President Donald Trump has again divided the country, this time in the wake of his insistence that four Democratic Congresswomen of color should “go back where they came from” rather than criticizing his administration. Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland from New Mexico — who is herself a Native American and self-described 35th generation inhabitant of her state — responded to the president’s belligerence with a rhetorical two-edged sword in an opinion piece published this week in The New York Times. She insisted that the president is deeply wrong in his behavior considering even the practical fact that he has basically no more “ancestral” claim to this land than the immigrants, and she added that Native American communities — who would be the ones in an actual authoritative enough position to demand someone “go back” — traffic in nothing like what the president has put forward, instead presenting a more equality-driven opportunity for the United States.
Considering Trump’s own status as just a second-generation American, Haaland shared:
‘For Native Americans like myself, his comments are perplexing, and wrongheaded. If anyone can say “go back,” it’s Native Americans. My Pueblo ancestors, despite being targeted at every juncture — despite facing famine and drought — still inhabit this country today. But indigenous people aren’t asking anyone to go back to where they came from… The fact that the president claims this country as his own and wants to keep everyone in their place proves that he doesn’t understand his place… [T]he promise of our country is for everyone to find success, pursue happiness and live lives of equality. This is the Pueblo way. It’s the American way.’
Haaland is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. She serves alongside the other one right now, her colleague from Kansas, Sharice Davids, who’s one of the new members of Congress who flipped a seat from Republican to Democrat in the 2018 midterm elections. She noted that her people’s tradition of assistance to those in need extends all the way back to the fact that first generations of European settlers in what would become the United States would have likely died in the absence of Native American assistance.
Haaland insists, though, that her concerns extend far beyond that. In line with her cultural and personal convictions, she also calls out the president’s harsh anti-immigrant policies as exemplary of his utter disconnect from the true promise of America, replacing that with behavior “reminiscent of the darkest days of our history” including the forced relocations of Native Americans and Japanese-Americans, among other dismal highlights.
In her own work, as she also notes in her piece in The Times, she has worked to counter Trump administration plans to sell leases for fossil fuel extraction in the area of her ancestral homeland, where her people have lived for hundreds upon hundreds of years.
She fought against that in a committee hearing the very same day she says she heard about the “chilling, hate-filled chants” at a Trump rally demanding that Minnesota Congresswoman llhan Omar be sent back to Somalia where she was born. Despite the president claiming he disagrees with that behavior, he did nothing to stop it while standing in front of the crowd and clearly led into it with his own similar rhetoric.
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