Editorial by Michael Kickingbear Johnson
Over the past few months, we have been telling you that Donald Trump is no friend to Indian Country. He has consistently demonstrated that he is no friend to minorities as a whole. But tonight we are going to focus a bit on Indian country, and what we feel are concrete examples of why many native people feel this way.
But some people may be wondering why suddenly there is this surge of Trump attacks against native people? Many people only know Donald Trump though his Television show “The Apprentice”. Others only know him as New York Businessman. But myself, I know Donald J Trump because of his dealings with close tribal relatives of mine. Relatives that Donald Trump sought to exploit. You see, shortly after the opening of Foxwoods Resort Casino, which is owned and operated by my tribe, the Mashantucket Pequots , other tribes here in Connecticut were also pursuing Federal Recognition. In fact, they had been pursuing federal recognition just as long as my tribe had, and sadly they still are to this very day.
Before I get back to the so-called Phenomena called “Donald Trump” a little background on Federal recognition I think is needed for the context of future points. The federal BIA, or Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division within the department of Interior has criteria for which it issues to tribes throughout the United States for which they must meet in order to be recognized by the federal government as a Sovereign Tribe.
If obtained, this “status” or “Federal Recognition” as it is called allows a native American tribe to govern itself. The provision grants a tribe the ability to make its own laws on its reservation with certain limitations. It allows a tribe to establish who is a citizen of its nation. It allows tribes to establish their own tribal constitutions. It allows for establishing rights for its people. For building infrastructure such as police departments, fire, EMS, Hospitals, Schools, And yes creating employment on its reservations for native and non-native people alike.
This can include…Indian Casino Gaming.
And in the past, gaming has become very lucrative for some native American tribes, my own included. And with this success, comes outside business interests. Developers, who want in on the action. Developers like Donald J. Trump.
You all have heard the saying “Follow The Money Trail”. That is exactly what Donald Trump did to Indian Country. Straight here to Connecticut. He started targeting tribes who were close to getting a decision on their federal recognition bids. He offered them money to build their own “Foxwoods” trying to woo them into “Partnering” with him.
But Trump made a HUGE error. He assumed these tribes…and particularly their leaders…. were naive. He assumed that after seeing the success that my tribe had with Foxwoods that they were desperate to have their own fortunes. That they would blindly listen to him, and just sign on the dotted line.
No, they actually did some homework. They conducted research about the developer. What they discovered… was that Donald J. Trump was good at real estate. But he was a HORRIBLE casino operator . The first example, Trump Taj Mahal, went bankrupt in 1991, one year before Foxwoods Resort Casino even opened its doors. Trump then went Bankrupt 3 more times later in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
So trump figured these east coast “Indians” as he called us wouldn’t check him out.
And they fired him For not being forthcoming with that financial information. Does that sound familiar to you? Kind of like how he won't release his taxes right now?
So since that time, and after the 3 more financial disasters that he went through, including a debt reconstruction in 2004, Donald J. Trump has had it out for native American tribes, particularly those in the hospitality or Entertainment industry, to the point that he insinuated that there was widespread corruption within the Indian Gaming industry. At a hearing before the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs trump was called to testify about his assertions that there was widespread organized crime "Rampant" on Indian reservations with gaming. It was at this hearing where he completely insulted my tribe by stating "They Don't look like Indians to me, and they don't look like Indians to Indians." I will venture further to say it was a broader insult to east coast native American people.
(video includes interview with Gyasi Ross, editor at Indian Country Today Media Network)
Actually, trump has been fired by other tribes across the country. The 29 Palms as an example, terminated a contract (reported by origional pechanga) they had with Trump when trump didnt' reveal that his casino management company went bankrupt. Sadly, it is also being reported that 29 may have had to pay Trump 6 million to end that contract.
Now he wants to be president of the United States. I personally just shake my head. Now he attacks Elizabeth Warren, who presumably in her career, made an assertion that she has native ancestry. She has backed off that claim over the past few years, but trump now calls her Pocahontas every time her name is mentioned. These insults towards native people have escalated over the past few days with a less known Radio Talk Show host Howie Carr doing a War Hoop with his hand over his mouth like an old bad western from the 1950’s.
So Donald J. Trump has no love what so ever for Indian Country. And he never will. Sadly, I have met Native people who claim that they will vote for him. I can’t make anyone vote. But I hope in reading this, or listening to our show, it will give them pause. To think about what their actions might do in the future. Indian country has a strained relationship with a country who has not been very kind to us. Who has yet to formally apologize, as some other countries have done, for it’s behavior towards Indigenous People who have always lived on this continent. No, I cannot see having Donald Trump as president would ever strengthen Native American Relations with the country that borders us all.
Michael Kickingbear Johnson, is a enrolled citizen of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut.