“Legal disagreements between governments require responsible leadership and diplomacy and not reckless calls for violence”
In 2010, New York City Mayor Bloomberg stated the following when speaking on a legal dispute between the state of New York and local Tribes, “I said, you know, ‘Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun,’” Bloomberg told Gambling. “If there’s ever a great video, it’s [Patterson] standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips—the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.‘”
The National Congress of American Indians had released the following statement in response.
Washington D.C. – The oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country has condemned the recent statements of New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg and is calling on him to publicly apologize for his insensitive statements. Mayor Bloomberg used violent and racially charged language when he suggested that Governor Paterson get “a cowboy hat and a shotgun” to deal with an issue on the Seneca Nation reservation.
“We understand that the State of New York and the Senecas are having a disagreement about tax policy, but legal disagreements between governments require responsible leadership and diplomacy and not reckless calls for violence,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI, and the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. “It is insulting that a tribal government defending its legal rights today is threatened with the brutalities of the past. I have asked Mayor Bloomberg to apologize for his choice of words and to return the discourse to the level of civility that we all deserve.”
In a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, NCAI President Jefferson Keel formally requested a meeting with the Mayor. The letter outlined the organization’s position and expressed the importance of leaders embracing positive change and intergovernmental partnerships. The text of the letter is included below.
August 18, 2010
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
The National Congress of American Indians is the oldest and largest national organization advocating for the interests of tribal governments and American Indian and Alaska Native people. As President, I am writing to let you know how terribly disappointed we were with your suggestion that Governor Paterson get “a cowboy hat and a shotgun” to deal with an issue on the Seneca Nation reservation. I believe you owe an apology not only to Native people and the Seneca Nation, but also to the citizens of the United States for your statements.
The cowboys and Indians stories of the Wild West are a part of our history, but they are a dramatized and dishonorable part. They are propaganda and myths that were used to justify the westward expansion of the U.S. Military and settlers into tribal territories that were guaranteed by treaties. They were excuses for brutal massacres of Native American men, women, and children who stood in the way of Manifest Destiny.
It is particularly offensive that you revisited these derogatory stereotypes in a current dispute over tobacco taxes. The United States has turned away from its anti-Native past and today the treaties and rights of tribal governments are respected in the Nation’s courts, the White House, and the halls of Congress. The Seneca Nation is defending its right to govern its treaty-established territory and maintain a tax policy that promotes jobs and creates revenue. It is insulting that a tribal government defending its legal rights today is threatened with the brutalities of the past. We understand that the State of New York and the Seneca Nation are having a disagreement about tax policy, but legal disagreements between governments require responsible leadership and diplomacy and not reckless calls for violence.
I am requesting a meeting to discuss this with you in person. There is always an opportunity for leaders to embrace positive change and intergovernmental partnerships that benefit all of our citizens. I thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
President, National Congress of American Indians