By Felicia Fonseca
The Arizona Republican stunned an audience gathered in Flagstaff last week with the comment that came in a discussion about a land deal that would clear the way for a copper mine.
Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe says the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs.
A spokesman for Gosar says that wasn’t the intent. He says Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening tribes’ relationships with the federal government.
Congress maintains authority over Indian affairs. But the trend has been for tribes to take more control over things like crime, education and health care from the federal government.
By Allen Clifton
“He kind of revealed the truth, the true deep feeling of the federal government: ‘Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,’” said Stago.
Naturally, the congressman has refused to elaborate further on what he meant by his comments, only stating through his spokesman Steven Smith that it was not the intent of the congressman to offend Native Americans.
Though I’m not sure how one would go about spinning a reference to Native Americans as “wards of the federal government” into any sort of positive compliment. It’s one of those statements that is fairly self-explanatory–there’s not a whole lot of leeway there.
But then again, is anyone really shocked to see a Republican make some sort of insensitive or offensive remark toward a minority group? That’s the sad state of affairs for the GOP nowadays. I’m not even sure if you can still refer to it as “headline news” for someone from their party to say something blatantly offensive about minorities.
A Native reply via Facebook:
Phrases such as "ward of the government" should be struck down viz colonized people whose lands, lifeways and original liberties were taken and were done so recently as to be storied in living memories yet. This phrase is a trap and a trigger.
If you utter crap like, "casino munnneeeeeee" or "free school, free health, free everything is what THEY get" and other shit that shows you have no concept of the forms that sovereignty now takes, the deleterious financial contracts binding many indian lands still, and other realities...you are also in great need of shutting the hell up and doing your best to listen next time you open a conversation with a native person. The information available to you is vastly more and quite different from the few scraps of cardboard supplied that are endlessly parroted in America (and everywhere else, frankly).
Rep. Gosar won't apologize for calling Native Americans 'wards'
The Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution recognizes tribal governments as sovereign nations. But they are often described in court decisions as "domestic dependent nations"--a term that was created to justify state encroachment and federal encroachment on tribal territories.
The distinction, however, does not apply to Native people themselves. To call them "wards" treats them differently than every other American.
"That's just not appropriate," former U.S. attorney Troy Eid told the AP, referring to Gosar's remarks. "In the heated context of what this represents, it's especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting."