One hundred years after U.S. soldiers killed and maimed hundreds of Sioux men, women and children at the Wounded Knee massacre, Congress formally apologized in 1990 by expressing its “deep regret on behalf of the United States.”
On Sunday night, President Trump used that same massacre as a punchline in his latest broadside against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Democratic presidential hopeful whom he regularly calls “Pocahontas” in jeering reference to her claims of American Indian heritage.
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! pic.twitter.com/D5KWr8EPan
“+300 of my people were massacred at Wounded Knee. Most were women and children,” tweeted Ruth H. Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer who has contributed at Teen Vogue, the Guardian and elsewhere. “This isn’t funny, it’s cold, callous, and just plain racist.”
In late 1890, 470 U.S. soldiers intercepted a group of Chief Big Foot’s Sioux, who had been heading south across the plains toward a refuge, according to an account by Mark Hirsch, a historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The soldiers led the Sioux, who had 106 warriors and roughly 250 women and children, to a camp at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.
When the U.S. commander, Col. James W. Forsyth, ordered Big Foot’s people to surrender their weapons on Dec. 29, 1890, shooting suddenly erupted and the soldiers surrounding the camp began indiscriminately gunning down the Native Americans.
“Women and children were riddled with shrapnel. People ran, but the soldiers pursued them. Bodies were later discovered three miles from camp,” Hirsch wrote. “When the smoke cleared, 146 men, women, and children lay dead. Others perished from their wounds or froze to death in the hills.”
In October, Warren released the result of a DNA test showing that she did have Native American ancestors a number of generations ago — a result that only egged the president on and also drew criticisms from the Cherokee Nation and others. Trump and his administration have accused Warren of unfairly benefiting from her claims of Native American heritage while she was a professor at Harvard, an allegation fact-checkers have debunked.
For many critics, Trump’s use of the mass killing at Wounded Knee — along with his reference to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where hundreds of U.S. soldiers and American Indians died in Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s infamous last stand in 1876 — took his Warren attacks to a new level.
The National Congress of American Indians on Monday issued a statement denouncing Trump’s reference to Wounded Knee.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack," the organization’s president, Jefferson Keel, said in the statement. “Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line.”
That wasn’t Trump’s only late-night tweet on Sunday that drew notice for its racial overtones. Shortly after his Wounded Knee message, Trump posted two tweets quoting from a Pat Buchanan column to support his push for a wall on the southern border.
The Trump portrait of an unsustainable Border Crisis is dead on. “In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with Criminal Records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes & 4000 violent killings.” America’s Southern....
....Border is eventually going to be militarized and defended or the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist...And Americans will not go gentle into that good night. Patrick Buchanan. The great people of our Country demand proper Border Security NOW!
Buchanan’s column explicitly accuses Democrats of wanting to encourage immigration because, he writes, the party is “hostile to white men because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate."
“The only way to greater ‘diversity,’ the golden calf of the Democratic Party, is to increase the number of women, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, and thereby reduce the number of white men,” Buchanan writes in the column.
Trump’s string of Sunday night tweets came at the end of a bruising weekend inside a snowed-in White House. After the New York Times broke news that the FBI had launched an inquiry into whether the president was covertly working on behalf of Moscow, The Post’s Greg Miller reported that Trump had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to keep his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin secret, even from top administration officials.
A Washington Post/ABC poll on Sunday found that 53 percent of Americans mainly blame Trump and the GOP for the ongoing government shutdown, with 29 percent blaming congressional Democrats.