On Monday, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump weighed in on the Washington team name. In an interview with the New York Times, he gave his support for a dictionary-defined racial slur, and went on to say “I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name, they think it’s a positive.”
So Trump has an Indian friend and they think it’s okay. Gotcha.
Putting aside the anecdotal evidence of the friend that represents over five million Native Americans, Trump’s past interactions with Native Americans illustrate his understanding of the stereotypes that Native mascots perpetuate.
In 2000, he funded an advertising campaign that accused the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of a long history of violent crimes and drug use. St. Regis was set to open a casino in New York’s Catskill region; the ad asked “Are these the new neighbors we want?” The tribe condemned it as a naked appeal to racism.
Back in 1993, Trump testified before the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs and claimed the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation was not authentic, as “they don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.” The Pequot Nation’s casino had surpassed his Atlantic City operation as the largest casino in the world at the time.
One wonders what an Indian is supposed to look like, according to Trump. A Washington team logo, perhaps?
Oneida Nation’s Change the Mascot campaign was unsurprised by the news, calling Trump “a candidate who labeled Mexican immigrants rapists and calls women “pigs” [and] now says he wants the NFL to continue slurring Native Americans.”
Trump becomes the latest Republican candidate to weigh in on the issue – last week Jeb Bush, fellow GOP presidential contender, said that “Native Americans generally don’t find [the name] offensive.” This despite the numerous tribes and tribal organizations representing nearly 1.5 million Native Americans that condemned the Washington team name.
Although Bush and Trump have become increasingly hostile toward one another, on the fight of Native Americans against institutional racism, their values align. As noted by the Democratic National Convention, “It seems like Jeb Bush and Donald Trump agree on which group to insult next: Native Americans.”
Last year, 50 Democratic Senators signed a letter urging the National Football League to endorse a name change as “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” The letter was not circulated among Senate Republicans. Tom Cole, one of just two Native American members of Congress, is one of the few Republicans that has publicly called for a name change.
Tara Houska. Photo courtesy Josh Daniels.
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.