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Trump Issues Columbus Day Proclamation Without Obama’s Misgivings

  • VOA News

Schoolchildren wave Italian flags on a float in the Columbus Day parade in New York, Oct. 13, 2014. The parade is organized by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and is billed as the world's largest celebration of Italian-American heritage and culture.

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued the annual U.S. proclamation for Columbus Day this Monday without any of his predecessor’s misgivings about the holiday.

Trump’s proclamation urges the U.S. to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ spirit of discovery of the Americas, a contrast to former President Barack Obama’s document last year, which acknowledged both Columbus’ drive to explore and the suffering of Native Americans.

The holiday, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October, has drawn controversy in some quarters of the United States, with a growing number of cities choosing to reinterpret what the day stands for, rebranding it Indigenous Peoples Day and celebrating Native Americans.

'A transformative event'

In his proclamation, Trump praises Columbus, the explorer’s native Italy, and Spain, which sponsored Columbus’ journey to the Americas.

He said, “The permanent arrival of Europeans ... was a transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great nation.’’

Obama’s proclamation in 2016 struck a different tone, saying, “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,” he wrote.

Columbus' legacy

Columbus discovered the Americas while looking for a passage to the spice-producing islands of the East Indies, which are in Asia. He landed on a Bahamian island he named San Salvador, discovering an entire landmass that had been unknown to Europeans, on Oct. 12, 1492.

Columbus Day is celebrated not only by the United States, but also Spain, which supported the Columbus expedition, Italy, Colombia (named for Christopher Columbus), several other South American nations, and some Caribbean islands.

The day is seen by Italian-Americans as a celebration of Columbus’ heritage and their own. It is seen by Hispanics as a celebration of their culture, because of to the links between Columbus and the royal court of Spain and the subsequent Spanish colonization of much of South and Central America.

Sharon Brown, a Haida tribal member from Bonney Lake, Wash., drums during a march for Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 12, 2015, in Seattle. As the U.S. observes Columbus Day, it will also be Indigenous Peoples Day in some U.S. cities.
Sharon Brown, a Haida tribal member from Bonney Lake, Wash., drums during a march for Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 12, 2015, in Seattle. As the U.S. observes Columbus Day, it will also be Indigenous Peoples Day in some U.S. cities.

Indigenous Peoples Day

However, in the United States, the holiday has been met with opposition by some who say Columbus Day glorifies a man and a culture that ran roughshod over the indigenous people who were living in the New World before Europeans arrived.

Several cities, including Seattle, Washington; Albuquerque, New Mexico; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Phoenix, Arizona, are among those celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. Some mark the day concurrently with Columbus Day, and some cities have rejected Columbus Day altogether.

On the other hand, several cities have rejected proposals for them to proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day, including Cincinnati, Ohio, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Many of those who support celebrating Columbus Day say Columbus’ discovery is an important part of American history and say those who want to celebrate indigenous people should choose a different day.

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