Trail of Tears: Trump Accused of Joking About Native American Genocide in Tweet Mocking Senator Warren

President Donald Trump has been accused of joking about the 19th century Trail of Tears on which thousands of Native Americans died, after posting a tweet mocking Senator Elizabeth Warren's formal announcement of her candidacy for the U.S. presidency.

Soon after the Massachusetts senator launched her presidential bid on Saturday, the president renewed his attacks on her claims to have Native American ancestry.

"Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President," he wrote on Twitter. "Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!"

President Donald Trump, beneath a portrait of populist President Andrew Jackson, speaks before the swearing-in of Rex Tillerson as 69th secretary of state in the Oval Office of the White House on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

The capped up word 'Trail' was read by critics as an allusion to the Trail of Tears, which saw thousands of Native Americans forcibly relocated from their lands in the American southeast to reservations in Oklahoma after the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Thousands died of exposure, hunger and disease before they could reach their destination.

The forced relocation was begun under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, whose portrait adorns Trump's Oval Office and who the president has hailed as an inspiration for his own populist, nativist policies.

On Twitter, the president was criticised for joking about the deaths.

"4,000 Native Americans died on the Trail of Tears due to forced relocations under the Andrew Jackson administration. Trump decided to honor Navajo code talker vets in front of Andrew "Indian Killer" Jackson's portrait last year because of course. Now this..." tweeted New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali.

Other criticised a tweet by Donald Trump Jr., who in response to his father's message wrote "savage" — which critics claim was used as another crude racial slur.

He added: "I love my president."

"Trump jokes about genocide... His son laughs... There is no limit to the immorality and indecency of these people," tweeted Andrew Stroehlein of charity Human Rights Watch.

Others defended the president, claiming that his ignorance of history means he probably in unaware of the Trail of Tears.

"Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez," tweeted senior Fox News analyst Brit Hume.

Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez.

— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 10, 2019

Trump chose a portrait of Andrew Jackson to hang near his desk in the Oval. I can tell you from personal experience that he's aware of the Trail of Tears because I've asked him if he thought about it. But it's still an open question whether he meant to reference it here.

— David Martosko (@dmartosko) February 10, 2019

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senator Warren's campaign also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has previously faced criticism for using racially denigrating terms to taunt Warren, who apologised after undertaking a DNA test last year to confirm her claims of Native American ancestry.

In a statement earlier this year she said she now understood the difference between DNA information indicating a Native American ancestor and membership of a Native American tribal nation.