NAJA denounces White House’s use of “Pocahontas” as slur

Posted by Native American Journalists Association on 11/28/2017

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) stands with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) on their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” in a derogatory manner. We call on our colleagues in journalism to be responsible and accurate in their reporting on this important issue that affects the perception of Native people and communities.

Pocahontas was an Indigenous woman who, to this day, holds a significant place in the culture and history of her family, her tribe - the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia - and among the larger Native American community. NAJA agrees with NCAI that her name should not be used as a weapon of hate or prejudice, and it is inappropriate for anyone to use her name in a disparaging manner.

Further, NAJA calls on White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to provide accurate information and fair context to the media. When the president uses the name of Pocahontas as a pejorative with the intent to insult, it becomes a racial slur.

When an elected official or their publicly-funded information officer use the name of a Native person or Nation with the intent to demean or denigrate, it shapes the public perception of that person and their tribe across the nation and around the world.

NAJA advises reporters to provide accurate context when referring to Indigenous historical figures such as Pocahontas. Just as the president has the power to twist the name of a powerful Native woman into a term of bigotry and hate, so do the media have the power - through ethical and accurate storytelling - to restore her honor and rightful place of esteem in our nation’s history.

About NAJA

The Native American Journalists Association empowers 500 members representing tribal, nonprofit, freelance and mainstream media professionals in promoting accurate coverage of Indian Country, supporting newsroom diversity and defending challenges to free press, speech and expression.