vision 2020

Warren Unveils Plan to Help Native Americans

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Deb Haaland, co-sponsors of an upcoming legislative proposal to help Native Americans. Photo: Getty Images

As you may recall, last year Senator Elizabeth Warren tried to end conservative criticism and mockery of an old claim of Native American ancestry in a professional directory by accepting Donald Trump’s challenge to take a DNA test. Not only did that fail to quell the criticism and mockery on the right, it offended some Native Americans and progressives since she seemed to be treating Native status as conferred by biology rather than by Native communities themselves. She subsequently apologized.

With her presidential candidacy showing some real strength, you figured it was a matter of time before Donald Trump started calling her “Pocahontas” again. Sure enough, he promised to do so earlier this week at a New Hampshire rally:

“I did the Pocahontas thing. I hit her really hard and it looked like she was down and out but that was too long ago,” he said of Warren, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to run against Trump in 2020.

“But don’t worry, we will revive it. It can be revived. It will be revived and it can be revived very easily and very quickly and we’re going to have some fun in the state of New Hampshire,” he said.

In MAGA-land, racism is fun!

It’s likely Trump went there not just because of Warren’s rise in the 2020 polls, but because he got wind of the wonky senator’s latest “plan,” which showed she is more worried about making things right with Native Americans than about drawing more “Pocahontas” jibes from white-bread Republicans. She announced it today:

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Friday unveiled a comprehensive list of policy ideas for empowering tribal nations and indigenous peoples, including a bold plan to expand tribal criminal jurisdiction to apply to all people committing any crimes on tribal land.

In a Medium post published Friday morning, the Massachusetts senator laid out detailed proposals for addressing disparities that indigenous communities face in virtually all aspects of life compared to the overall U.S. population — in economic development, housing, health care, education, criminal justice and voting rights.

Her plan would also revoke permits for the infamous Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that impinge on tribal lands. Warren is also pushing for full tribal criminal-justice jurisdiction over crimes against Natives committed by non-Natives, as HuffPost explains:

[T]ribes only have limited criminal jurisdiction over non-Native people who abuse Native women on tribal land, which hampers tribes’ ability to punish abusers. Meanwhile, more than 84% of indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime, and the vast majority report being victimized by a non-Native person. The Violence Against Women Act allows tribes to prosecute these offenders in only specific cases …

As president, Warren said she would establish a nationwide Missing Indigenous Woman Alert System modeled after the Amber Alert System and, separately, create a Justice Department task force to investigate the epidemic of sexual assaults and murders committed against Native women. She also vowed to appoint U.S. attorneys who would aggressively investigate serious crimes, including cold cases, committed on tribal lands.

As Politico notes, this plan is twice as long as any of her other policy initiatives, and includes a symbolically important legislative partnership:

Warren also announced she is partnering with freshman Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who endorsed Warren last month, on a legislative proposal that would confront unmet needs in Indian Country. Haaland is one of the first two native women elected to Congress. There will be a comment period to allow tribal leaders and citizens to help shape the final legislation.

At least when the president and his cronies go back to the “Pocahontas” nonsense, Warren will be able to respond with something other than a DNA test and an effort to change the subject.

Warren Unveils Plan to Help Native Americans