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COLUMN: President Trump made a misstep while honoring Navajo veterans



President Trump spoke at an event at the White House on Monday to honor Navajo veterans, but he took the spotlight off of the veterans and used it to offend Native Americans by referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas.

Now, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that the president took advantage of a moment that was supposed honor people to offend them instead. We also shouldn’t be surprised that Native Americans are yet again disrespected on a national scale.

For the majority of 2016, the Native Americans living at Standing Rock protested the Dakota Pipeline project, proclaiming that it would contaminate their water and make living there almost impossible. In the past few weeks, their worst fears came true as the Keystone pipeline leaked twice

It was only projected to leak once every 41 years, but that projection has been disproven already.

Trump’s reference to Warren as Pocahontas takes root in her claim of being a descendent of Native Americans, which has not been proven true. Warren’s strongest evidence of being Native American comes from her family lore

Regardless if this is true or not, she used the claim as an opportunity to advance in law school with regards to affirmative action.

Not only is Trump’s comment offensive, but with the context of the scene and his reference, the strikes continue to add up. 

Trump “honored” the veterans and offended them all while standing in front of a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson. 

As a quick history refresher, Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act, which turned into the Native American genocide known as the Trail of Tears in 1830. 

Trump claims Jackson is one of his favorite previous presidents, which makes sense considering his fervent efforts to remove undocumented individuals from the country and prevent future access to future immigrants.

The fact Trump used Pocahontas as his insult is offensive in and of itself. Portrayals of Pocahontas in the media have incorrectly represented Native Americans. The Disney movie romanticized the actual history of Pocahontas in an attempt to make her a strong, female character who chooses duty over love. 

In reality, Pocahontas was forced into the role of “noble savage” in an attempt to show people in Europe the Native Americans could be “civilized” and educated by white settlers. 

At the end of the day, Trump should have kept his mouth shut. If he had refrained from insulting Warren and stuck to honoring the Navajo veterans, this could have been a rare, good moment for the president. 


mmgarbac@indiana.edu

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