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When Trump Said, “They Don’t Look Like Indians to Me”

In World
April 15, 2024

Opinion. In recent weeks, the national media has highlighted the fact Americans seem to have amnesia about the Trump presidency.

On March 6, 2024, The New York Times wrote: “Polling suggests voters’ views on Mr. Trump’s policies and his presidency have improved in the rearview mirror. In interviews, voters often have a hazy recall of one of the most tumultuous periods in modern politics. Social scientists say that’s unsurprising.”

The amnesia includes the short-term memories Americans have about what happened on January 6th when Trump encouraged his followers to march up to the U.S. Capitol to get then Vice President Mike Pence to certify the election for Trump even though he lost the 2020 presidential election. In the immediate aftermath of the deadly insurrection, several billionaires were completely aghast at what happened; they said they would never support Trump again. Billionaires have short memories too. Some of them have now said he has their support this coming November.

This past Tuesday, Melanie Benjamin, the six-time elected chief executive officer of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, made the keynote address at the Indian Gaming Association 2024 Tradeshow and Convention in Anaheim. Benjamin, who has raised billions of dollars for her tribe during her leadership, chose not to run for reelection this year. On Tuesday, her topic was the future of Indian gaming.

She said in order to look ahead, you must look behind because history has a way of repeating itself. You have to ask: “When or where will the next attack come?”

Benjamin said gaming is always under threat, and tribal leaders should not think otherwise. She pointed out in the United States anytime non-Natives see Native Americans with something of value, they try to figure out a way to get it. She said that the Supreme Court may some day deem tribes part of a racial group and eliminate tribal sovereignty.

To drive home her point about threats to gaming, Benjamin showed a clip from a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources hearing from 1993 where Donald Trump was the key witness.

That day Trump expressed his opposition to Indian gaming. He was then simply a younger version of the insulting persona of the man he is today. Most of his testimony focused on Indian gaming and his opinion that the 1988 Indian Regulatory Act had given the tribes an unfair advantage over his two own gaming enterprises that he soon thereafter sent into bankruptcy.

During the testimony, Trump had a fiery exchange with the committee’s chairman, George Miller (D-CA).

Chairman Miller: Is this you discussing Indian blood: “We are going to judge people by whether they have Indian blood,” whether they are qualified to run a gaming casino or not?

Trump: That probably is me, absolutely, because I’ll tell you what, if you look—if you look at some of the reservations that you have approved—you, sir, in your great wisdom, have approved— will tell you right now, they don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians. Now maybe we say politically correct or not politically correct. They don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians, and a lot of people are laughing at it, and you are telling how tough it is, how rough it is, to get approved. Well, you go up to Connecticut, and you look. Now, they don’t look like Indians to me, sir.

Facing backlash from Native Americans, Trump went on the Don Imus radio show for an interview afterwards, saying: “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.”

Even back then, Trump never knew when to stop with his insults.

I am glad Benjamin provided the video clip to remind tribal leaders about Trump’s testimony. Her reminder triggered me to look back to the four years he was president.

During his administration, he showed his hand when it came to Indian Country. During his administration there was no land put into trust for any tribe. During Trump’s botched handling of the Covid-19, his administration excluded many tribal businesses from the pandemic relief funds.

In his budgets, Trump repeatedly proposed cutting budgets for tribal public safety, substance abuse, and victim services. The Trump administration and Republican senators also blocked the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that contained a tribal provision to help make Indian Country safer to Native women.

Americans cannot afford to look back with rose-colored glasses to act as if Trump wasn’t so bad. Certainly, Indian Country cannot afford another four more years of Trump.

Thayék gde nwéndëmen – We are all related.

About the Author: “Levi \”Calm Before the Storm\” Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print\/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at levi@nativenewsonline.net.”

Contact: levi@nativenewsonline.net

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