The Trump Administration announced on Halloween that November would be National American History and Founders Month. While this idea has merit, the President instituted this honor of founders at a time that has been seen by many as blatantly disrespectful to Native communities. Since 1990, November has been honored in the United States as Native American Heritage Month. Not only has the current administration refused to acknowledge the month-long observance, it has, instead, instituted a celebration of the “founders” of America. That typically means European conquerors and early American politicians. While they were of importance as to how America developed, they were the biggest offenders towards Native communities. The racism and genocidal practices by colonizers and early American politicians still cause harm to Native communities to this very day.
One might say that it is possible this was a misunderstanding, that it has just been expanded to include all American history, but to this, I reference the blatant Anti-Native racism this administration has enacted over the past few years. In the first few days of their administration, they took down the government website for American Indian affairs, preventing the public from having an official place to research tribes and fund for Native communities. In his first few weeks in office, Trump signed an executive order that basically forced the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to relinquish their sacred land to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. These pipelines are owned by a company of which Trump was a shareholder prior to his presidency. The tribe protested the building of these pipelines because, in the event of an oil spill, their only water supply would be severely contaminated. The part of the pipeline built after this order has since leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil. In 2017, the administration held a ceremony to honor Navajo Code Talkers, who were WWII veterans that were integral in military communications. Trump insisted on having the ceremony in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the president who began the Trail of Tears and decimated Native communities. This doesn’t even cover the amount of disrespect Trump has shown to Native communities in the decades before his presidency.
Having a holiday to encourage people to learn American history is not inherently bad. In fact, individual states already have similarly titled holidays in place for American History month. Florida celebrates theirs in September, while Missouri and Arkansas honor it in the early months of the year. The difference is these states are not trying to replace a widely known celebration of Native communities. The issue arises when a consistently racist administration attempts to replace the work of Native American History Month with a month named for the “founders” who committed great atrocities against Native communities.
Photo: S. Cenni