In his proclamation for Columbus Day, President Obama said Friday that European explorers to the New World ushered “previously unseen disease, devastation, and violence” into the lives of Native Americans.
Obama acknowledged that Columbus “inspired many and allowed for generations of Italians to follow,” and referred to the explorer as an “ambitious navigator” with an “insatiable thirst for exploration that continues to drive us as a people.”
The president continued:
Though these early travels expanded the realm of European exploration, to many they also marked a time that forever changed the world for the indigenous peoples of North America. Previously unseen disease, devastation, and violence were introduced to their lives — and as we pay tribute to the ways in which Columbus pursued ambitious goals — we also recognize the suffering inflicted upon Native Americans and we recommit to strengthening tribal sovereignty and maintaining our strong ties.
Obama directed that the flag of the United States “be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.”