Last week, President Trump declared November as “National American History and Founders Month,” a celebration of the country’s “dedication to promoting liberty and justice.”
Few noticed a White House proclamation released on Halloween, but on Monday, it suddenly sparked outrage on social media, with many arguing the move was tone-deaf — if not outright offensive — because of another month-long heritage event that has taken place in November since 1990: Native American Heritage Month.
“By centering this founders’ narrative and calling it American history, it completely erases Native people,” Tara Houska, a tribal attorney in Minnesota, told The Washington Post. “It’s an uncomfortable truth that the first people in this country were here before the founding of the U.S.”
“For more than two centuries, the American experiment in self-government has been the antithesis to tyranny, and our Constitution has secured the blessings of liberty,” the White House statement said. “To continue to advance liberty and prosperity, we must ensure the next generation of leaders is steeped in the proud history of our country.”
But some historians slammed the statement for an oversimplified and glorified portrayal of a national history that is far more complex — or merely for repeating and rehashing pieces of U.S. history that are already well-studied and well-known.
“It’s a kind of call to arms that seeks define patriotism in narrow, nonnegotiable terms,” Alexander Karn, a Colgate University professor who studies the politics of history, said in an email to The Post. “What’s especially concerning is the way this statement frames as an enemy of freedom anyone who would question or wish to complicate the outlines of the story.”