A number of Native American activists and leaders condemned President Donald Trump’s racist comment during a ceremony honoring Navajo veterans of World War II on Monday.
Trump had, without saying her name, referred to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” using the name as an insult in response to Warren’s claims of Native American heritage. Why he felt this was necessary to say while honoring Navajo “code talkers” who served in the Marine Corps and are now in their 90s is anyone’s guess.
That he did so in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson — who was nicknamed “Indian Killer” and signed a law to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of indigenous people from their homes — only added insult to injury.
“We have a representative in Congress who has been here for a long time … longer than you. They call her Pocahontas!” Trump said to the veterans.
The Navajo Nation issued a statement in response to the incident, which strongly condemned Trump’s comments.
“First and foremost, we appreciate the honor and recognition that has been bestowed upon the Navajo Code Talkers, who truly are National Treasures and protectors of freedom,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “In this day and age, all tribal nations still battle insensitive references to our people. The prejudice that Native American people face is an unfortunate historical legacy. As Native Americans, we are proud people who have taken care of this land long before there was the United States of America and we will continue to fight for this Nation.
“It was our Code Talkers that ensured the freedom of the United States and that’s what is important to remember here.”
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty called Trump’s “careless” comment the “latest example of systemic, deep-seated ignorance of Native Americans and our intrinsic right to exist and practice our ways of life.”
“The intentional disregard of the historical trauma of Pocahontas as a sexual assault survivor directly resulting from colonization is disturbing,” Crotty said. “The reckless appropriation of this term is deeply offensive and dangerous to the sovereignty of our identity of our peoples. Such rhetoric is damaging, and it a serious infringement of our right to live as Native Americans.”
The ceremony was intended to honor the indigenous “code talkers” who used their native languages to encode American military communications during World Wars I and II. Crotty said in her statement that the code talkers were not “pawns to advance a personal grudge, or promote false narratives.”