NCAI President Jefferson Keel says Trump’s use of Pocahontas unfortunately overshadowed the true purpose of Monday’s White House ceremony
On Monday, President Donald Trump, while hosting an event for Native American Code Talkers, referenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, as Pocahontas.
At the White House event, President Trump spoke to three Navajo Code Talkers. “You’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what. I like you. Because you are special, ” said President Trump.
The use of Pocahontas by Trump has caused national attention and Senator Warren herself responded to the remarks on MSNBC shortly after the ceremony.
Warren said on MSNBC that the ceremony was “supposed to be an event that honored heroes.”
“It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur,” said Warren.
According to NCAI President Jefferson Keel, the event was marred by President Trump’s use of the name as a slur.
On November 27, 2017, the National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel issued the following statement:
“We regret that the President’s use of the name Pocahontas as a slur to insult a political adversary is overshadowing the true purpose of today’s White House ceremony,” stated NCAI President Jefferson Keel, a decorated U.S. Army officer and Vietnam War combat veteran.
“(Monday) was about recognizing the remarkable courage and invaluable contributions of our Native code talkers. That’s who we honor today and everyday – the three code talkers present at the White House representing the 10 other elderly living code talkers who were unable to join them, and the hundreds of other code talkers from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Lakota, Meskwaki, Mohawk, Navajo, Tlingit, and other tribes who served during World Wars I and II.”
“We also honor the service and bravery of all of our veterans and those currently serving from Indian Country. Native people serve in the Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group in the country, and have served in every war in this nation’s history,” said Jefferson Keel in the statement from the NCAI.
Keel also expressed honor to the historical significance of Pocahontas.
“We honor the contributions of Pocahontas, a hero to her people, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia, who reached across uncertain boundaries and brought people together. Once again, we call upon the President to refrain from using her name in a way that denigrates her legacy.”
On Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and actor Sonny Skyhawk discussed Trump’s reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as Pocahontas on CNN.
Skyhawk called the reference a “condescending racial slur that was inexcusable.” Skyhawk also noted that Trump’s decision to host the ceremony standing under a portrait of Andrew Jackson as an intentional jab at Native Americans.
“Trump knew what he was doing, Jackson is one of his heroes, he wants to be like Andrew Jackson,” said Skyhawk.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the reference by Trump was completely inappropriate and that Trump needed to recognize the contributions of veterans and leave personal attacks on the campaign trail.
“Trump needs to stand by our war heroes,” said Begaye. “When you are in the midst of heroes, you need to leave everything else aside.”