Editorial: Native Americans should not be used in partisan fighting


President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at an immigration policy speech in January 2019 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Editorial Board

President Donald Trump rekindled his use of “Pocahontas” to describe Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her Native heritage shortly after she announced her run for president over the weekend.

Additionally, Trump capitalized the word “trail” in reference to the campaign, leaving many to believe that he was alluding to the Trail of Tears in which thousands of Native Americans died of cold, hunger and disease after being removed from their land.

“Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”

According to a DNA test taken by Warren this past fall, she has Native American ancestry that dates back six to 10 generations, making her just 1/1024th Native American.

Last week it was reported by The Washington Post that Warren marked her Native ancestry on previous applications, including on her 1986 Texas bar registration card where she listed her race as “American Indian.”

Despite all of this, the use of Native American heritage and history as a partisan tool to disparage or poke fun at its people is wrong. For centuries, America’s indigenous people have been marginalized. Their livelihood is no joking matter.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that “the median household income for American Indian and Alaska Natives is $37,353, as compared to $56,565 for non-Hispanic Whites.”

Native Americans today also face additional health concerns due to not receiving quality medical care. Issues, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, include cultural barriers, geographic isolation, inadequate sewage disposal and low income.

For every dollar a white man makes, Native women make considerably less — just 57 cents.

Native Americans experience a lower life expectancy of 5.5 years less than other races, according to the Indian Health Service.

This is all excluding the fact that there was a genocide against Native people for the sake of “civilization,” in which an estimated 5 to 15 million indigenous people living in North America decreased to just less than 238,000 at the end of the Indian Wars in the 19th century.

Only just this year had the first Native American women been elected to U.S. Congress — Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland.

So whether it was the intent of Trump to reference the Trail of Tears in his tweet or not, it is still time for harmful rhetoric and partisan fighting to go away. Indigenous people deserve more from the president of the United States and a frontrunning candidate.