(AP/REUTERS)

Elizabeth Warren on Trump's "Pocahontas" attacks: He makes Native people "the butt of a joke"

Warren also addressed her Native heritage in a surprise appearance before tribes


Charlie May
February 15, 2018 10:12PM (UTC)

Speaking before tribes of Native Americans in an unannounced appearance on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pledged to be a staunch advocate for the nation's indigenous people. She also shot back at President Donald Trump, who frequently refers to her as "Pocahontas," saying the taunt disrespects Natives.

"Now I’ve noticed that when my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas," Warren said in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians. She went on to speak of Pocahontas, but not the "fictional character that most Americans know from the movies, but Pocahontas the Native woman, who really lived."

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"Now we have a president who can’t make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to be the butt of a joke," Warren said.

She added, "The joke, I suppose, is supposed to be on me." Warren also said Trump has engaged in "disrespect of Native people."

In the past, Warren has claimed to be of partial Native American ancestry, though she has not been able to document it. The New York Times reported that she "listed herself as a member of a minority group in a law school directory but has not claimed to be a Native American since being elected to the Senate in 2012."

But there is also no known evidence she received any professional advantages for her claims, a frequent point of attack for Trump and conservatives.

"I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here," Warren said. "You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe."

"And I want to make something clear: I respect that distinction," Warren added to an applause from the audience. "I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes."

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Warren continued, "I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career."

She stood by her previous claim, and said, "my mother’s family was part Native American." Speaking of her parents' love story and explaining how her father's parents were opposed to their relationship, Warren said that experience "will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away."

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The progressive Democrat is, of course, rumored to be a potential candidate for president in 2020, and the surprise appearance with prepared remarks to address a controversial issue in her past will only fuel speculation that she is looking to make a bid.

Watch Warren's full speech below:

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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