- William Kelly Daily News Staff Writer
When President Donald Trump refers to Pocahontas in the media, he’s not talking about the 17th century Native American princess, but rather his 21st century political adversary Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Debbie “White Dove” Porreco, a descendant of Pocahontas and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, said she told Trump during his presidential campaign last year that she’s not offended by his use of the word to refer to the Democratic senator.
“He asked me one time at Mar-a-Lago. He said, ‘Do you mind me using ‘Pocahontas’ for American Indians?’ I said, ‘It doesn’t bother me,’” Porreco said Wednesday.
Porreco said it’s just Trump’s way of communicating.
“It’s just a term,” she said. “He’s not saying anything bad about Pocahontas, or bad about Native Americans. … Sometimes people read into things too much … they are just looking to say something bad about him.”
Porreco, who grew up Debbie White Dove Custalow, says she is descended from Pocahontas and grew up on the same grounds, on what is now the Mattaponi Indian reservation in Virginia. The youngest of nine children, she attended a two-room schoolhouse on the reservation and learned to ride a horse bareback.
“I was taught Native American dancing for our powwows as soon as I could walk, so I often performed the Princess dance,” she told Palm Beach Daily News pet columnist Paulette Cooper Noble in 2013.
If you have an image of Pocahontas, it may be Porreco you’re visualizing. She played the original Indian princess in commercials, parades, pageants, parties, re-enactments and documentaries, two of which were produced by Ted Turner. Indeed, when Disney realized Pocahontas could have looked like Porreco, she became the model for the famous animated movie.
Porreco is a seasonal Palm Beach resident and a Trumpette who joined Mar-a-Lago along with her late husband Lou Porreco nearly 20 years ago. The Trumpettes are a group of women formed to support Trump when he was running for president. The group was founded by Toni Holt Kramer, a former Hollywood journalist who lives in Palm Beach.
Porreco used to see Trump at Mar-a-Lago several times a year, but less often now that he is in the White House.
“He knew I was American Indian. He always has been very kind to me. Wayne Newton is my cousin and has done shows at Mar-a-Lago.”
She admires Trump for speaking his mind.
“I know his heart. He says what he thinks. I think he’s a wonderful president. He’s really trying … he’s so strong. I don’t think any other human being could have endured what he’s enduring. That’s who we need as a president – someone who can stand up for what’s right.”
Porreco loves being a member at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.
“He’s done a wonderful job with it. It’s like you are part of his extended family, and he treats you like that.”
Trump has used the term Pocahontas to belittle Warren, who’s been a biting critic of the president.
Warren has pointed to “family stories” passed down to her through generations as evidence she is Native American.
“I am very proud of my heritage,” the Massachusetts senator told National Public Radio in 2012.
A genealogist traced Warren’s Native American heritage to the late 19th century, which, if true, would make her 1/32nd Native American. But the legitimacy of those findings has been debated, and Porreco said she’s skeptical about Warren’s Native American claim.
“I really don’t think she is,” Porreco said.