlene

“My mother is indigenous and was part of the children removed under the Indian removal act … I’ve grown up knowing this.” –falcon_moss_makes

“I was 30 and a friend that grew up in Northern California challenged my view of Thanksgiving.”- lanarosekauai

“Undergrad at CSUN! Class of 08. “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.”- musicchicklily

“Can’t remember a specific moment but I know my parents didn’t sugar coat and regularly called out colonial crap In our curriculum.”- rockandanchorjewelry

“College!!”- ekh_2007

“When my 11th grade US History teacher had us read A People’s History of the United States.”- educe_abril

“When I was 8 years old I had a project to work on about Christopher Columbus. Needless to say I didn’t find much in the kid section, so I looked in the other section and found out the truth. I was so shocked about what they were teaching us in school and what the truth actually was.” –mama__fett

“College and I’m half Native American.”- oliviaguerra7

“Elementary school, since I was lucky enough to attend one of the first Dual Language programs in the country with an emphasis on indigenous cultures of the Americas.” –ycul_999

“Knew about it all my life. Papá grew up on a reservation. “ =a.chicana.in.paradise

“First year of college four years ago.” –matyxguzman

“Junior high when we learned about Syphilis…”-sirenagrace_

“I learned in elementary and further educated myself in high school and college. I notice a lot history is omitted in schools these days.”- luvin2lift

“15 when I learned about the Taino peoples of the Caribbean (I’m Puerto Rican) when Columbus came and wiped out the Taino population in Dominican Republic.” –_trini_tea_

“In college, it’s sad that many children grow up never hearing about it and repeating lies that hid history.” –xochiquetzalx

“Grew up knowing this, but had to learn it from family school taught 1 lesson on it during the 7th-8th grade.” –toryyyharp.329

“Unfortunately not till college, Chicano Studies.” –cinnamon_maserati

“I can’t remember but i didn’t dive into it untill i was a full blown adult. Sadly, it took me this long, but my kids are learning it now from me personally. (Elementary school) my parents dont know much of it.. I’ve asked.” –dwaejitokkiiee

“First year of college during my Chicano studies class at CSUN – 1998.” –libbyleec

“Taught my high schoolers about it in September. I started by saying, ‘as you know, Columbus was a terrible person.’ They were all completely shocked by that statement. So I knew I had to do an entire unit on the treatment of the indigenous peoples. I was shocked that, still in 2020, 16 year olds are fed the idea that the “explorers” were good people who deserve our praise. They were ruthless, unfeeling, rapists, murderers, and slave traders. and now at least I know my students are more educated on the topic.” –alfonsina_mj

“7th grade.” –alexandriatrece

“In grad school!” –fortheculturenyllc

“Learned from my family. Not school.” –carrasvilla

“Since elementary but pretty much by myself.” –

“In college, learned about it and other invasions on the Americas. The Alamo and TX “history” is a buncha shit!” –liz_laprieta

“As a teen I learned a little bit in Middle School in the mid 1990’s. Then in college and a documentary I saw on PBS when I was in my early 20’s.”  –jenro395

“I didn’t know about infected blankets until my kids asked me. They saw reference to it on The Simpson’s! I must’ve been around 50 years old at that time.”- becky.hernandez.33

“High school. The way it is taught I always thought indigenous people helped the colonizers and moved. I didn’t realize the extent of the atrocities committed.” –d.a.l.i.a_no_h

“We did learn. The problem is the lack of identity work interconnected when it comes to learning these sensitive topics. It became “read chapter 3.2 and listen to me talk for an hour about my slides” instead of orchestrating productive and sensitive conversations.” –infinitelove0124

“Very young.. in school. But unlike my children, I didn’t grow up in the US. I was baffled to see what version they were tought, repeatedly year after year. Over and over again and not even close to what happened. Happy Thanksgiving brainwashing… My husband is native American we tought our children to think critically for themselves as well as showed them different point of views.” –maggelanese

“My english teacher in high school(who is white) would make this into an entire class project. We would read about what Christopher Columbus did to the indigenous population..close to decimation and then we would each paint our hands and mark the halls, as representation of the lives lost.” –yvonnebonz