MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities-based American Indian Movement has joined the chorus of protests from Native-American organizations around the country denouncing President Donald Trump after he called a Massachusetts senator “Pocahontas.”
The president made the statement while honoring Native Americans who served as code talkers during World War II. Three surviving code talkers attended the ceremony honoring their work for sending military orders in the Navajo language.
The Navajo code talkers are credited with helping the U.S. win key battles in World War II, including the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said during the ceremony, adding: “Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
Trump’s reference was to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- Massachusetts) who has claimed she is part Cherokee.
After the ceremony, the Navajo Nation and The National Congress of American Indians denounced the president.
Clyde Bellecourt, the founder of the Twin Cities-based American Indian Movement, also criticized Trump.
“People are angry,” he said, adding: “How can this guy do that? He doesn’t know his history, he doesn’t know anything about us.”
Bellecourt and other native groups are also angry that the ceremony took place in front of a large portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act.
“I don’t know how you can honor a people and stand them in front of Andrew Jackson,” he said. “It troubles every native person in America.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is defending the ceremony and the Pocahontas reference.
“I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” she said.
For her part, Warren also denounced the president’s comment as a slur.
Warren has come under fire from critics for failing to prove she has Native American Blood.