Since Aug. 2014, Donald Trump has referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” at least 26 times.
He mostly slings the slur on Twitter, but he’s also repeated it during rallies, interviews, and at meetings with fellow government officials — all attempts to discredit the senator by painting her with an offensive nickname that propagates one of Trump’s pet conspiracy theories.
His most recent use of the term was particularly tone deaf: he slid a non sequitur reference to “Pocahontas” in while speaking with Navajo code talkers at the White House on Tuesday — people the president was supposed to be honoring, but ended up deriding.
“We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas,'” said Trump, apropos of nothing, except perhaps the fact that Warren has been lambasting him in the press for his support of the GOP tax bills.
The Navajo Nation has since characterized the remark as “culturally insensitive.” Invoking a diverse community by dropping the name of a single individual — let alone a tragic individual, whose story has been erased by mainstream media via the Disney film — is a way of “othering.” It reduces the complexities of a people to a single white-washed narrative.
Dr. John Norwood, general secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, explained why the term was problematic to ThinkProgress:
“The general use of the name is not — Pocahontas was a historic figure, so just simply using the name is not a racial slur,” Norwood, who is a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, said. “However, the use of it in a derogatory fashion to insult someone degrades the name and all it represents, and then it becomes a racial slur. The president was attacking a claim by Senator Warren about American Indian ancestry, and to insult that claim by calling her ‘Pocahontas’ turns the name into a racial slur.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren remains the only adult in the room, consistently sticking to the issues she champions while slamming Trump as unfit to govern. In May 2016, Warren criticized Trump for seeking to benefit from the 2008 housing meltdown — and Trump’s response was to trot out the “Pocahontas” line. She hasn’t let Trump’s name-calling stop her from talking about the minimum wage, student loans, and more.
In Warren’s latest response to Trump’s use of the line, she told MSNBC “it is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”
“Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he’s gonna shut me up with it,” Warren said. “It hadn’t worked in the past, it’s not gonna work in the future.”
Trump’s “Pocahontas” insult stems from a 2012 brouhaha in which Warren was accused by a political opponent of using claims of Native American ancestry to promote her career. Naturally, the story is more complicated than that, which the New York Times investigated in full. But overall, the Times found no proof that Warren ever received an advantage based on her claims to Native American heritage — which is the weird, anti-affirmative action narrative that Trump peddles as fact.
But that hasn’t stopped Trump and aides like Sarah Huckabee Sanders — who had to defend Trump’s remarks during the Navajo visit — from repeating the conspiracy theory.
A “nickname” might sound harmless. But as we saw with “Crooked Hillary,” Trump’s epithetical bullying helps cement lies as truth, painting complicated situations and individuals with one wide, ugly stroke. When one reduces a story to a single word, it can never tell the whole truth. Or, as Elizabeth Warren has put it:
Here are all the times Trump has used the story of Pocahontas — a Native American teenager, taken from her home in the Americas by a grown man, only to die across the ocean from her family — in order to insult a political rival.
On Twitter (12 times)
“Pocahontas Warren” first emerged in a retweet in 2014, seemingly coined by @TheAme19 whose Twitter bio now reads “Stand for the Flag; Kneel before the Cross,” among other things.
But Trump quickly made it his own throughout his 2016 campaign.
Yep, he tweeted this one twice.
I find it offensive that Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be Native American to get in Harvard.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2016
Pocahontas is at it again! Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2016
Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be a Native American in order to advance her career. Very racist!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2016
Just for fun, here’s a list of all the people and things Trump thinks are racist.
I hope that Crooked Hillary picks Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, as her V.P. Then we can litigate her fraud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2016
Pocahontas wanted V.P. slot so badly but wasn’t chosen because she has done nothing in the Senate. Also, Crooked Hillary hates her!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2016
Elizabeth Warren, often referred to as Pocahontas, just misrepresented me and spoke glowingly about Crooked Hillary, who she always hated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
This one came after Warren took Trump to task at the Democratic National Convention.
Pocahontas bombed last night! Sad to watch.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
And it has continued even as president.
Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
At rallies: (7 times)
Fun fact: When Trump referred to “Pocahontas” at rallies, the crowd would often respond with “Indian war whoops.”
According to the Washington Post, he accused Warren of calling herself Native American because “her cheekbones were high.”
In Richmond, Trump followed the epithet by saying “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever seen.”
This one was at a National Rifle Association (NRA) rally. Hooray.
In the press: (5 times)
During which he also said, referring to Warren, “she made up her heritage, which I think is racist. I think she’s a racist, actually, because what she did was very racist.”
While governing: (Twice)
Here’s Warren’s response to the latest use of the racist slur. Tell ’em, Liz.