By Angela Wittrock
The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi say Bernero made the remarks at his annual State of the City preview breakfast, held Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Lansing Center.
"The man walked on stage with a target on his back," Frank Cloutier, a spokesperson for the tribes said. "He was saying some pretty disparaging things about Native American culture, and he referred to our coalition spokesperson, James Nye, as Chief Chicken Little."
Nye is the spokesperson for a coalition of tribes and casinos opposed to the proposed Lansing casino, which would be owned and operated by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
The Saginaw tribe is the only tribe in Michigan that refers to its highest authority as chief.
"Historically, the word chief honors our ancestors and those who came before us. Mr. Bernero disrespected our whole culture and history," he said.
The Detroit Free Press reported Bernero referred to the bull's-eye on his back and said he was the target of "bows and arrows" for championing the Lansing casino.
“I’ve been in a lot of debates but never been personally attacked,” he said. “This is embarrassing … pretty disgusting.”
Bernero was not available to comment. But his office issued a statement at midday Monday saying the mayor disagreed with his critics.
"My passionate support for Lansing and our casino project may have gotten the better of me, but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur,” he said. “I make no apologies for using strong language against our opponents … but I do offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to any and all who were offended by my choice of words.”
For more on the subject, see Conservatives Use "Language of Savagery" and The Last Acceptable Racism.