I was honored to speak this morning at the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Council Winter Session and Tribal Nations Policy Summit.
I’ve noticed that when my name comes up, Donald Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas. So I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not the tale that’s been twisted for centuries – but the real Pocahontas, and her story of heroism. And bravery. And pain.
I also told the story of my parents, because they were real people too. My mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.
I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe. I respect that distinction. Tribal membership is determined by tribes – and only by tribes. And so I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.
The love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. No one – not even the President – will ever take that part of me away.
And today I made a promise to the tribal leaders: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of their families and communities.
I hope you’ll take the time to watch and share my entire remarks: