Since President Trump entered office in 2017, he has reduced federal oversight on environmental projects that encroach on Native American land, used the name “Pocahontas” as a pejorative, avoided meaningful policy discussions with tribal leaders, and said he believes Native Americans would be angry if the Washington football team shed the Native American slur from their name. But the Trump administration is seemingly convinced that Native Americans will put all of this—and those pipelines—aside because, hey, Ivanka Trump is paying them some shallow lip service. What better time than a few months before the 2020 election?
On Monday, Ivanka Trump arrived in Bloomington, Minnesota, to open an office dedicated to investigating cold cases regarding missing and murdered Native American women. This is all part of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force, launched via executive order in an attempt to bring justice to Native Americans—particularly women and girls—who are disproportionately impacted by violence and exploitation. According to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice, more than half of Native American women have been sexually assaulted, a rate 2.5 times that of white women. Additionally, Native American women are more likely to be raped by white and other non-Native American people.
“Since his earliest days in office, President Trump has fought for the forgotten men and women of this country,” Ivanka Trump said. “Today is another fulfillment of that promise as this new office will work to ensure that the challenges American Indians and Alaskan Natives face do not go unseen or unresolved.”
Six more offices are expected to open in the next month, including in Anchorage, Alaska; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Phoenix, Arizona. Additional resources for a marginalized and often-ignored group is nothing to sniff at, but given that this directive comes from the same administration that withheld $679 million of covid-19 relief funds to Native American tribes for months—exacerbating a public health crisis that has hit Native Americans hard—there’s plenty to be skeptical about.
From NBC News:
Many asked where Trump and the administration had been the past few years, as various reports have highlighted the underreporting of violence against Indigenous women and as the murder of a 22-year-old pregnant woman in North Dakota in 2017 brought rare bipartisan interest from members of Congress.
“We, in Minnesota, had worked so hard for a genuine, community-led task force to address our missing and murdered Indigenous women,” state Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party who is a descendant of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe, said in a statement. “This sudden interest and visit by Ivanka Trump feels disingenuous and smacks of manipulated political showcasing.”
“Donald Trump made a career demonstrating and celebrating behavior that perpetuates violence against Native women and girls,” Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said in a statement.
Kunesh-Podein tweeted that she was blindsided by the opening of a federal office in Minnesota, given that she is chair of the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, and she called the announcement a “dog & pony show.”
Before a group of protesters, Kunesh-Podein said, “Our women are not photo opportunities. Our women are not for show.”
This is lost on the President’s daughter, who relishes the opportunity to use the exploitation of marginalized women as a photo opp. She is determined to live her life like The Onion article titled “6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture.”
And now, we have some nice photos of Ivanka Trump talking to some Native American women. Great. Even her Instagram stories were outfitted for the occasion (peep the background pattern):
If the Trump administration wants to throw money at Native American communities and organizations to make up for their ignorance and negligence, so be it. But they shouldn’t expect a pat on the back or loyalty from Native Americans in return. While not unique in his systematic disregard for Native Americans compared to presidents past, Trump has managed to create enough ill will among Native American communities in the last few months alone to assure that sending his daughter out on a PR tour can’t clean up the mess he’s happily made.