RECAP: DPNM Chairwoman Debra Haaland Stands Against Trump’s Use of Language that Offends Native Tribes

Albuquerque, N.M. – Leaders in the Native American community, including DPNM Chairwoman Debra Haaland, took a stand against Donald Trump denouncing his offensive language towards tribes in the New York Times.

At rallies, news conferences, and on Twitter, Trump has repeatedly called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” and “goofy.” Though an indigenous Canadian journalist made him aware that the name was rude, Trump continued to use the name at campaign events and on social media. And his followers have taken up his offensive language.

Leaders in the Native American community, including DPNM Chairwoman Debra Haaland have taken notice, and denounced his offensivelanguage to the New York Times.

Overview

“I think he definitely says it as a slur,” said Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “No matter how he feels about Elizabeth Warren, to throw that out there is disrespectful to real Native Americans.”

Ms. Pata noted that the portrayal of Pocahontas in Disney movies is a caricature, and that the real Pocahontas has a deep and even painful legacy for Native American tribes such as the Powhatan in Virginia. In Powhatan lore, Pocahontas gained hero status for saving the life of a white man and was later kidnapped by the English; after being held hostage and forced to marry, she died in 1617 in England at the age of 21.

“It’s tragic way that she died away from her people and of a disease that was brought by the Europeans,” said Debra Haaland, the chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party and a member of the Laguna Pueblo, who takes offense at Mr. Trump’s use of the name. “It discredits her memory,” she said.

For Ms. Haaland, using the term “Pocahontas” is like calling Native Americans “Redskins,” and it suggests that Mr. Trump thinks that all tribes are the same.

“It’s as if any person who identifies as native, ‘We’ll just call them Pocahontas,’ ” Ms. Haaland said.

Some Native Americans have felt the wrath of Mr. Trump before. As a casino mogul in the 1990s, Mr. Trump sued the federal government, arguing that allowing tribes to open casinos discriminated against him.

“This guy is unbelievable,” George Schneider, a lawyer who represented 2,000 Ramapoughs in northern New Jersey and New York, said at the time. “His father hands him a multimillion-dollar empire. The Native American Indians are lucky if they can give their children food, clothing and a roof over their head.”

Trump has a long record of disrespect toward Native Tribes. In 1993, Trump commented on individuals who benefit from Tribal industries, like gaming, “They don’t look like Indians to me,” Trump said at a congressional hearing.

Full New York Times article is below:

 

Donald Trump’s Use of ‘Pocahontas’ Has Native Americans Worried

NEW YORK TIMES // ALAN RAPPEPORT

Donald J. Trump is heading west this weekend for rallies in Las Vegas and Phoenix and a fund-raiser at Barry M. Goldwater’s old estate, known as Be-nun-i-kin, Navajo for “house on top of the hill.”

But it is the prospect of Mr. Trump’s gathering with members of the Navajo Nation that is creating the most intrigue around the trip of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

His repeated use of the name “Pocahontas” to deride Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, has stirred a debate among Native Americans about how they should deal with Mr. Trump. Some Navajos are questioning whether the meeting, which is still in the works, should even take place.

For many, his mention of the historical figure is offensive and a sign that Mr. Trump, who has been accused of being anti-immigrant, also has problems with the people who first inhabited the country.

This year, the nickname has become Mr. Trump’s favorite pejorative for punching back at Ms. Warren, a progressive Democrat who is one of his most vocal critics. In 2012, the former Harvard Law School professor came under fire when it emerged that during her academic career she identified herself as a minority, citing her one thirty-second of Cherokee blood.

“She’s got about as much Indian blood as I have,” Mr. Trump said in March. “Her whole life was based on a fraud.”

In rallies, news conferences and on Twitter, Mr. Trump has repeatedly called Ms. Warren “Pocahontas” and “goofy.” Last month, when an indigenous Canadian journalist told him that the name was rude, Mr. Trump kept repeating it. At some of his campaign events, Mr. Trump’s supporters chant Indian war cries.

Native Americans have taken notice.

“I think he definitely says it as a slur,” said Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “No matter how he feels about Elizabeth Warren, to throw that out there is disrespectful to real Native Americans.”

Ms. Pata noted that the portrayal of Pocahontas in Disney movies is a caricature, and that the real Pocahontas has a deep and even painful legacy for Native American tribes such as the Powhatan in Virginia. In Powhatan lore, Pocahontas gained hero status for saving the life of a white man and was later kidnapped by the English; after being held hostage and forced to marry, she died in 1617 in England at the age of 21.

“It’s tragic way that she died away from her people and of a disease that was brought by the Europeans,” said Debra Haaland, the chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party and a member of the Laguna Pueblo, who takes offense at Mr. Trump’s use of the name. “It discredits her memory,” she said.

For Ms. Haaland, using the term “Pocahontas” is like calling Native Americans “Redskins,” and it suggests that Mr. Trump thinks that all tribes are the same.

“It’s as if any person who identifies as native, ‘We’ll just call them Pocahontas,’ ” Ms. Haaland said.

Some Native Americans have felt the wrath of Mr. Trump before. As a casino mogul in the 1990s, Mr. Trump sued the federal government, arguing that allowing tribes to open casinos discriminated against him.

“This guy is unbelievable,” George Schneider, a lawyer who represented 2,000 Ramapoughs in northern New Jersey and New York, said at the time. “His father hands him a multimillion-dollar empire. The Native American Indians are lucky if they can give their children food, clothing and a roof over their head.”

As he has done with Ms. Warren, Mr. Trump also questioned whether the casino operators benefiting from their Native American status were pure blooded.

“They don’t look like Indians to me,” Mr. Trump said at a congressional hearing in 1993.

Despite this history, the leaders of the Navajo Nation, who represent about 250,000 tribal members across 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reached out to Mr. Trump, as they have with other candidates, in hopes of meeting him during his visit to Arizona.

Jared Touchin, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, said logistics were still being worked out for a possible meeting in Phoenix.

Mr. Touchin acknowledged that some tribal members were not interested in having their leaders meet with Mr. Trump after his recent remarks. But he said that many members thought it would be valuable to talk to him about education, water rights, tribal sovereignty and coal. The Navajo Nation relies heavily on the struggling coal industry for revenue, and reviving it could be an area of potential partnership with Mr. Trump, who has vowed to put miners back to work.

Leonard Tsosie, a council delegate of the Navajo Nation, said that while he does not mind meeting with adversarial people, he will most likely have other plans this weekend.

“If there’s a serious meeting about tribal issues, I wouldn’t mind being there,” Mr. Tsosie said. “If it’s just a campaign rally type of thing or something where we’ll just be talked down to, I don’t want to.”

Carlyle W. Begay, a Republican state senator who lives on the Navajo Nation, said that he hoped to meet Mr. Trump so that he could help educate him about how to more appropriately talk about Native American issues.

“The term that he used should be changed,” Mr. Begay said. “He should use a different rhetoric, and this is an opportunity to help him understand that.”

Still, not all Navajos are turned off by Mr. Trump’s tone.

Shawn Redd, a Navajo Republican who is running for Congress in Arizona, suggested that his fellow Native Americans were being too politically correct and that Ms. Warren deserved to be ridiculed for calling herself a minority.

“I think Donald Trump is within his full rights to make fun of her for it,” Mr. Redd said. “It is a scandal.”