Connecticut tribal leaders speak out against Trump’s remarks

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HARTFORD  — Leaders of the tribe that owns the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut are speaking out over past remarks by Donald Trump that they describe as bigoted, and current campaign rallies they say disrespect Native Americans.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation were dismayed at yet another insult from the presumptive Republican nominee.

"As the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Trump and a number of his supporters continue to disrespect Native Americans at campaign rallies by mocking Indian culture and using fake war chants," a Pequot statement read. They also referenced a comment Donald Trump made referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), a Hillary Clinton supporter, as "Pocahontas" because of her claims that she is part Native American.

Pequot members also remain bitter over congressional testimony in 1993 in which Trump said that the Pequots "don't look like Indians" to him. This occurred at a hearing while Trump was fighting for a casino in for a casino in Bridgeport. At the time, Foxwoods was the only casino in the state.

But, why did the tribe wait more than two decades to voice their displeasure?

Rodney Butler, the chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation said that Trump needs to be held accountable because "he is no longer just a businessman. He's running for the highest elected office in the country."

Butler, who is also delegate for Hillary Clinton at this month's Democratic National Convention, said, "If Mrs. Clinton said this, we'd be announcing it as well. And, so, this isn't a D or R issue."

Butler's only real interaction with Mr. Trump was a positive experience, though. The Pequots were showcased on Trump's hit television show, "The Apprentice," several years ago.

"We used it two fold. One, to obviously get exposure for our resort. But, also to create exposure for Indian culture and who we are," said Butler.

He never broached the comments from the early 1990s during "The Apprentice" taping, though.

"It wasn't appropriate. And, he was respectful," said Butler, who concedes Trump's comments in '93 were, in part, a way to position his commercial interests. "I mean, since then, he has partnered with tribes on commercial gaming ventures. In fact, our cousins, he partnered with them, the Eastern Pequots."

In a statement Thursday, the Pequots said that Trump and his supporters also show disrespect by using fake war chants at rallies. The tribe called such words and actions "highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory" and "no laughing matter."

Here's the full statement:

For centuries, the Mashantucket Pequots have existed peacefully on our lands in the northeastern United States, but in the mid-1600's, our ancestors were targeted for extermination by English colonists.  Their failure to destroy us ignited a passionate legacy of strength and survival--one that burns brightly to this day within the hearts of our people.  It is the history of that legacy that compels us now to speak out against Donald Trump's bigoted comments.

In response to gaming competition from Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mr. Trump publicly attacked us at a Congressional hearing in 1993; stating that our tribal members “...don't look like Indians” to him.  In recent weeks, video footage from that hearing has resurfaced in national news.  Mr. Trump’s statement was not only ignorant, but also demonstrates his proclivity for injecting racial stereotypes into national political discourse.

As the presumptive Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump and a number of his supporters continue to disrespect Native Americans at campaign rallies by mocking Indian culture and using fake war chants.  Mr. Trump and his supporters' words and actions are highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory, and are no laughing matter.  For this reason, we call on Mr. Trump and his supporters to stop using racist language and offensive actions against Native Americans and all others who reflect the diversity of our country.

For more information on the 2016 election, click here. 

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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