“Pocahontas is now the face of your party” – President of the United States Donald Trump to Elizabeth Warren United States Senator from Massachusetts.
This line was enough to cause me to start swearing out loud alone in my basement. In this line Trump is demonstrating his clear contempt and disregard for Indigenous people. To Trump it seems, an Indigenous woman is the last person we should have leading an American political party.
However before we break this down I will acknowledge Elizabeth Warren’s Indigenous identity has been called into question. Simon Moya-Smith breaks it down well here. However, regardless of the validity of her identity, Trump’s statement is inappropriate and harmful to Indigenous folks across the world.
In this line Trump chose to reduce Indigenous women to the stereotype of Pocahontas and to imply Indigenous people do not have a place in politics.
The use stereotypes such as Pocahontas is known to cause harm to Indigenous people. It is a documented fact*. Trump’s continued use of this slur (yes, slur) is demonstrating his lack of desire to put the first “Americans” first in any way. It demonstrates that he is willing to throw entire nations (yes, sovereign nations) under the bus to insult a political opponent.
However this line shows something else. Not only is Trump continuing to use the stereotype of Pocahontas to belittle Warren, but he is demonstrating his belief that an Indigenous person is not qualified or suitable for politics. This is just incorrect plain and simple. There are Indigenous business people, PhDs, doctors, athletes, celebrities and more. Indigenous people are just as capable as anyone else. Let me say this again for those in the back, Indigenous people are just as capable as anyone else.
When Trump contributes to the marginalization and oppression of Indigenous people through stereotypes and insults he is not “making America great again”, in fact he’s making it worse. By choosing to not work with Indigenous people, to not build a relationship and to not treat them with respect, Trump is not doing America any favours.
Indigenous people have been the face of resistance in North America for generations. We know what we’re doing. And that resistance will not wane. We will not stand by as our Indigeneity is used as an insult to degrade others. We will not stand by as our lands are pillaged. We will not stand by as our women’s rights to choose are restricted. We will not stand by as our allies from other marginalized populations are targeted.
Pay attention Trump, because we Pocahontas-es are now the face of the resistance.
*Fryberg, Stephanie A., Hazel R. Markus, Daphna Oyserman, and Joseph M. Stone. “Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 30.3 (2008): 208-218. Web.