Warren has said that her ancestors were from the Cherokee and Delaware nations, and Pocahontas (whose real name was Matoaka and who, contrary to popular mythology, was actually kidnapped by English settlers and forced into marriage with one of them as a condition of her release) was Algonquian. The deliberate mashing together of various Native American nations into a single fake culture represented by one widely misrepresented historical figure is highly insulting to the historic achievements of the men with whom Trump shared a podium.
In other words, calling Warren "Pocahontas" isn't just an insult to her: It's an insult to the memory of Matoaka, the Algonquian, Delaware and Cherokee peoples and to Native Americans as a whole. This is not a single group with a single history (other than the shared history of oppression, death and misrepresentation at the hands of white colonialists and the American government).
Probably the most telling moment in terms of Trump's absolute ignorance of the contributions of the men he was supposedly honoring was when he referenced a conversation with his Chief of Staff: “I said, 'How good were these Code Talkers? What was it?,'" recounted Trump during his speech. "He said, 'Sir, you have no idea. You have no idea how great they were, what they've done for this country, and the strength and the bravery and the love that they had for the country and that you have for the country.'” A truer statement has never been made in the White House. Trump really had no idea.
Trump had the opportunity to show respect to a group of brave Americans by bearing witness to their stories, and he squandered it. Instead of preparing something meaningful to say to these American heroes, he chose to reveal his own ignorance in conversational banter. He could have acknowledged the place of importance that these men hold in their home communities, and how they continue to be role models to so many. He could've acknowledged the sacrifices they made despite the terrible crimes the United States has inflicted on so many Native people living within its borders. He could have, at the very least, acknowledged the Code Talkers' accomplishments somewhere other than in front of the portrait of the architect of so much mass death and displacement for indigenous people.
But he didn't, because he had no idea how great they were. And he has no idea how great they are, let alone who they — and we — are.
Arvina Martin is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and is Stockbridge-Munsee. She lives in Madison, Wisc. with her daughter and was elected to the Madison Common Council in 2017.