WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — As Native American advocates and others continue calls for official recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, President Donald Trump’s Columbus Day proclamation included a defense of the explorer’s legacy and warnings about those who seek to “undermine” it.
The federal government recognizes Oct. 12 as Columbus Day, while areas across the country have shifted away from commemorating the holiday over concerns that Christopher Columbus helped launch centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
While many have instead opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, the holiday remains a point of contention across the country.
In Chicago, city officials removed all statues of the explorer and Chicago Public Schools dropped his name from the federal holiday, instead recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. Over the summer, protesters clashed with police when they tried to tear down a Columbus statue in Grant Park, calling it a “symbol of white supremacy.”
A group of Italian Americans in the city say they aren’t opposed to the idea of Indigenous Peoples Day, but they want to continue celebrating Columbus as well, NewsNation affiliate WGN reported.
“It’s not just about Columbus, it’s bigger than that,” said Ron O’Nesti, of the Joint Civic Community of Italian-Americans. “It’s about our heritage, it’s about our food, it’s about our culture.”
In Portland, Oregon, the City Council passed a declaration designating Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015.
At the time, the director of the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights said the move was “an opportunity to create a greater conscience about who lives around us and the land we live on,” NewsNation affiliate KOIN reported.
Last year, William Miller, a community advocacy manager for the Native American Youth and Family Center and a Cherokee and Blackfeet nation member, spoke about the issue to the Board of Commissioners of Multnomah County, which includes Portland. Miller said that by acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day, “the County is allowing our people to reclaim identities stolen from us, and making our often-invisible population, visible again.”
On Friday, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring Monday Columbus Day. In it, he claimed that “radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy” in recent years.
“These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions,” the president said. “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.”
He also brought attention to his calls to “promote patriotic education,” which he recently signed an executive order to establish a commission with the very mission of doing so. The move is in part a response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the long-term consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.
Trump also addressed diversity training programs, which he has ordered federal agencies to end, in this proclamation. He said the programs “are grounded in the same type of revisionist history that is trying to erase Christopher Columbus from our national heritage.”
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign is hosting a virtual Indigenous People’s Day celebration on Monday.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliates WGN and KOIN contributed to this report.