Monday, Oct. 8 might be a federal holiday, but it's quite a controversial one. While some people may enjoy Columbus Day by taking it easy away from work and school, let's not forget that this day involves a lot more than just one man. Well, it looks like the president may have overlooked that, because Donald Trump's Columbus Day message is missing the any mention of an important group of people — indigenous Americans.
On Saturday, Oct. 6, the White House posted an official Presidential Proclamation celebrating Columbus Day. In the post, Trump discussed the influence of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who has been coined as the individual who "discovered" the Americas. However, what is interesting about Trump's proclamation is that Columbus was actually the only person mentioned in the entire message, which celebrated the explorer's Italian heritage. In the statement, Trump didn't mention indigenous Americans even once, despite their very relevant role in the history of the United States, and particularly in Columbus' arrival in the Americas. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment about Trump's Columbus Day statement, but did not hear back in time for publication.
A part of the statement read,
Columbus’s spirit of determination and adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On Columbus Day, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, and celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. His expedition formed the initial bond between Europe and the Americas, and changed the world forever. Today, in that spirit, we continue to seek new horizons for greater opportunity and further discovery on land, in sea, and in space.
Columbus Day might arguably be one of the most controversial holidays in the United States, and for good reason. Despite the sanitized history in the nursery rhyme about him, Columbus' expeditions to the Americas were full of rape, violence, and other atrocities. Columbus also exposed indigenous people to deadly illnesses, and sent thousands into slavery. In modern times, many people have pushed back against Columbus Day for its glossing over of the violent reality.
Trump's Columbus Day message was also certainly different than President Barack Obama's 2016 Columbus Day proclamation. For example, in Obama's 2016 message he acknowledged Columbus' influence, but also made sure to recognize how Native Americans were often mistreated.
A part of the statement read,
As we mark this rich history, we must also acknowledge the pain and suffering reflected in the stories of Native Americans who had long resided on this land prior to the arrival of European newcomers. The past we share is marked by too many broken promises, as well as violence, deprivation, and disease. It is a history that we must recognize as we seek to build a brighter future — side by side and with cooperation and mutual respect. We have made great progress together in recent years, and we will keep striving to maintain strong nation-to-nation relationships, strengthen tribal sovereignty, and help all our communities thrive.
In recent years, a number of states have decided to take a new stance on the holiday by reframing it to celebrate indigenous Americans. According to CNN, a number of states including Alaska, Vermont, Oregon, and Minnesota have stopped observing Columbus Day and instead are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. In addition to state decisions, cities including San Francisco, CA and Somerville, MA have also decided to nix Columbus Day. But that's not without its own pushback — some Italian-Americans have defended the holiday as a celebration of Italian heritage.
No matter how you're celebrating today, or what you're choosing to call it, make sure to take a moment to acknowledge the groups of people whose key achievements and contributions have been forgotten and ignored by so many.