UPDATE: Legislator Says GOP Wants Indians Dead


Phil Drake with the Montana Watchdog spent his Saturday working at the legislature and has this:

An American Indian lawmaker who reportedly accused Republicans of wanting Indians dead apologized for her comments Saturday and asked for “forgiveness.”

At the beginning of Saturday’s House session, Pease-Lopez apologized to the legislative body about her remarks.
“I beg your forgiveness,” she said.

House Majority Leader Tom McGillvray, R-Billings, who had criticized her comments Friday, said Saturday that he knew her apology to be “heartfelt” and “sincere.”

“We are all in Helena because we are passionate people,” he said and urged the representatives to “keep the dignity of the House” as they do business.

After her Democratic colleagues cheered her remarks, a State Rep. from Missoula said “we got your back, sister,” and the House Minority Leader said he should have been there fighting alongside Pease-Lopez- I can only wonder:  when will the rest of the Caucus apologize?

PRIOR POST Aaron Flint posted on January 29, 2011 12:08

Meanwhile- forget about learning more lessons in civility, now we are pushing into the realm of more lessons in absurdity.

Lee Newspaper’s Mike Dennison reports from the Capitol, where one Democratic lawmaker says that Republicans would be happy if the state’s American Indians were dead. 

Racial tensions boiled over Friday afternoon at the Montana Capitol, as an Indian lawmaker ripped into House Republicans for their support of an amendment on a vote-by-mail bill.

“I feel so much hatred (coming) from your caucus,” Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, D-Billings, her voice breaking, said to a group of Republican lawmakers sitting in on a House Democrats’ caucus meeting. “I feel like if it was up to you, we’d all be dead!”

“But we’re going to keep having babies and continue to live and thrive … no matter how much you try to oppress us.”

House Democrats broke into applause as Pease-Lopez finished, and Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, called out: “We got your back, sister!”

I would have expected House Democrats to roundly call on their colleague to tone it down, instead- they applaud?  Furthermore, I was surprised to see the reaction of the Democrats House Leader Jon Sesso:

During the meeting, House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, also apologized to fellow Democrats for not speaking out against the amendment on the floor Thursday.

“It will be the last time that I stay seated in the face of oppression,” he said. “Please accept my apology for not being there.”

In an e-mail I received Friday, one Republican legislator summed it up this way:

“With the increased attention on civility in politics, we are disappointed and disheartened by the shameful comments from Representative Pease-Lopez and the ensuing applause from the Democrat caucus. Numerous Native Americans and Native groups testified against this bill in committee. Their testimony influenced many members to vote against the bill. To claim that the GOP caucus, which includes several Native Americans, would want an entire people killed is entirely untrue and deeply offensive.” -House Majority Leader Tom McGillvray

What is borderline comical about the charge from Rep. Pease-Lopez, is the fact that she levelled the charge over mail-in ballots.  Dennison also had this:

Pease-Lopez was upset over Republicans’ support Thursday for an amendment to House Bill 130, which would have allowed all-mail voting in Montana. The amendment struck language from the bill that called for special outreach to Indian voters and college students.

“Special” outreach?  How about everyone gets equal outreach?  Furthermore, she seems so passionate about mail-in ballots.  I guess Pease-Lopez failed to listen to the very tribes she claims to represent with this headline: Indian Reservations Concerned Over Mail-In Ballots

Not everyone is convinced that a mail-in ballot for all of Montana’s major elections is an idea whose time has come.

Janet Robideau, of Indian People’s Action in Montana, said Thursday that she would like to see more work done on the concept before the Legislature passes a bill to implement it.

The House voted in favor of House Bill 130 on a preliminary vote Thursday. But Robideau said her previous experience in voter identification, registration and mobilization among the state’s Indians showed her how difficult it can be to contact those voters in an election.

If we truly want to do what’s best for our Indian Reservations here in Montana, I think we need to listen to some national Indian leaders who had this to say in an AP report by Matthew Daly: 

Indian Leaders also Want Energy Development (Matthew Daly, AP)

To achieve energy independence, the United States should focus on tribal lands with vast untapped supplies of coal, natural gas, oil and wind, the leader of the nation’s largest Indian organization said Thursday.

Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said tribal lands contain about 10 percent of U.S. energy resources, but provide less than 5 percent of national energy production. He blamed bureaucratic obstacles that prevent tribes from generating an estimated $1 trillion in revenue from energy sources.

Keel cited at least 49 bureaucratic steps in the Interior Department alone that deter energy development. He called for Congress and the Obama administration to unleash the potential of Indian energy resources throughout the nation.

Keel, who also serves as lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said too many tribal homes lack access to electricity and affordable heat. He called energy development the best opportunity many tribal communities have to create jobs and improve their quality of life.

I guess we are to assume, by Pease-Lopez’ own definition, that folks like her and others stifling natural resource production on tribal lands would simply be happy if folks on the reservation were dead too?  No, we should not.  That would be absurd, as were her remarks that so far have been applauded by her fellow caucus members in the House.   

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