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Trump's Speech Claiming That Our Ancestors 'Tamed A Continent' Has People Crying Foul

Trump's Speech Claiming That Our Ancestors 'Tamed A Continent' Has People Crying Foul
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Public outrage has followed President Donald Trump's commencement address to graduates of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland on Friday. In his remarks, the president offered a version of American history that many found to be insensitive to Native Americans.

For some, the president's comments on how early European settlers "trounced and empire and tamed a continent" demonstrate a total lack of historical understanding and constitute an insult to Native Americans.

Trump said:

"Together there is nothing Americans can't do, absolutely nothing. In recent years, and even decades, too many people have forgotten that truth. They've forgotten that our ancestors trounced an empire, tamed a continent, and triumphed over the worst evils in history."

North America had been dominated by native tribes and cultures for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Western Europeans. Before Christopher Columbus ran ashore in 1492 (thinking he had found India), there were as many as 12 million native inhabitants in what is now the United States. By 1900, that number had dwindled to around 237,000 - centuries of genocide and exposure to disease nearly wiped out native populations.

The Indian Removal Act, signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans, which exploited the concept of "manifest destiny." Trump himself has said that Jackson is his favorite president, and a portrait of the seventh president hangs in the Oval Office.

Trump also said he believes no one should ever "apologize for America."

"America is the greatest fighting force for peace, justice and freedom in the history of the world. We have become a lot stronger lately. We are not going to apologize for America. We are going to stand up for America."

This wasn't the first instance of Trump using continent taming as a descriptor for American history. In March, he tweeted, "our continent was tamed by farmers."

People on Twitter blasted Trump's twisted interpretation of history, saying "such rhetoric is literally praising white supremacy terrorism, slavery, and genocide."

Others noticed that Trump's use of the word "tamed" echoes other controversial remarks he has made, such as last week when he referred to people illegally entering the United States as "animals."

Amy Siskind of Politico called Trump a "shameful bigot."