Trump And Indians
We all know at this point that, during a ceremony to honor World War II veterans who also happened to be Indians, Donald Trump referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as ‘Pocahontas.’
On Elizabeth Warren – Her genealogy has been extensively researched by Cherokee and there is no Cherokee there – none. That is not the issue – no one debates if she is Cherokee or not or even if she is of Cherokee descent – the issue is that she falsely claimed to be Cherokee and took benefits reserved for actual Indians in order to advance her education and career. The issue is that she stole someone else’s future.
That being said – this event exposes the limitations of Donald Trump as President. Let me explain why this has exposed his limitations:
The net effect of the statement that Trump made in that room with the Navajo warriors is that it makes the efforts by his own administration to help Indians more difficult. It makes helping Indians more difficult because it is Trump adding fuel to a fire that he lit long ago. It is almost impossible to argue at this point that Trump does not view Indians as political props rather than as Americans with legal and constitutional rights. From his long ago comment that “they don’t look like Indians to me” to his mention of termination to his signing the approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline while the tribal leadership of Standing Rock was on an airplane to fulfill a commitment to meet Trump in order to discuss DAPL – Trump has long shown a disdain for Indians and the obligations he has as President in regard to Indians. Just the truth.
I get it – we do not electorally matter in Trump’s political equation so we make the ideal political prop.
From an electoral point of view what Trump does makes sense. We are 2.8% of the population and using us as political props plays to his base. It helps him get to 51%. Unfortunately it also forsakes his ability to do his job as President at the same time. I know Indians that work in the Federal government on Indian matters and who work for the White House as part of the administration. Trump is making their jobs horrifically difficult. Indian country is beset by countless problems and the overwhelming majority of those countless problems root to government policy. There are Indians who directly or indirectly work for Trump who are trying very hard to change those policies and fix those problems, or at least remove the Federally imposed obstacles to fixing those problems.
But it takes trust. It takes trust that the government will not screw us in the end as they have done every single time previous to this. That is the reality if you wish to acknowledge it or not. Trump has destroyed the trust necessary to fix these problems while simultaneously sending out people who work for him to solve these problems. Yes it is that thoughtless. Scoring political points matters more than actually getting the job done. That is the conclusion being drawn in Indian Country.
These Indians working for Trump who are attempting to solve these problems are smart, sincere and want to fix these issues. All too often they must start their conversations with statements such as “He didn’t mean it that way”, “He doesn’t have the power to do that”, “That won’t happen” – etc etc etc. Far too often these people are treated terribly by their own nations for simply being a part of Trump – though they are just trying to solve problems. No one who is sent on a business mission wants to start the conversation out by effectively saying, “Ignore my boss” but that is the reality.
You may not like Indians, you may care less about Indians – Trump may not like Indians, he may care less about Indians – but he took a job that has constitutional, treaty and legislative responsibilities to Indians. If he did not want to fulfill those obligations then he should not have taken the job. His need to play reality TV politics in order to rile up his base interferes with his administration fulfilling its’ constitutional, legal and treaty obligations and that is an issue regardless of his personal views – or yours.
It is beyond absurd that the same people who went ballistic when Obama said ‘clinging to their guns and religion’ tell Indians to grow ‘thicker skins’ in regard to Trump – who has openly spoken of violating the constitution in regard to Indians in the not-too-distant past. It demonstrates the degree of hypocrisy and obtuseness in a political system that is now centered in winning social media arguments rather than actually fulfilling constitutional duties or passing actual legislation. Obamacare anyone?
At some point we must decide if we want to actually fix our problems and have a government that fulfills it constitutional duties or if we simply want to be entertained. I understand that 90% of the people in this country have no knowledge of Indian issues. I do not blame them for not knowing – why would they? Beyond even knowing the issues, the politics internal to Indian nations are byzantine, often corrupt and typically based in a cultural and historical context that is difficult to grasp outside of that particular nation. I get it. However this is the environment as it is and that environment does not exempt Donald Trump from fulfilling his constitutional, legal and treaty duties in regard to Indians. “It was too hard, they didn’t vote for me and so I made them a political prop” is the not the correct answer to “Why did you not fulfill your constitutional, legal and treaty obligations?” It is beyond sad that many people on social media seem to believe that should be the correct answer.
It is increasingly obvious that Trump is betting that we just want to be entertained – why else would you torpedo your own people trying to execute your own policies in favor of gaining cheap political points?
Are you not entertained?