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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Indigenous Lawmaker Compares Trump's 'Pocahontas' Remark To Racial Slur

President Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana on July 5, 2018
President Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana on July 5, 2018

A bipartisan group of indigenous state lawmakers just published a letter condemning the President’s use of the name “Pocahontas” in a recent Montana rally. They say it hurts the already-wounded image of Native American women.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump again tried to belittle Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren by calling her ‘Pocahontas.’

For Susan Webber, it was like Trump was using a curse word.

“I was very offended,” she said. “I even had to turn off that TV.”

Montana state Rep. Susan Webber, D-Browning
Credit Montana Legislative Service
Montana state Rep. Susan Webber, D-Browning

Webber, a Montana Democratic lawmaker and member of the Blackfeet tribe, helped co-write the letter. She said the name “Pocahontas” is used by some as a stereotype for sexualizing native women.

“Indian women are seen as the ‘Pocahontas,’ the Indian princess saving the white man,” she said.  

Native women face some of the highest sexual violence and assault rates in the nation.  In the vast majority of those cases, the perpetrators are non-native.

Webber said Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” is on par with another racial slur.

“He could be using squaw, you know? This harlot,” she said.

Webber was one of 10 lawmakers representing indigenous communities in Montana who signed their name on the letter.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.