OKLAHOMA – Presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was at it again this week with his references to Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Colorado, as “Pocahontas.”
He was not offering any kind of homage to the historical Powhatan woman, Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a network of tributary tribal nations in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia. She is said to have offered her own life for that of a pilgrim man, John Smith, in 1607.
He was using the name as an offensive racist term against Senator Warren, who once claimed to be of Cherokee blood, but has never substantiated that claim.
Whether she is or if she isn’t is not the issue that mainstream Republicans are focusing on, and after a second barrage of tweets in which Trump continued his harassment of Warren calling her “Pocahontas,” they are distancing themselves from their presumptive candidate.
“He needs to quit using language like that,” said Rep. Chickasaw, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, and one of two Native Americans in the House. “It’s pejorative, and you know, there’s plenty of things that he can disagree with Elizabeth Warren over, this is not something that should, in my opinion, ever enter the conversation.
“It’s neither appropriate personally toward her, and frankly, it offends a much larger group of people. So, I wish he would avoid that.”
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a state with one of the highest proportions of Native Americans in the country, also chastised Trump.
“I just don’t engage in personal insults — that is a personal insult,” he said.
Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, has vowed not to vote for Trump, as has Romney. Stevens said the Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” to attack Warren was both racist and inappropriate.
“If you said this in a sixth-grade class, the teacher would tell you, ‘Don’t say this,’ ” Stevens said. “This is a sick guy, and Americans are not longing for a president who’s going to go out and use ethnic slurs against people,” he said. “It’s amusing in the same way telling dirty jokes around a frat house can get laughs, but most people grow out of that. It’s childish.”
“Mr. Trump’s comments reinforce broad stereotypes of Native Americans as Indian chiefs, mascots and princesses, rather than contemporary people who are contributing to society,” said Stephanie Fryberg, an associate professor of psychology and American Indian studies at the University of Washington, adding: “He’s not using the term in any way to be honorific. He’s using it to mock her.”
Trumps past history with North American tribal groups is not a good one either.
In 1993, he testified at a House subcommittee hearing that “organized crime is rampant” in Indian casinos around the nation. At the time, he was fighting the expansion of casino’s on tribal lands, which he saw as a direct threat to his own casino empire.
Trump also questioned the legitimacy of the Mashantucket Pequots, who operate the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, saying, “They don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.”
In 2000, he secretly financed newspaper ads in Upstate New York warning that a casino sought by the St. Regis Mohawk Nation would attract criminals and drug users.