Grand Traverse Band Chairman Statement to Honor the Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers behind Trump as he makes racist joke.

Published December 3, 2017

PESHAWBESTOWN, MICHIGAN – When President Donald Trump insulted the Navajo Code Talkers he was supposed to be honoring in the Oval Office of the White House this past Monday by referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas, the insult was felt by other American Indians across Indian Country.

On Friday, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan released a statement on behalf of the northern Michigan tribe, which reads as follows:

GTB Statement to Honor the Navajo Code Talkers

GTB Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan

On behalf of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, I wish to express gratitude to the Navajo Nation’s Code Talkers for their service in World War II, and for their recent poise and grace in the face of the President’s cultural insensitivity.

In front of a backdrop portrait of Andrew Jackson—an Indian antagonist whose forced removal of Indian Tribes, commonly known as the Trail of Tears,—President Trump attempted to betray the Code Talkers by invoking a political slur against Senator Elizabeth Warren, who like many Americans, claims tribal descendancy. America’s Indian heritage should be a source of pride for all Americans.
The Navajo Code Talkers signify America’s constructive historical experience: Their Navajo/Diné language served as an unbreakable military code without which America would not have won World War II. Rather than praising the Code Talkers for the achievement, Trump debased himself during the ceremony by using an unnecessary slur in the presence of these Elder Navajo War Heroes.

Although the President obscured the message, the point of the ceremony has not been lost: It is to honor the Navajo Code Talkers as unique to America, and to recognize that they represent the pain and promise of American history. As Americans, we should embrace our shared history. For bearing this message, the Grand Traverse Band thanks the Navajo Code Talkers.

Thurlow “Sam” McClelland
Tribal Chairman

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