As the federal government marked Columbus Day on Monday, President Donald Trump’s proclamation for the second year in a row did not mention the holiday’s painful legacy for Native Americans ― something his predecessor, Barack Obama, acknowledged annually in his statements about the controversial holiday.
Hailing Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage that touched off an era of European exploration and conquest of the Americas, Trump’s statement praised the explorer’s “daring journey.”
“On Columbus Day, we commemorate the achievements of this skilled Italian explorer and recognize his courage, will power, and ambition — all values we cherish as Americans,” Trump said in his proclamation.
Obama’s 2016 proclamation similarly hailed Columbus’ transformative voyage and the subsequent age of exploration and scientific discovery. But it also included a passage about how the early European explorers and colonists ushered in what would be several centuries of displacing and exploiting Native American populations.
“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,” Obama wrote. “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.”
“As we reflect on the adventurers throughout history who charted new courses and sought new heights,” Obama’s statement said, “let us remember the communities who suffered, and let us pay tribute to our heritage and embrace the multiculturalism that defines the American experience.”
Each one of Obama’s Columbus Day proclamations during his presidency expressed similar sentiments. In 2009, he noted that European colonists “joined many thriving indigenous communities who suffered great hardships as a result of the changes to the land they inhabited.”
In recent years, a number of municipalities in the U.S. have begun to refer to the holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
City officials in Columbus, Ohio, said they do not plan to mark the holiday at all this year.