Donald Trump marked the official commencement of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign Saturday in a tweet overflowing with both blatant and lightly-veiled racism towards Native Americans.
“Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” wrote Trump. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”
As Trump himself notes, “Pocahontas” has long been his favored slur for Warren. But the last sentence in his missive appears to be an unsubtle invocation of the brutal history of the Trail of Tears, a program of forced relocations in the 1830s and 1840s that left thousands of Native Americans dead.
Trump has shown no compunction about making fun of the genocide of Native Americans. Last month, he tweeted a video that Warren had streamed on Instagram Live. “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, wrote Trump, “it would have been a smash!”
The Wounded Knee Massacre, which took place in South Dakota in 1890, infamously found US troops slaughtering 300 Lakota people. As Trump has proven willing to deploy that history in an effort to make a jab at Warren, invoking the Trail of Tears seems well within his wheelhouse.
Trump is staunch admirer of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act that instigated the forced westward march of the Trail of Tears. A portrait of Jackson hangs in Trump’s Oval Office, and Steve Bannon once gave the president a reading list full of biographies of his fellow populist leader. In 2017, Trump’s administration announced that it may reverse Obama-era plans to replace Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Donald Trump Jr. expressed delighted at his father’s latest racist tweet. He posted a photo of it to Instagram, and, seemingly determined to one-up his dad’s bigotry, captioned it with a slur against Native peoples. “Savage!!!!” wrote Trump Jr. “Love my President.”
Parks and Recreation actor Rob Lowe took to Twitter with thoroughly racist joke of his own, tweeting and deleting that “Elizabeth Warren would bring a whole new meaning to Commander in ‘Chief.’”
“I deleted my Elizabeth Warren tweet,” wrote Lowe Sunday morning, in a classic non-apology. “It was a joke and some peeps got upset, and that’s never my intention. On the GOOD side: I just got to use the Oxford comma!”
Before announcing her campaign, Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for claiming that she shared their heritage and for publicizing the results of her DNA test. Warren’s actions were racist and more than worthy of derision, but in mocking his opponent, Trump and his allies constantly insult and injure the Native American community.
“They’re making fun of Warren by drawing upon racist stereotypes and tired tropes that don’t actually hurt her, because she’s not Native,” wrote Brown University lecturer and member of the Cherokee Nation Adrienne Keene on Twitter. “They instead further marginalize Natives, & show us what you really think of us.”