In a tweet over the weekend, President Donald Trump attempts to insult Senator Elizabeth Warren who claims she has indigenous heritage. He attempts to do so by making a joke about the genocide of Native Americans.
This feud started after Trump publicly vowed to give 1 million dollars to Warren’s charity of choice if she could prove she has Native American in her blood. The DNA test did show she had a distant relative who was Native American. She released an apology to the Cherokee Nation for not being mindful of Tribal citizenship and sovereignty.
This is an ongoing problem today because at one point in time it was not “cool” to be Native American. They were prosecuted for practicing their religion, sent to boarding schools to “take the Indian” out of them. This country even followed the motto to “kill the Indian, save the man.”
Now that Native Americans can receive benefits (depending on the tribe), people are quick to claim they are Native American. This is dangerous to the tribal sovereignty of many Indian nations because they have people claiming Native American heritage on applications and to the public without permission and acceptance of the tribe. Natives take offense to this because people want to claim this heritage without the real life problems that many face and the trauma their ancestors endured for the right to claim this heritage.
Nobody knows about the suicide rates, the missing women, the depression, the poverty, the substance abuse, and environmental racism that continues to affect Native people today. But they are fast to claim that they are 1/16 Cherokee without proof.
While this ideology is dangerous to the remaining Native Americans in the country, President Trump’s remarks are by far more dangerous. He is downplaying and mocking an event that literally killed thousands of Native Americans, while forcibly removing them from their land. An act that was made legal by the U.S Government called the Indian Removal Act. Between the 4 tribes involved nearly 15,000 Natives lost their lives on the Trail of Tears.
Not to mention the many other massacres that took place legally in this country which include:
- Yontocket Massacre 1853
- Wiyot Massacre 1860
- Bear River Massacre 1863
- Sand Creek Massacre 1864
- Three Knolls Massacre 1865
These are just a handful of events that we don’t learn in American History. We also never learned that Pocahontas was not a woman who was respected and helped the new settlers. She was a 12-year old young girl who was forced to lead the journey and continuously raped before she died of disease at a young age.
Professional Lacrosse star Lyle Thompson said it best, “For us Natives, racism is a much different thing. Because it’s a fight to make us unknown and we’re pretty close to unknown.” We continue to be marginalized and used as political pawns by non-native people.
Joking about these events are detrimental to existing Native Americans today because the leader of this country is setting the tone on how seriously Native Americans are taken. This creates an atmosphere for people to have a blind eye, making it possible for history to repeat itself.
With both President Trump and Senator Warren holding high positions, they must do better.
We should not be having appointed leaders in this country claiming a false ethnicity to gain an edge on their competition. We should never have the president of this country purposefully make a joke about one of the worst genocides in history. Ignorance cannot excuse either Senator Warren or President Trump’s actions and as a country we must hold them to much higher standards. The U.S Government could learn a lot from Native Americans and their way of life and government. Things are looking hopeful because there are two Native American women sitting in congress right now. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are hoping to reshape this country and restore the ways of their ancestors.
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