By Gale Courey Toensing
“Usually people are a bit more subtle than that,” said Kirk Francis, the chief of the Penobscot Indian Nation. “You have four federally recognized tribes in Maine to whom these comments are extremely insensitive at best and the civil rights affirmative action comments are much more than that. I won’t use the word, but it is what it is.”
In contrast, Congdon was using the phrase to attack Indians. He implied they're lazy, good-for-nothing bums if they don't get "off the reservation." Never mind their land's value or their cultural ties to it. Anyone who doesn't move must be a welfare-loving socialist and government cheat.
This use of "off the reservation" is insulting. And it's racist. You never see critics slamming poor white people in Arkansas or West Virginia for not moving where the jobs are. Only Indians get criticized for staying "on the reservation." I.e., for trying to maintain their roots while developing their economic base.
For more on the subject, see "Res-Love" = Abuse and Alcoholism and "Too Many Chiefs" a Major Offense?