opinion   |  column

COLUMN: President Trump should have kept his mouth shut about Pocahontas



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

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

For much of 2016, the Native Americans living at Standing Rock, North Dakota protested the Dakota Access Pipeline project and claimed 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 statistic has been destroyed already.

Trump’s reference to Warren as Pocahontas is rooted in her claim of being a descendant of Native Americans, which has never been verified.

Warren’s strongest evidence of having Native American heritage comes from her family lore. Regardless of whether this is true or not, she used the claim as an opportunity to advance in law school with affirmative action.

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

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

Jackson was the president who passed the Indian Removal Act, which turned into the Native American genocide known as the Trail of Tears in 1830. 

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

The fact that Trump used Pocahontas as his insult brings more offense. Portrayals of Pocahontas in media have incorrectly represented Native Americans. 

The Disney movie romanticized the 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 that the Native Americans could be civilized and educated by white settlers. 

However, our government knows a lot about forcing young women into relationships with older men, so this as well shouldn’t come as a surprise that Trump said what he did. 

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

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in Column



Comments powered by Disqus