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LANSING, MICHIGAN - The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan are calling for a public apology from Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who used a racial slur against an American Indian lobbyist named James Nye. This last Thursday, at a fundraiser event.
Nye is a tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Nye represents the two tribes, which are opposed to a proposed $245 million casino that would partner the City of Lansing and the Sault Ste. Marie. Lansing is the capital city of Michigan.
Mayor Bernero called Nye "Chief Chicken Little" to people in attendance at the fundraiser. His comments were laced with profanity about Nye. Bernero was apparently was upset about statements made by Nye earlier in the week in opposition to the proposed Indian casino.
“I have been involved for over 12 years in my profession as a lobbyist. I have never been attacked for being Indian during those 12 years until now. I am shocked and appalled,”
Nye told the Native News Network.
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans for an off-reservation casino at the Lansing Center early last week. Lansing is 287 miles that Tribe's government offices.
"Parents with children in attendance were visibly upset by Bernero's behavior. Bernero appeared on stage with a bull's-eye pasted on his back to suggest he is under fire from bows and arrows,"
according to a press release issued today by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.
"We call on Mayor Bernero to issue a public apology, take sensitivity training, and refrain from racially-charged language in the public discourse,"
stated Chief Dennis Kequom of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
“Racial slurs by government officials against Native Americans conjure images of a bygone era of destructive policies that resulted in centuries of genocide and poverty.”
"The mayor's remarks are particularly offensive in light of the fact that he has partnered with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe on his casino aspirations. I call on my fellow tribal chairmen across Indian Country, especially the Sault Tribe chairman, to join me in condemning these vile remarks. A racial slur is not made against not one of us, but all of us,"
said Chief Kequom.
Plan for Off-Reservation Casino at the Lansing Center
Mayor Bernero had not returned a call to the Native News Network at press time.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting a statement from the Mayor Bernero's office, however. In the statement the Mayor says,
"I make no apologies for using strong language against our opponents ", "but I do offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to any and all who were offended by my choice of words."
He said: "My passionate support for Lansing and our casino project may have gotten the better of me, but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponent's attempt to spin it that way. I make no apologies for using strong language against our opponents, who have made some very impertinent remarks about me, but I do offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to any and all who were offended by my choice of words."
posted January 30, 2012 3:55 pm est
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