President Joe Biden’s proclamation in recognition of Columbus Day acknowledges Native Americans’ “painful past,” a stark contrast from the proclamations issued by former President Donald Trump, which warned of “extremists” seeking to “undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.”
Each year, the president proclaims the second Monday of October as Columbus Day. Like Trump, Biden’s Friday proclamation reflected on Columbus’ exploration and recognized Italian Americans, many of whom derive deeper meaning from Columbus Day and consider the explorer a big part of their heritage.
But Biden also encouraged Americans to reflect this year “on the dignity and resilience of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, and on the work that remains ahead of us to fulfill the promise of our Nation for all.”
“It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,” Biden said. “For Native Americans, western exploration ushered in a wave of devastation: violence perpetrated against Native communities, displacement and theft of Tribal homelands, the introduction and spread of disease, and more.”
Trump did not mention Native communities in any of his Columbus Day proclamations. In 2020, he used the announcement to accuse “radical activists” of undermining Columbus’ legacy and “seek[ing] to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy.”
“These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions,” Trump said, referencing the growing calls from activists to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in recognition of the genocide, displacement and violence against Native people brought on by Columbus and those who followed. “Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.”
Trump’s 2020 proclamation also referenced an executive order he signed that year to protect monuments and memorials amid protests and debates over the removal of statues of racist figures.