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Rossi tactics ‘dishonorable’

When Republican Dino Rossi accuses Washington state Indians of “laundering” money with Gov. Christine Gregoire, he engages in the ugliest form of attack politics. Mr. Rossi, who says he is a proud member of the Tlingit Tribe from southeast Alaska, apparently believes he can scapegoat Indians out of one side of his mouth and claim to hold traditional Native values out of the other.

What are these Native values Mr. Rossi claims to hold as a result of his Tlingit heritage? Not truthfulness, apparently. Mr. Rossi’s denigrating comments about the government-to-government tribal gaming compact negotiation process have been soundly refuted by his fellow Republican, our state’s attorney general, Rob McKenna.

Mr. Rossi’s mistruths about Indian people are deeply troubling, but not surprising. It’s a tired trick, an old standby known to back-room political operatives: identify a common enemy – like tribes, with small voting populations – and blame them for your problems. These are not the acts of a man who champions Native values.

Mr. Rossi’s most desperate attacks against Indian people are completely devoid of fact. He actually uses the word “laundered” when he refers to American Indians engaging in our country’s democratic process. Money laundering is a crime. And by accusing us of laundering money, he insinuates that tribal money is dirty money. When nontribal groups contribute to his campaign, nobody suggests they are laundering money or committing crimes. Mr. Rossi’s false accusation and insinuation of tribal impropriety are shameful.

Mr. Rossi’s attacks on Native people are particularly painful because he claims to be one of us – a distant relative from a sister tribe. But his assault on the integrity of Washington tribes reveals the real candidate behind the advertisements. We’ve seen two Dino Rossis in this campaign: one who claims Native heritage and tribal values; another who uses attacks on Native people to further his political agenda.

What, then, are these Native values Mr. Rossi purports to hold dear? He has stated publicly that his Tlingit ancestry has instilled in him a resiliency for tough times. But even this appeal for tribal members’ votes smacks of political opportunism, especially when he says he’d do away with Indian gaming – and along with it, the 25,000 jobs we’ve created, the local community contributions we’re making, and the local and state taxes our businesses are generating.

Washington Indians who live or work on reservations should reject Mr. Rossi’s claims to a traditional, “resilient” Tlingit way of life when his philosophy and policies so blatantly disregard the challenges facing our tribal governments and citizens living on reservations and in urban communities.

Indians were not guaranteed the right to vote until 1924. Many Native people are still fighting to exercise their voting rights. Mr. Rossi’s attacks on Washington Indians, who openly and honestly engage in the American democratic process, are careless, dishonorable and unacceptable. We have come too far to ignore his insults. Our Native values will not allow it.

We will be voting our values Nov. 4.

– Henry Cagey
Chairman, Lummi Nation (Democrat)
Bellingham, Wash.

– Ron Allen
Chairman, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Republican)
Sequim, Wash.