Most people are horrified when President Donald Trump uses “Pocahontas” as a racial slur to attack Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But few, if any, are more disturbed by his political punchline than indigenous women.
Trump first adopted “Pocahontas” as dig against Warren during his 2016 presidential campaign, when he repeatedly accused the senator of lying about her Native American ancestry. Trump used the phrase again on Monday, during a ceremony meant to honor Navajo Code Talkers.
HuffPost spoke to several native women after the incident. They all said they were deeply bothered by Trump’s comments, which overlook the violence many indigenous women still experience today. Holding up Pocahontas as a caricature of native heritage, they said, ignores the abuse she endured.
“It sends the message that natives are invisible,” said Caroline LaPorte, a descendent of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and senior native affairs policy adviser for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
[Pocahontas] is basically our first well-documented human trafficking victim in the U.S. Caroline LaPorte, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Most non-natives are familiar with Disney’s version of Pocahontas: an American Indian princess who befriends and falls in love with John Smith, a charming lad sent from England to help colonize the New World. Pocahontas saves Smith from being executed by her father, Chief Powhatan ― and they all live happily ever after.
Historians and Native American experts vehemently dispute that narrative. What Pocahontas experienced was “no love story,” LaPorte said.
“She was raped and kidnapped,” LaPorte told HuffPost. “She’s basically our first well-documented human trafficking victim in the U.S. We’ve romanticized her story ― and it’s just not true. Her story is a story of colonization.”
Oral traditions suggest Pocahontas was just 10 or 11 years old when she first met the colonists. She was taken prisoner a few years later and held in present-day Jamestown, Virginia, where she was forced to convert to Christianity.
By the time she was 17, an Englishman named John Rolfe had married her and moved her across the Atlantic Ocean. She spent the next few years as a political pawn, paraded around the English court…