A growing number of Americans are rethinking how they should talk about Italian explorer Christopher Columbus on the October day designated to honor his voyage. But the Trump campaign is not joining them.
Instead, the campaign is doubling down on honoring the colonizer who is increasingly being scrutinized for his mistreatment of Native Americans and African slaves.
The president’s reelection campaign is having a Columbus Day sale to allow customers supportive of the navigator’s voyage (which did not make it to what is now the United States of America) to purchase the “Make America Great Again” merchandise of their choice for a discounted price.
Email to Trump supporters: “Columbus Day Sale!” on Trump merchandise, as liberals try to “erase our nation’s past.” pic.twitter.com/MWtjvpiavp
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) October 8, 2017
“As Leftists push harder and harder to erase our nation’s past, there’s never been a better time to celebrate our history,” the email said. “That’s why we’re celebrating Christopher Columbus’s legendary voyage to America with an EXCLUSIVE Columbus Day Sale!”
More than 70 cities, states and higher-education institutions in the United States have opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in lieu of Columbus Day to highlight the contributions of Native Americans.
The president has been vocal in his support for not renaming or removing traditional pieces of U.S. history, despite how many Americans speak out about the problems of honoring figures with harmful pasts.
Following ongoing attempts to remove or rename memorials honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders, Trump suggested that attempts to do so are a rewriting of history.
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he tweeted.
In the case of the Trump reelection campaign, learning from history seems to mean saving 25 percent on a $40 Trump-Pence hooded sweatshirt or a $45 bronze “Presidential Medal.”
But to many Americans, learning from history could start with Trump simply acknowledging Native Americans in his Columbus Day proclamation. The White House omitted any mention of them in it.
“The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas 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,” it read.
But what the White House does not mention is how transformative Columbus’s arrival was for the people already in the “New World” and how much explorers arriving in the Americas “changed the course of human history” for those living on the land.
It does not include the concerns of Native Americans protesting the Trump administration’s approval of the Dakota Access pipeline, which some argue violates treaties indigenous groups living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation signed with the federal government in the 1800s. Nor does it include an apology to the Native Americans offended by his repeated use of the name “Pocahontas” as a slur against rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), despite members of his own party calling his actions “pejorative.” Nor is there any mention of this administration’s plans to respond to the fact that one in four Native Americans and Alaska Natives are living in poverty, according to Pew Research Center.
In Trump’s inauguration address, he promised to be a unifier who would bring together the groups that oftentimes appeared to be at war with one another during the election.
To Mark Charles, a Native American activist, the best way to emphasize America’s greatness is to portray its past as accurately as possible.
“His statement made it even more apparent that our country needs to teach its history properly,” he said Monday during a lecture in response to Trump’s statement. “We need to understand what happened and how this took place. We need to understand how we got where we are today.”