NCAI Condemns President Trump’s Derogatory Use of “Pocahontas” Name in Political Attack

Published on May 03, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC | May 3, 2017 — Today, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country, condemned President Donald Trump’s derogatory use of the name “Pocahontas” in attacking a political opponent during a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) last Thursday.

“In the next election, you are going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to be wasting your time…It may be Pocahontas, remember that,” said President Trump during his NRA address, referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren. While campaigning for president in 2016, candidate Trump also invoked the name of the well-known historical Native figure to belittle Warren. In fact, the cultural misappropriation of Native American cultures and traditions unfortunately was a common occurrence during the 2016 election season, with multiple attacks by candidates and their surrogates during debates, rallies, and live broadcast appearances. As an example, radio personality Howie Carr conducted a war whoop while on the podium at a presidential rally.

“NCAI is a bi-partisan organization that works equitably with both sides of the political aisle, and it is not our common practice to comment on the partisan name calling that has come to dominate American politics,” said NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata. “But we cannot and will not stand silent when our Native ancestors, cultures, and histories are used in a derogatory manner for political gain.”

Pocahontas was a real person who to this day holds significant value to her family and her tribe, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia. The Pamunkey struck a treaty with the British Crown in the 1600s, and just last year were officially recognized as a federally recognized tribe by the U.S. government after a decades-long struggle. The name of Pocahontas should not be used as a slur, and it is inappropriate for anyone to use her name in a disparaging manner.

“With the election long over, we hoped that President Trump would refrain from using this name as a pejorative term and other such terms that insult Native peoples and degrade their cultures in order to score political points,” said NCAI President Brian Cladoosby. “We hope that this was but a momentary slip-up, and that it is not indicative of how this Administration intends to treat and work with Indian Country moving forward.”


About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit

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