With a speech delivered at the National Congress of American Indians on Wednesday morning, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the gathering of Native Americans that she will not allow President Donald Trump’s racist attack on her heritage to be a smear against her, but will instead do her best to use such attacks to uplift the proud traditions—as well as the historic struggles—of North America’s indigenous tribes and communities.
Addressing directly how the president referred to her as ‘Pocahontas’ during a White House ceremony last year, Warren said that she is proud of her Native American roots.
“Let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not Pocahontas, the fictional character most Americans know from the movies, but Pocahontas, the Native woman who really lived, and whose real story has been passed down to so many of you through the generations.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)”I’ve noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas,” she said. “So I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not Pocahontas, the fictional character most Americans know from the movies, but Pocahontas, the Native woman who really lived, and whose real story has been passed down to so many of you through the generations.”
The mythology around Pocahontas, said Warren, is one that “has been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes. The fable is used to bleach away the stain of genocide. As you know, Pocahontas’s real journey was far more remarkable — and far darker — than the myth admits.”
Why denouncing the president’s clear intent to use the name as a racist slur and a smear against her and Native Americans more broadly—with many in the right-wing media echo chamber happy to play along—Warren said she does not intend to submit to those designs.
“I’m here today to make a promise,” Warren told the audience, according to a transcript first published in the Boston Globe on Wednesday. “Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”
In her remarks, Warren explained that there are many neglected stories of Native Americans—stories of resilience, contributions, hope, and the “pride and the determination of people who refuse to let their languages fade away and their cultures die.” But she also made clear there are other, darker stories that also go untold. Warren stated:
The miscasting of history, as well as the ongoing mistreatment of Native America tribes and communities, said Warren, must come to and end.
“This must stop,” she concluded. “And I promise I will fight to help write a different story.”