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I went by the post office and the bank Monday. They were closed.

It seems Christopher Columbus, credited in history books with discovering America when his ship accidentally found land in 1492, has considerable influence in our lives more than 500 years later, as evidenced by America's national holiday established in 1934.

It also seems, though, that nobody much cares since, as I looked around to find people celebrating Columbus' discovery on the day set aside for doing so, I came up empty-handed.

Seeking to find someone passionate about the day, I called Tom Kunesh, a 19-year Chattanooga resident who serves as an area director in Tennessee for American Indian affairs. Part Sioux, Mr. Kunesh has no issue with Columbus' place in American history, as long as it's presented properly.

He said history books that ignore the fact that indigenous people -- Indians -- were living on the land long before Columbus arrived should not be so easily dismissed.

"How could he discover America when somebody was already there?" Mr. Kunesh said. "If we went to Europe right now, could we say we discovered it, with other intelligent people already there?"

There's also the issue of Columbus' reported abuse of Indians that troubles Mr. Kunesh. He says Columbus' discovery is vital national history, but boiling his impact and legacy down to a single act of heroism betrays history.

"(Columbus) had a mission," he said. "He succeeded, and was there to exploit it like everybody else exploited it for centuries to follow."

Mr. Kunesh's biggest problem with Columbus Day, though, is how its comfortable place in history speaks anecdotally to flawed historical accounts of American heritage taught in schools and embedded in textbooks. Even in Chattanooga, he said, most people don't know the true story of the first people living in the area.

"The most problematic and offensive thing is that even today history begins in essentially the year 1500," Mr. Kunesh said. "Yes, (explorer Hernando) de Soto came through in the 1500s and there were no Cherokee Indians. They came down from Virginia in the late 1700s. But who built the big (Indian) mounds? Not the Cherokee.

"Perhaps it was created by the Muskogee and the Yuchi," he said, "Indian tribes that were very likely here long before history recognizes or considers."

Mr. Kunesh said he and many other American Indians do not want key elements of national history removed. They just want the full story told, as accurately as possible.

There's hope, I told him, especially in regard to Columbus, because on the day in the explorer's honor, nobody in these parts seemed to care.

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