Donald Trump called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” at a Navajo veterans’ event, and we still can’t believe he’s president
President Donald Trump is not exactly known for racial sensitivity. But he took his ignorance to new heights on Monday, November 27th, when he referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during an event for Navajo Code Talkers.
"I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people," Trump said while addressing the veterans. "You were here long before any of us were here. Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time...longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!"
The event honored World War II veterans who helped the Marine Corps develop a secret code. Trump addressed three Code Talkers in front of a painting of Andrew Jackson — the president responsible for the displacement and death of many Native Americans through the Trail of Tears.
Trump has used the nickname “Pocahontas” to mock Warren before. He began using the nickname during the 2016 presidential campaign in reference to Warren’s unverified claim that she has Native American ancestry.
Warren responded to Trump’s comments with outrage.
"This was a ceremony to honor war heroes: Native Americans who had put it all on the line to protect our country and to save the lives of Americans and our allies," she said in an interview on MSNBC. "It should have been a celebration of their incredible service, but Donald Trump couldn't make it through without tossing in a racial slur."
Native American leaders were dismayed and insulted by Trump’s use of “Pocahontas.” Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, told The New York Timesthat the remark undercut the honoring of Navajo veterans.
"For Indian Country, which has a very high level of participation in the military and veterans’ service, it was a real honor to be at that event today," Pata said, "and it is unfortunate that it was used as an opportunity to once again try to use the word Pocahontas in a negative way towards a political adversary."
From the cultural appropriation of headdresses to the representation of Native Americans in the media, Native Americans face daily discrimination in modern America. Using the nickname “Pocahontas” as a way to insult and undercut a political opponent only serves to reinforce the problem and sets a terrible example for others.
We can only hope that Trump hears the responses from Pata and other Native leaders and chooses his words more carefully the next time around.