Kent State group defends Native Americans after Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ comment

Kelsey Meszaros

When President Donald Trump referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during a White House event honoring Navajo veterans Nov. 27, many Native Americans, including members of Kent State’s Native American Student Association, had something to say.

“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people,” Trump said during the event. “You were here long before any of us were here. Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time … longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!”

President Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” stirred anger among members of NASA.

“The thing that strikes me most is just how incredibly immature it is,” said Danielle Martin-Jensen, a graduate translation student and a co-president of NASA. 

Pocahontas’ real story, one much different from the Disney version, is filled with pain and loss. She was taken from her tribe at a young age by the English and held ransom before marrying an Englishman.

“To use a young girl’s tragic life in order to insult somebody, when you don’t even actually care about Indian country at all, is offensive to all parties involved and it’s disrespectful,” Martin-Jensen said.

Trump honored Navajo code talkers who served during World War II by inviting them to the White House for a ceremony. In the background hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the U.S. who signed the Indian Removal Act into law.

“He’s an Indian killer,” said Michael Humphreys, a sophomore business management major and a co-president of NASA. “He was behind the Trail of Tears. He would massacre Native American children, women, warriors, elders and destroy complete civilizations.”

The Trail of Tears, the result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forced tribes off their land to  designated “Indian territory,” where they were confined to the area assigned to them. 4,000 Cherokees died during the Trail of Tears march, according to the Library of Congress.

Despite President Trump’s comments on Sen. Warren, Peter McDonald, one of the code talkers honored, focused his speech on unity and pride.

“America, as we know, is composed of diverse communities,” McDonald said. “We have different languages, different skills, different talents and different religions, but when our way of life is threatened, like the liberty and freedom we all cherish, we come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible.”

The message given by the Native American veterans resonated with NASA more so than the offensive comments given. The focus should be put on the veterans and their legacy, Martin-Jensen said.

“You all sit there with the flag and claim to care for the veterans and yell at someone for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or the flag, but then you don’t do anything when somebody, literally right to their face, disrespects veterans. It’s hypocritical,” said Kasey Willener, a senior history major and the treasurer of NASA.

Over the decades, Native Americans have overcome challenges like relocation and dissimulation, but their spirit has never diminished.

“We have a lot of issues in our community, don’t get me wrong, but one thing that Native Americans are always able to do is survive,” Humphreys said. “We’re survivors, we’re fighters, we’re warriors.”

Kelsey Meszaros is the student affairs reporter. Contact her at [email protected].