Donald Trump and Federal Indian Policy: Postscript

Written by: Bryan Newland

Primary Source : Turtle Talk , October 31, 2016.

Donald Trump and Federal Indian Policy: Postscript | Turtle Talk

Back in July, I wrote a commentary post titled Donald Trump and Federal Indian Policy, which put some of Trump’s public statements about Indian tribes and American Indians into context vis-a-vis federal Indian policy.  As I explained:

Donald Trump’s most notable comments about Indian tribes – made before the Committee on Natural Resources – reveal that he does not draw the distinction between the racial and political identities of Indian people. His view of the legitimacy of Indian tribes depends on the physical appearance of their members. As he told Don Imus, “it’s just one of those things that we have to straighten out.”

On June 18, 1993, Donald Trump appeared on the Don Imus radio show, Imus in the Morning, to discuss Indian gaming.  The full transcript of Trump’s interview is worth reading in full (it is a short read).  This interview offers a rare window into Trump’s views about Indian tribes, Indian people, and Indian gaming.  Here are a few exchanges:

On the Expansion of Indian Gaming

IMUS: So what is this now?  A bunch of drunken Injuns want to open a casino down there in New Jersey?

TRUMP: Well, it’s a battle that we’re fighting and I think it’s being successfully fought.  A lot of the reservations are being, in some people’s opinion, at least to a certain extent run by organized crime and organized crime elements, as you can imagine.  There’s no protection.  There’s no anything.  And it’s become a joke.  It’s become a laughing joke.  And the politicians around 1987 passed a law where the Indians can have virtually unsupervised casino gaming.  So we’re in there fighting it and I think we’re making a lot go progress.  I think you’ll see some very major things happening over the next couple of months. [NOTE: The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988, and establishes a three-tiered system for the regulation of gaming by tribal agencies, states, and the National Indian Gaming Commission]

On the Sovereign Status of Indian Tribes

TRUMP: They call it the sovereign nation.  They call it a nation, this great sovereign nation, the Indian tribes.  All of a sudden, it’s nations.

Before it wasn’t a nation, before gambling.  Now, it’s this great sovereign nation. We protect, we do this, we do that, but when it comes to gambling, it’s a sovereign nation.

So it’s really a double standard and no taxes are paid.  No supervision’s there, tremendous crime, and most of the Indians don’t want it themselves.  The leaders – you know, all chiefs and no Indians, and the leaders want it for the obvious reason, but I think it’s something that’s going to end or is certainly going to be supervised very, very stringently.

On Tribal Membership 

IMUS: Would there be any reason, if push comes to shove, for you to become a member of these tribes?

TRUMP: Well I think if we lost various things, I would perhaps become an Indian myself….Well, I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.

On Gaming as an “Indian problem”

IMUS: Yeah, but are you getting married?

TRUMP: That might be the most difficult question you’ve asked me so far.  See, the Indian problem is a much simpler problem.  That can be solved.

You can read the entire transcript here: trump-on-imus-1993

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Bryan Newland
Bryan Newland is a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe) in northern Michigan. He is a partner in the law firm of Fletcher Law, PLLC where he represents tribal clients on issues including the regulation of gaming facilities, negotiation of tribal-state gaming compacts, the fee-to-trust process, and leasing of Indian lands. Bryan also serves as the Chief Judge of the Bay Mills Indian Community Tribal Court and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Michigan State University College of Law. In 2008, Bryan served as the Michigan Native Vote Coordinator for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, and was a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team. From 2009 to 2012, he served as Counselor and then Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs. In that capacity, he helped develop the Obama Administration’s policies on Indian gaming and Indian lands, reforming the Department of the Interior’s policy on reviewing tribal-state gaming compacts. He also led a team that reformed the BIA’s Indian leasing regulations and worked with key officials to help enact the HEARTH Act of 2012.