A controversy not of MacDonald’s making

Code talkers stand meekishly behind Donald Trump, with "Indian Killer" Andrew Jackson portrait in background.

Cable News Network | Courtesy photo
President Donald Trump speaks Monday at an event honoring Native American code talkers as Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay and Peter MacDonald, president of the Navajo Code Talker Foundation, look on. Code Talker Fleming Begay also attended the ceremony.


Former Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald was involved in another controversy this week but it was not of his making.

MacDonald and other Navajo Code Talkers were in Washington, D.C., standing beside U.S. President Donald Trump who was giving a speech recognizing them for their contributions to winning World War II. In the midst of his speech, he turned to MacDonald and ad-libbed, “You were here long before any of us here. Although they have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’” He was referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who has been a long-standing foe since the 2016 presidential campaign and who has said in past interviews that she believes she is of American Indian descent.

Since then, Trump has brought up the Pocahontas nickname anytime he mentions Warren as a form of ridicule. Trump began his remarks by turning to the three Code Talkers – MacDonald, Thomas Begay and Fleming Begaye – and telling them, “You are very, very special special people. You were here long before any of us were here.”

He then made the comment about Pocahontas, as MacDonald looked on and smiled. He then placed his hand on MacDonald’s shoulder and said, “But you know what? I like you because you are special.

“You are special people,” he said. “You are really incredible people. And I will have to, from the heart, from the absolute heart, we appreciate what you have done, how you have done it, the bravery you have displayed and the love you have for your country.”

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About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.