Apparel manufacturer The Gap is currently selling a black t-shirt bearing — with no explanation — the words "MANIFEST DESTINY." Manifest Destiny is a polite term for the popular 19th-century belief that the United States — a white, European nation — was destined to expand westward across the continent, by any means necessary. In Indian country, the term Manifest Destiny calls to mind the suffering of previous generations of Natives through forced relocation and genocide.
More than a few American Indians are puzzled, to say the least, as to why The Gap would choose to sell a Manifest Destiny t-shirt.
Renee Roman Nose, an activist, actress, and ICTMN contributor, sent the following note to The Gap when she got wind of the shirt:
Dear Management, It is with great sadness that I notify you I will not be shopping at your store until you remove the "Manifest Destiny" t-shirts available at your stores. Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase which led to the genocide of millions of my people, millions of Indigenous people throughout this country. I am also inviting the more than 1700 people on my Facebook page to boycott your stores and inviting them to shop with their conscience. In the past Gap has been known for inclusion, rather than exclusion. I am disappointed to see that your marketing and sales strategies have changed so dramatically.
Renee Roman Nose
Descendant of the Sand Creek Massacre Survivors
Descendant of the Battle of the Washita Survivors
Enrolled Member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma
Artist and filmmaker Steven Paul Judd put the following image on his Facebook page, along with the comments that follow it:
The GAP is selling a black t-shirt that reads "MANIFEST DESTINY". (this IS NOT the shirt they made, but something i made to show what i see) Manifest Destiny resulted in the mass genocide of Indigenous people, through expansion, occupation and annexation of Indigenous land. I'm pretty pragmatic when it comes to most things. But I think this is a good opportunity educate the folks over at the Gap. I doubt there was malicious intent, in fact, I think it was just ignorance. So I hope they discontinue this shirt, I don't need the "formal apology", instead I hope they use their vast marketing presence to help to educate others on the ugly history of how this continent was colonized. See, what they see as a clever little shirt on "how the west was won" or maybe a "YOLO, make your own destiny" type of shirt – Is not what I see. I'm sadden to think about what my ancestors went through because of the "manifest destiny" mindset, and even more sadden to know that the effects of it can still be felt to day. So I make this image, in hopes that the Gap people will look at their shirt in a new light.
William S. Yellowrobe, a Native poet and playwright, has posted this response to the t-shirt:
Let me get this straight? The Gap wants to sell T-shirts that read; "Manifest Destiny"? "The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian" was taken? "Kill the Indian save the Man" is going to be used in their back to school designs for next year? I know this sounds blunt and harsh, but we have to remember. People, thousands of people, Native people, who were not even considered human beings, died during this arrogant and pompous proclamation. This is another episode of American history where an idea, or arrogant statement, lead to the demise of Native people. This isn't racism, this is a part of the racism that lead to genocide. Maybe a friend of mine is right. GAP should come out with a "Final Solution" T-shirt, or a "Got Slaves," t-shirt. Because this issue involves Native people specifically maybe the GAP hopes there will be no one to call them on it…Just one of those Indin Thinkin' thoughts by me…
A petition created by a UCLA student at Change.org has (at this writing) just passed 1,500 signatures, leaving 8,500 to go to reach its goal. You can participate, if so inclined, at change.org/petitions/gap-discontinue-the-manifest-destiny-tshirt-and-issue-a-formal-apology