BEG: Native American culture requires respect

BEG%3A+Native+American+culture+requires+respect

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

If Trump calling Congress representative Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” was not enough, he pushed the line even further with  Native American jokes. Now, he is making light of serious and shameful events from Native American history to mock the congresswoman even more.

Trump tweeted on February 9 “Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. 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!”

He felt the need to reiterate the comparison he made to Pocahontas while also alluding to the Trail of Tears with his use of “TRAIL” in all caps. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced migrations of the Native American people from Mississippi to Oklahoma after President Andrew Jackson enacted the Indian Removal Act. This tragedy caused the death of more than 4,000 Native Americans due to disease, famine and warfare. It is a serious and horrible part of this country’s history and is an especially sensitive topic to those whose ancestors were affected by the oppression. The United States should not be proud of what it forced a whole group of people to do especially when that group was the basis and foundation for America.

This is not the first instance of Trump teasing Warren for claiming her Native American background. He made fun of other grave Native American historical events in another tweet where he mentioned “Wounded Knee,” the site of the Lakota Indians massacre by the United States military in 1890.

Defenders of Trump claim this is not what he intended by his tweet. Fox News reporter Brit Hume even tried to claim the president is too ignorant of American history to make that sort of reference to the Trail of Tears. He tweeted “Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez.”

Ignoring the fact that it is acceptable that the president of America is not aware of the country’s history, if he actually did not know, this is shameful. America cannot continue to ignore the atrocious sins of its past. Educational institutions fail to convey the real facts of history in attempts to give America a perfect image when the reality is much different. Native Americans crucial to the formation and founding of this country. Native Americans helped the colonial settlers through providing resources and services which formed the foundation of the country to allow for it to thrive and be successful the way it is now.  The American people cannot just let this go and push it aside when discussing the country’s history. Native American culture and stories must be respected, especially by the leader of their very own country.

There have been countless times where Native American people’s struggles are not prioritized and to this day, the American government continues to oppress them.

Earlier this year, a video went viral of a white teenager in a “Make America Great Again” hat, Nick Sandmann, standing directly in front of Nathan Phillps, an Omaha Nation member, who was singing a Native American movement song. Sandmann stared Phillips down with a quiet smirk on his face as Phillips continued to chant the song. It was a clear sign of disrespect and mockery from the white teenager and the rest of his classmates who were egging him on. Their actions were disgusting and show the lack of education and severity put on the Native American culture. Trump’s mockery of Native Americans is normalizing the taunting and disrespect of Native American people that Sandmann and others like him continue to do.

There is a high chance these teenagers have taken some form of an American history class because of how old they are. The fact they did not see their actions as problematic or disrespectful is what is dangerous and scary about the American people. By knowing and truly understanding the struggles of the Native American community, one would a prioritize their needs. 

There must be an honest conversation about the treatment of Native Americans and their culture. They make up a smaller proportion of the population because of the way the American government has treated them in the past. Despite them being a smaller group, they must receive the same reverence as anyone else by, not only the president of the United States, but the rest of the American people as a whole.