The Indian Law Resource Center condemns President Trump’s continued derogatory use of the “Pocahontas” name in his political attacks. Used in this manner—to insult and to degrade for the purpose of proving superiority and trying to win political points—the Pocahontas name becomes a racist slur. It is unacceptable for this slur to be used by any person. Its use by the President of the United States during an event featuring and purportedly intended to honor Code Talkers from the Navajo Nation is particularly egregious.
Pocahontas was real. She was an indigenous woman of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia. She was kidnapped and raped by colonizers as a teen, a common practice. Tragically, this is still a common practice. Today, 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetimes. More than 1 in 2 Native women in the United States have experienced sexual violence, and of those, 96% were assaulted by at least one non-Native perpetrator. Indigenous women often suffer multiple forms of discrimination that can increase their vulnerability to all forms of violence, including human trafficking. Though data is scant, indigenous women and communities are alarmed at the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Ours is not the only denunciation of President Trump’s irresponsible spreading of hateful, racist slurs and untrue narratives. We join the National Congress of American Indians, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the Native American Journalists Association, and other organizations in speaking out against this President’s hateful rhetoric.
Of course, it is not just President Trump’s racist words that are a problem. His policies on human rights, climate change, indigenous peoples’ sacred sites are even more dangerous for Indian nations. With the appointment of men such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who spoke out against tribal provisions in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, and James Cason as Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior, who served under President George W. Bush and was responsible for the government’s refusal to resolve the Cobell trust funds claims, we can see that President Trump’s administration poses a broad threat to tribes and tribal sovereignty.
Whether it is by normalizing racist language, by seeking to undo protections for sacred sites at Bear Ears monument, or by appointing men with records of hostility to Indian interests, President Trump is laying the groundwork for a sustained attack on Indian Country. We all need to be ready to push back.
At the Indian Law Resource Center we are working to reduce violence against Native women and girls; to strengthen tribal sovereignty allowing tribes to better protect their people and improve economic development; and to anticipate and defend against threats to tribal sovereignty. Join us. Push back. Visit www.indianlaw.org.