President Trump’s fun history with Native Americans
Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 8, 2019
On Oct. 31, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring November, “National American History and Founders Month.” Celebrating the nation’s history and commitment to liberties and connecting it to efforts today “fuels us in our efforts to confront the challenges that face our citizens here at home, including protecting precious religious liberties, securing our nation’s borders and combating the opioid crisis,” the proclamation states. Many would find issue with the focus on border security and religious liberty instead of real issues such as inhumane concentration camps at the border, an atrocious healthcare system that fails citizens or rampant inequality. But while the entire framing of the proclamation is laughable based on President Trump’s record, it was the apparent absence of any mention of something that has been present since President H.W. Bush: Native American Heritage Month.
After a brief period of confusion on whether this “Founders Month” would replace the only federal recognition of Native people, it was revealed Native American Heritage Month was not gone, but simply sharing the month with an already-bastardized version of American history that seems to celebrating a founding based upon violence and conquest. Many, including myself, saw this as an attempt to subvert Native American Heritage Month without outright eliminating it. Normally, I would chalk this up to an unfortunate coincidence that resulted from innocent ignorance of the impact of such a proclamation, but given the record of Trump, I find this hard to believe.
On principle, I don’t really oppose a founders month as long as it is handled correctly. The glorification of the founders is one that personally annoys me, but I think a day or month such as this can actually be used as an educational tool in which a more nuanced story of the founding can emerge. But of course, under a President Trump, nuance is not really a factor.
Back to Trump, his contempt for Native people seems to stem from his humiliation at the hands of Northeastern tribes that challenged his business with casinos in the area. In response to federal Indian gaming policies, Trump alleged that tribes had ties to the criminal underworld, which is humorous considering Trump’s own history with the mafia. He later testified in front of a House subcommittee. Here he doubled down on his comments, saying organized crime was rampant on Indian reservations. Normally, this would have been the biggest story, as it was unfounded and insane. But another of his comments took the spotlight. This was the infamous clip of Trump saying, “They don’t look like Indians to me.” Trump’s friend Roger Stone later tried to justify the comment by saying the Eastern tribes had intermarried with African Americans, saying, “The people you meet are Native Americans, but they’re also black.”
Trump then went on to spend more than $1 million in ads again alleging that the Mohawk Indian tribe had connections to organized crime and extensive criminal records. At the end of the ad was the question, “Are these the new neighbors we want?” I’m not sure I need to even really comment on why this ad alone should have disqualified him from public life.
This contempt, probably coming from his embarrassment, did not stop when he was elected to the highest office of the land. He has continually used “Pocahontas” to mock Senator Elizabeth Warren for her own troubling relation to Native people, even while honoring the Navajo Code Talkers. He has repeatedly expressed admiration for Andrew Jackson, the president probably most known for committing genocide with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, even going so far as to hang his portrait in the Oval Office. He has made references to the Wounded Knee Massacre to mock Senator Warren.
Trump’s actions as president have also contributed to my belief that he holds contempt for Native people. Whether it is reducing the size of Bears Ears, proposing cuts to various programs that assist Natives, promoting voter suppression (please visit fourdirectionsvote.com to learn more about this), advancing the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines as well as running concentration camps that imprison our Indigenous relatives to the South. These are just a few, you can read more at culturalsurvival.org.
It seems Trump’s declaration of a “Founders Month” joins the long list of slights against Native people. Again, Native American Heritage Month is the only federally recognized day or month for the first inhabitants of this land. Celebrating “the founders” to subvert this is another racist action of a man with too many to count. Trump receiving the benefit of the doubt wore out as soon as he made his charges against Native people decades ago. As Native people continue to fight for rights and recognition, it is important to recognize the president is openly hostile to our humanity.
Mikey Boyd (Sicangu Oyate)
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.