Pocahontas & President Trump: Response from an Indigenous Woman

I sit in my dining room at the table, weeping. I’m watching a live video of the #climatemarch in DC today, watching native people lead the way. I am so grateful to be indigenous. I am so grateful to see the world responding, to hear the cries of the people for Mother Earth.

But last night, I was weeping for a different reason. I wept that the President of the United States would, without a thought, set aside the lives of native peoples and even show ridicule toward us.

As a Christian and Potawatomi citizen with both European and native blood, I’ve attempted to publicly (and respectfully) hold President Trump accountable for his actions in these first 100 days.

I spoke respectfully when he barred immigrants and refugees from our country.

I courteously protested when he passed the Dakota access pipeline and lied about attempting to communicate with tribal leaders.

In writing weekly letters to the president, I’ve simply told my story, kindly laying out the reasons why I believe what I believe about this country and the citizens in it.

I’ve reminded him why climate control is real and a threat, to not only the world, but native communities who are trying to care for Mother Earth.

I’ve told him stories of my children learning about the immigration process, our treks to marches and protests and our involvement in our community and tribe.

I’ve asked him to remember those of us who are different from him, but still citizens of this nation he has chosen to lead and serve.

But today, I speak as an indigenous woman.

Trump, more than once, has called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” and Friday he did it once again at an NRA rally.

He spoke the words with a crooked grin and cocked eyebrows, perhaps much resembling the predatory attitude practiced toward native women for years.

In his blatant disregard for native history, he has now become a president that not only ignores native voices, but attempts to diminish our identity into a Disney character, while praising the presidency of Andrew Jackson.

When he was elected, I attended an event at a local seminary in which we shared our worry for the upcoming presidency. LGBT women shared about their fear of losing the merit of their identity in society, African American men talked about their growing fear of police violence, and when my turn came, I stood in front of them and wept, saying between sobs, “I am afraid native peoples will be seen by him as nothing more than the dirt beneath his shoes.”

So far in his presidency, Trump has neglected to meet with native peoples or even acknowledge our existence and growing voice in this country, especially on the topic of climate change.

But it is clear that he not only doesn’t value native voices, he actually patronizes and criticizes our identities in front of a powerful lobbying association that supports guns in our nation.

So in my next letter to Trump, I will tell him my story again, and the next week, I will share more of my story and more of my cultural identity and values as a Christian, and he will never be able to say that the native communities of this nation did not reach out to him with concern.

And in the spirit of Elizabeth Warren and our ancestors before her, we will follow her example of persistence and we will carry the stories of our native sisters with us, as we have for centuries, with a cry not to be ignored: nevertheless, #shepersisted.