President Joe Biden made history on Friday, signing the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, The Hill reported. The holiday, which is part of an effort to honor the contributions of Native Americans, will be recognized on the same day as the controversial Columbus Day celebration still recognized in some states.
“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”
While officially marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Biden also issued a proclamation to recognize Christopher Columbus, who is known to have inflicted violence on Native communities, but still honored in some areas as he is given credit for “discovering” America. In his proclamation, the President honored Columbus for becoming “the first of many Italian explorers to arrive in what would later become known as the Americas.”
Biden also praised the controversial figure for inspiring other Italians to follow his journey to America. At the same time, he acknowledged the damage that’s been inflicted on Native Americans.
“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities,” the proclamation stated. “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.”
According to CNN, more than 100 cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco are among the cities which have made the transition. Several states, including Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon, are also choosing to celebrate Indigenous people instead of the man accused of bringing destruction to the community.
“Well, today is both Columbus Day, as of now, as well as Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Psaki said. “I’m not aware of any discussion of ending that either, ending the prior federal holiday at this point, but I know that recognizing today as Indigenous Peoples’ Day is something that the President felt strongly about personally, he’s happy to be the first president to celebrate and to make it, the history of moving forward.”