Biden Acknowledges 'Painful Wrongs and Atrocities' to Indigenous in Columbus Day Message

President Joe Biden highlighted the "atrocities" suffered by indigenous people in his proclamation of the Columbus Day holiday, which is on Monday, October 11.

In the message, Biden praised Italian-Americans who followed Columbus's path and their "lasting contributions" to the United States. But he also referenced the "painful history of wrongs and atrocities" that western explorers inflicted on indigenous and tribal communities.

"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," the proclamation read.

Biden noted that Columbus's arrival ushered a "wave of devastation" for Native Americans, including violence, displacement and assimilation.

"On this day, we recognize this painful past and recommit ourselves to investing in Native communities, upholding our solemn and sacred commitments to Tribal sovereignty, and pursuing a brighter future centered on dignity, respect, justice, and opportunity for all people," the president wrote.

Biden on Friday also issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples' Day, also to be celebrated on October 11. Biden said the country must never forget the "terror" wrought on these communities.

The federal government also has a "solemn obligation to lift up and invest in the future of Indigenous people and empower Tribal Nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions," the proclamation stated.

Biden Acknowledges ‘Painful Wrongs' To Indigenous People
President Joe Biden highlighted the “atrocities” suffered by indigenous people in his proclamation of Columbus Day on Monday, October 11. In this photo, Biden delivers remarks on the September jobs numbers in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on October 8, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Biden's statement is a departure from former President Donald Trump, who in 2020 lambasted "radical activists" he said sought to undermine Columbus's legacy.

"We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history," Trump wrote in his last proclamation. "We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus."

A growing number of local governments have begun recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day in addition to or instead of Columbus Day. More than a dozen states currently observe the holiday.

Earlier this month, Boston Mayor Kim Janey signed an executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city. Janey said Boston's shared history is "tainted by colonial violence and systemic exclusion."

The order's signing ceremony was interrupted by an attendee who said the change was leaving out Italian-Americans.

"I think Italian-Americans have a rich history in the city of Boston and certainly in our nation, we should celebrate all cultures," Janey said. "Justice is not a zero-sum game. We can lift up the experiences of indigenous peoples and we can also respect Italian-Americans."