Donald J. Trump has been called a lot of things. A bigot. A misogynist. A racist.
And I agree with these descriptions of the new president. He’s earned those titles, especially given all he has spewed over the decades about women and racial minorities, and just about anyone he disagrees with, or who disagree with him.
But Mr. Trump is also unoriginal.
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Many of the controversial policies and plans he’s setting into motion have already been executed in this country.
Think about it.
Mr. Trump has vowed to evict millions of undocumented individuals. Brown folks, mostly.
But, of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a sitting U.S. president would forcibly and eagerly evict the indigenous peoples of this continent from their homes.
One of the first of such evictions in this country’s shady history occurred in the 19th century, back in 1830, when president Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which coercively extirpated thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.
The brutal act prompted the “Trail of Tears,” a vicious campaign that resulted in a forced westward march of men, women, and children through ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. More than four thousand Native Americans died during that rotten trudge.
“But Mexicans aren’t Indians,” a white man recently said to me at an eatery on the north side of Denver, Colorado, during an impromptu discussion on Trump’s unoriginality.
“Yes, we are,” I responded. I told the wiggy stranger that I’m an enrolled citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and Chicano.
“What’s that?” he asked. “‘… Ohg’ what?”
“Never mind,” I said. “All you need to know is that the only tangible thing that separates Mexicans and Native Americans is the border your people imposed on us.”
As anticipated, the discussion quickly turned debate, and this man, who said his name was “John,” and later admitted to being a die-hard Trump supporter, went on to chide me, saying, “I don’t know why you guys call yourselves ‘Indians’ anyway.”
Folks, we know we’re not Indian. You know we’re not Indian. But many of you still get that lost look your eye when Native Americans refer to themselves as Tulalip or Couchiching or any other nation or tribe not made wildly popular by Hollywood.
It wasn’t long before John wanted to talk about “those Muslims,” as he oft referred to the Islamic community throughout our debate.
Along with a ban, Mr. Trump has said he would “absolutely” require Muslims to be registered into a database.
“I’m on a database,” I told John.
“Really? Are you some sexual predator?”
“No,” I said. “It’s an old list the U.S. set up for people of color.”
I segued back to the topic of Mr. Trump’s unoriginality.
I told John about the Indian Census Rolls, which were first established in 1885 and meant to count Native Americans like cattle, keep tabs on the people the U.S. considered a threat to white Christians.
But, for Native Americans, the white Christian was the clear and present danger. Not us.
“The Indian Census Rolls were put there to make white people feel safe,” I told John. “And that’s what Donald Trump is trying to do here. This is nothing new.”
John quaffed the last of his Gin, told me to “look out, here he comes,” (meaning Trump), patted me on my back in that condescending way, and then staggered out of the joint.
I’ve got to give John one thing, though, about Mr. Trump: here he comes and here he is. The electoral college made sure of that, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by leaps and bounds.
Right. Mr. Trump’s slither into the Oval Office is an incontrovertible threat to a lot of people, and even the planet, but for Native Americans, we know how this story will play out – because we were documented. We were evicted. In this country. And all of it was motivated by that savage thing called discrimination.
Even Mr. Trump’s promise of building a wall along the Mexican border is unoriginal. Long ago, this country built a de facto wall, a divide, as it were – they are commonly known today as Indian reservations.
People tend to talk about Indian reservations without inquiring about their genesis. They were founded as prison camps, and they were even numerated. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, for example, is Prisoner of War Camp Number 334. These prison camps were meant to isolate Native Americans, far from white society, where we were expected to starve and die.
I’m aware this sounds eerily similar to Adolf Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust, but it should since Hitler himself was inspired by the Indian reservation system and lauded it for its “efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity,” wrote Hitler biographer John. T. Toland.
If you want to know what the next four (or even possibly eight) years will look like, just ask an Indian – or Native American – whatever. We can tell you all about racist lists and forced evictions and walls.
No, Mr. Trump isn’t acting like Hitler. He’s acting like the founders of this nation. Bigots. Misogynists. Racists. Know your history.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @SimonMoyaSmith.