Throughout his time in presidential politics, President Donald Trump has never shied away from insulting his political opponents in ways that many others find unsavory. In a Sunday night tweet, however, the president sunk to what many have called a new low, even for his standards. Trump insulted Sen. Elizabeth Warren by referencing Wounded Knee, a massacre in which the U.S. Army killed about 300 Native Americans of the Sioux Nation.
Trump has frequently used "Pocahontas" as a slur to refer to Warren, which he even did once at an event honoring the Navajo code talkers, who played a significant role in the United States' victory in World War II. While Trump's use of the word as a slur has already drawn a lot of criticism, numerous commentators believe that he reached a new low with his latest tweet, as The Washington Post wrote.
"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!" Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday night, along with a video that Warren had posted on her Instagram. In addition to repeating the Pocahontas moniker that he uses for the senator, his mention of Wounded Knee is the comment that many see as a step too far.
"+300 of my people were massacred at Wounded Knee. Most were women and children. This isn’t funny, it’s cold, callous, and just plain racist," tweeted Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota and Lakota Sioux writer, in response to Trump's words.
The massacre at Wounded Knee took place in 1890, according to historian Mark Hirsch, who wrote a blog post on it for the National Museum of the American Indian. While it was once viewed by the American government as a battle in which the U.S. Army troops emerged victorious, what actually happened was far more one-sided, according to Hirsch. A group of more than 300 Lakota Sioux men, women, and children surrendered to the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry, and the Lakota then set up their campsite surrounded by the armed soldiers. The next morning, the Seventh Cavalry commander ordered the Lakota to turn over their weapons, and somehow a gun went off in the process. The soldiers then started shooting — and in the end, they killed more than 300 Lakota people.
After years of advocacy by the survivors and their descendants, Congress officially expressed its "deep regret" over the massacre in 1990, as the Associated Press reported at the time. Hirsch, however, noted in his blog post that Congress' resolution on the subject didn't actually include the word "apology," and it also didn't fund a memorial to the victims. Because of these and numerous other factors, Wounded Knee and the public memory surrounding it are still highly charged issues.
"Wounded Knee was a massacre of Native Americans that included women and children," tweeted writer and activist Nick Jack Pappas on Monday morning. "Trump used it to score cheap political points. There must be somewhere in the Constitution that says the President has to be a human being and not a monster."