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Biden becomes first president to proclaim Indigenous Peoples' Day

Biden becomes first president to proclaim Indigenous Peoples' Day
President Joe Biden proclaimed Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden is the first president to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Biden issued the proclamation on Friday, recognizing Monday as Indigenous People's Day, and marking the first time a U.S. president has done so.

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"Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people -- a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to," Biden wrote in the proclamation. "That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began."

Biden added that respect for tribal sovereignty and self-governance has been a priority of his administration, noting that he issued a memorandum reaffirming treaty obligations to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations in the first week of his administration.

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"History demonstrates that Native American people -- and our nation as a whole -- are best served when tribal governments are empowered to lead their communities and when federal officials listen to and work together with Tribal leaders when formulating federal policy that affects tribal nations," Biden wrote.

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"The contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history -- in public service, entrepreneurship, scholarship, the arts, and countless other fields -- are integral to our Nation, our culture, and our society," he continued.

The second Monday of October has also been a federal holiday to celebrate Columbus Day since October 1971, and Biden issued a separate proclamation for that on the same day.

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"More than 500 years ago, after securing the support of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, Christopher Columbus launched the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria from the coast of Spain in 1492," the proclamation read. "While he intended to end his quest in Asia, his 10-week journey instead landed him on the shores of the Bahamas, making Columbus the first of many Italian explorers to arrive in what would later become known as the Americas."

Biden also recognized the consequences of the exploration in the same proclamation.

"For Native Americans, western exploration ushered in a wave of devastation: violence perpetrated against native communities, displacement and theft of tribal homelands, the introduction and spread of disease, and more," the proclamation stated.

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By contrast, former President Donald Trump had referred to people who mentioned ramifications from the exploration as "radical activists," and accused them of trying to hurt Columbus' legacy.

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