Connecticut tribal leaders speak out against Trump's remarks

AP News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2016 2:26 PM
Connecticut tribal leaders speak out against Trump's remarks

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The tribe that owns the giant Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut on Thursday spoke out against past remarks by Donald Trump that they describe as bigoted and current campaign rallies that they say disrespect Native Americans.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation members remain offended over congressional testimony in 1993 in which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said that the Pequots "don't look like Indians" to him.

Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler, who is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and supports Hillary Clinton, said as a high-profile tribe that runs one of the world's largest casinos, the Pequots now feel an obligation to Native Americans to speak out.

"It really stirs up old some old wounds," Butler said in an interview. "We have generational wounds. Something like this just continues to bring it back up to the surface."

Butler said his tribe is not taking a stance against Republicans and plans to send a delegation to both the GOP and Democratic conventions.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has derisively referred to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas," a taunt that refers to the Democratic senator's claims of having Native American heritage. Trump has said, "she's as Native American as I am," while some supporters have mimicked B-movie versions of a Native American war cries to mock Warren.

"What was done at these rallies and the statements that are being made are offensive to all of Indian country. And the fact we experienced it firsthand, we had an obligation to address it," Butler said. "There's just no place for bigotry and racially charged rhetoric in this amazing country we live in."

Butler, who will be attending his second DNC convention, said the presidency is very important to Native Americans. He says President Barack Obama has been supportive of tribes, respecting their sovereignty, holding annual meetings with tribal nations and signing an executive order that requires federal agencies to regularly consult with tribes. He said Clinton has committed to follow through with similar efforts.

Butler said he's heard nothing from Trump about policies affecting Native Americans.

In a statement released Thursday, the Mashantucket Pequots' tribal council called actions at Trump rallies "highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory" and "no laughing matter," urging Trump and his supporters "to stop using racist language and offensive actions against Native Americans."

Trump was testifying before the House Native American Affairs Subcommittee in 1993 when he urged members to "go up to Connecticut ... and you look" at the Mashantucket Pequots." He added: "They don't look like Indians to me."

The subcommittee had called the hearing to learn about how tribal casinos are policed and regulated. Trump, who saw some tribes as rivals to his casinos, warned lawmakers that organized crime figures would infiltrate tribal facilities.

"It will be the biggest scandal ever," he said, "the biggest since Al Capone. ... An Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation? It's unbelievable to me."

Other tribes have spoken recently about bad feelings lingering from past dealings with Trump.

A leader of the Ramapough tribe in New Jersey said that many members are still angry with Trump because of a campaign he waged to block federal recognition of the group in 1993. Federal recognition could have led to casinos in northern New Jersey, which would have been potential competition for Trump's casinos in Atlantic City. During that battle, Trump told a radio show that he "might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations."