Excellent column by Jamelle Bouie putting Trump’s pro-genocide tweets in context:
Lying behind all this is Trump’s fascination with Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s portrait hangs in the Oval Office. He seems to be a figure of admiration for a president who otherwise ignores history. “Inspirational visit, I have to tell you,” Trump said, when he visited Jackson’s mansion in Nashville. “I’m a fan.”
We don’t need further evidence of Trump’s cruelty or racism. But there are moments in his rhetorical flourishes when those qualities come into clear view. At those times it’s worth focusing on his comments, not as fodder for self-satisfied moral condemnation, but to have a better understanding of the ideas and pathologies he channels and brings to the surface of the national conversation. To that end, his expressions of anti-Native racism are worth a closer look.
As an army general, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” Jackson “led four wars of aggression” against Native tribes in Georgia and Florida. As president, he won passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act and subsequently “engineered the expulsion of all Native peoples east of the Mississippi to the designated ‘Indian Territory,’” forcing some 70,000 people off their land.
This isn’t the first time the president has made light of violence inflicted on Native peoples. “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!,” he said last month, attacking one of Warren’s videos on Instagram with another oddly self-referential tweet.
It’s tempting to dismiss these comments as “Trump being Trump” — unworthy of additional attention or heightened scrutiny. But the substance of these particular references makes that calculus untenable. Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota was, in December 1890, the site of one of the deadliest attacks on Native Americans by United States military forces. As many as 300 people were killed, in a massacre that continues to weigh on the memories of many American Indian communities. The Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 was an attempted eviction of Native tribes in present-day Montana, led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. Outnumbered by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors, Custer and over 200 of his soldiers were killed in a battle that was memorialized as “Custer’s Last Stand.”
The Trail of Tears began with white American settlers claiming Cherokee and other tribal lands as their own, federal officials coercing tribal leaders into ceding their territory and the United States Army removing the tribes by force. During the infamous forced march of Cherokee people in 1838, harsh winter weather and poor conditions in detention camps led to an estimated death toll of 4,000 people out of the 12,000 expelled from their homes. Other tribes suffered similar death rates in their forced deportations.
Having said that, Elizabeth Warren once filled out some bureaucratic forms with zero material effect so Both Sides Do It.