A few days ago, President Donald Trump welcomed the Navajo Code Talkers to the White House. Instead of focusing solely on the veterans’ contributions during World War II, he used the event to take shots at Senator Elizabeth Warren, who he mocked as “Pocahontas” for her alleged unsubstantiated claims Native American ancestry. He also held the ceremony in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who is a controversial figure in history for his policies toward Native Americans. In this episode of The Road to Now we speak with Dr. Ashley Riley Sousa, a specialist on Native American history at Middle Tennessee State University, to talk about the Navajo Code Talkers, Pocahontas, and the often overlooked and unappreciated place that Native Americans have held in American history.
Ashley Riley Sousa is Assistant Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University. Her primary research interest is relations between California Indians and settlers in Central California from the Spanish mission era through the late twentieth century. Her current research explores the Native Hawaiian and California Indian communities that evolved into modern tribes in California’s central valley after the gold rush. Her work has appeared in The Journal Ethnohistory and the Journal of Genocide Research.