Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation slams Donald Trump for 'bigoted' attacks

Members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation welcomed the Hokule'a Native Hawaiian canoe to their homeland in Mystic, Connecticut, in June 2016. Photo from MPTN / Facebook

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is calling out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his repeated attacks on Indian people.

The real estate mogul's incendiary comments are extremely personal to members of the Connecticut tribe, whose ancestors survived wars, massacres and slavery. During the 1990s, he often questioned their legitimacy and even told a Congressional committee that the Pequots "don't look like Indians to me."

But while the presumptive GOP has left the gaming industry after bankruptcies and other failures, he hasn't shied from race-related insults. Trump's presidential campaign has been marked by the repeated use of "Pocahontas" as a slur, a tactic that has encouraged his supporters to disseminate stereotypical images and engage in "war whoops" and other questionable behaviors at rallies.

"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," the tribe said in a statement on Thursday. "Mr. Trump and his supporters' words and actions are highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory, and are no laughing matter."

Top Republicans in Congress have indeed called on Trump to stop engaging in race-related discourse. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation who is one of the highest-ranking GOP leaders in the House, said describing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), an outspoken critic of the presidential hopeful, as "Pocahontas" is insulting.

“He needs to quit using language like that,” Cole told The Washington Post. "It’s pejorative, and you know, there’s plenty of things that he can disagree with Elizabeth Warren over, this is not something that should, in my opinion, ever enter the conversation."

At the same time, GOP figures like Cole, who is one of just two enrolled tribal members in Congress, have refused to back away from the man at the top of their ticket. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the Speaker of the House, condemned Trump's remarks about a federal judge as a "textbook definition of a racist comment" yet continues to stand by his endorsement of the candidate.

Trump himself shows no signs of restraint. In addition to labeling Warren as "racist" due to her claims of Indian ancestry, he's employed strong language about women, immigrants and people of the Muslim faith throughout his campaign.

As a result, two-thirds of respondents to a Washington Post - ABC News poll consider him to be "unfairly biased" and about an equal number believe he is unqualified to serve as president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 6, 2016, and defended his use of an image that originated on an anti-Semitic, White supremacist website. Photo from realDonaldTrump / Twitter

The controversy continued as Trump lashed out against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with a questionable post on his Twitter account over the weekend. In describing her as "Crooked" -- an apparent reference to her use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State -- he posted an image featuring a star symbol that originated on an anti-Semitic, White supremacist website.

Trump quickly deleted the post on Saturday evening and replaced it with another that featured a circle instead of the six-pointed star that is typically associated with the Jewish faith. He disavowed accusations of being anti-Semitic but has since told crowds at his rallies that the original image shouldn't have been removed from his account.

"They took the star down," Trump said in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday, referring to the actions of his campaign aides. "I said, ‘Too bad, you should have left it up.’ I would rather have defended it."

Trump is set to claim his party's presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, which starts on July 18. Neither the candidate nor the party have so far have said anything about Indian policy but their platform has included Indian Country in the past -- the 2014 document noted that the federal government has a "unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility" with tribes.

"These obligations have not been sufficiently honored," the platform read. "The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades; we must reverse that trend."

"Ineffective federal programs deprive American Indians of the services they need, and long-term failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself," it continued.

The 2008, 2004 and 2000 platforms included similar language.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Committee, is in charge of the platform and is well-versed in tribal issues. The co-chair is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who has enjoyed amicable relations with tribes in a state that is is home to the second largest population of Native Americans in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 27, 2016. Photo from Facebook

While some tribal members like Cole are registered Republicans, a few prominent members have already abandoned their party, at least for this cycle. John Berrey, the chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, endorsed Clinton with a statement that took a swipe at Trump without mentioning him by name.

"Moving forward, we need a president who will be inclusive and reach out to all people," Berrey said in May. "We need a president who has the experience and ability to bring the nation together and work as a team for the betterment of all, regardless of race, income or gender."

Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and the treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians, endorsed Clinton in March despite his long affiliation with the GOP.

The Democratic National Convention takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 25-28. So far, five tribes have donated more than $500,000 for the event.

According to the Associated Press, Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler is a delegate to the convention and has endorsed Clinton.

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