Trump’s Republican worshipers are hostile toward immigrants—though they claim not to be; they welcome even Muslims, so long as they are from countries in which Trump has business investments. But Trump is himself a pure-white descendant of people who immigrated from Europe within the last two centuries. He is of pure immigrant ethnicity.
And then there are the Native Americans. I can just hear full-blood or mostly full-blood Native Americans telling Trump, “Get out of our land and go back home.”
White Americans have always considered themselves the true owners of North America. And none was more convinced of this than President Andrew Jackson. It was his direct action that took all of the tribal lands from the Cherokees, even though the Supreme Court ruled that he could not legally do so. He did it anyway. And he ordered the Army to force the Cherokees to move. General Winfield Scott obeyed Jackson’s orders, and rounded up the Cherokees by force and put them in a stockade, trapped with wastes and disease and malnourishment. Then he forced them to travel, many of them on foot, through the fierce winter of 1839 to what is now Oklahoma. That is how my great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Hilderbrand Pettit (later Armstrong) and her little girl Minerva, my great-great grandmother, came to Oklahoma. General Scott hated to do this, and kept apologizing to the Cherokees, and they understood that he was simply following orders. I’m not sure that makes it right, but I do not hate General Scott. I do, however, hate Andrew Jackson, who broke the law in order to grab all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi.
Might Trump do anything like this? Might he believe that Native Americans, while not immigrants, are lesser citizens than whites? (Many Native tribes did not receive American citizenship until 1926, sixty years after black people did.) Might he decide to expropriate tribal lands today? Maybe the Supreme Court would stop him? It didn’t stop Jackson.
But, of course, Trump is not the same as Jackson. Or is he? In January, Trump ordered a portrait of Andrew Jackson to be hung in the Oval Office. Okay, okay, Trump, we get the message. I guess us Cherokees had better get ready to move…where? There’s no place left, unless France will take us. Okay, Chief Baker, start learning French, so you can ask the French government, “Est-ce que nous pourrions nous démenager en France?”
And I decided to let Trump know about this. Of course, nobody will ever read this message that I submitted to the White House website but here it is anyway.
“I am a member of the Cherokee tribe. Don’t scoff at me because I am not as white as you are. My tribal tradition reveres the Earth rather than treating it as a conquered mass of resources. And we Cherokees are a conquered nation. Even though the Supreme Court of the United States sided with us, President Andrew Jackson illegally captured our tribe and sent it on the Trail of Tears. Ever heard of this? Andrew Jackson defied the Constitution. But you chose his portrait to hang in the Oval Office. I assume you will be doing more of the same, taking control of our tribal lands today and giving them to your friends? How proud you must be of the genocide of Native American tribes, only one of which was my Cherokee tribe at the hands of your hero, Andrew Jackson.”
Just this past week, at a ceremony intended to honor the last surviving Navaho code-talkers from World War Two (they communicated in Navaho, which was more incomprehensible to our enemies than any code could be), Trump had to put in a little joke about Pocahontas. While he may not have intended offense, he obviously did not try to avoid giving offense. In the photo, you will see the portrait of Andrew Jackson just behind the honorees. What an ironic photo!
Trump celebrates an historical figure who is a hero only to white Americans.