Peter Taksoe-Jensen, Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, had to rollback what he said were “misunderstood” statements about Native American casinos during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil a hand-carved statue March 3 in Solvang, Calif.
Taksoe-Jensen said Indian casinos were "taking over the Danishness of Solvang." He also remarked that the statute, which was of the mythical Holger Danske -- the sleeping hero who would wake from his slumber if danger were to come to Denmark and strike out against the opponent -- would certainly “wake up someday if some Indian casino or some other stuff tries to take over the Danishness of Solvang. He will guard that.”
Taksoe-Jensen apologized days later in a letter obtained by the Santa Ynez Valley News. You can read the entire apology here.
But he sent the apology to Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, asking that he, “Please convey to your City Council colleagues and Chairman [Vincent ] Armenta of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians that my remarks were in no way intended to interfere with local affairs in Solvang and that it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone.”
“It was kind of unfortunate to apologize through the mayor,” Chairman Armenta told ICTMN. Armenta said that although he believed it was a sincere apology, he would have expected the ambassador to apologize directly to the group. “If I were to make a comment that offended a group of people, I would [personally make] the apology,” the chairman said.
Courtesy Santa Ynez Tribe
Chairman Vincent Armenta of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
In fact, the Santa Ynez tribe and Solvang City Council members have been working through what Armenta said was “a lot of [past] animosity,” but he explained that now, the council was “working with the tribe.”
“In the past it was difficult to deal with a lot of rejection,” Armenta said. That rejection related to gridlock in providing infrastructure for the tribe -- from purchasing additional sewer capacity from the city to objections to purchasing land to build and put into trust. “In the last few years we’ve worked on building relationships,” Armenta said about his tribe and the city council. “Their [the tribe’s] concern was that one man’s word would not collapse the relationship with the city.”
The Santa Ynez Valley News reported that Taksoe-Jensen remarks accosted the renewing of that relationship, causing Solvang council members to distance themselves from the ambassador’s comments.
ICTMN contacted Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen’s press office for comment, but no call was returned at the time this story was published.
“The frustrating part is not the comment itself, but that an individual who represents Denmark could make a joke about aboriginal people,” Armenta said. “I wouldn’t go to his country and do that.”