Donald Trump’s rumored meeting with members of the Navajo Nation during his swing through Arizona will not occur, a staffer for the nation said Friday.
And that may be just as well, given Trump’s history of disturbing and offensive statements about Native Americans.
The Associated Press previously reported that the Trump campaign had reached out to the nation for a potential meeting Saturday.
It was not meant to be.
“There was never a commitment to visit… it’s not happening,” the staffer, who asked not to be identified, told The Daily Beast.
Like on many other matters, Trump has a long track record of distasteful statements and gestures towards Native Americans. It’s another signal of why Republicans who hope he will change are likely to be left wanting. Trump’s campaign did not respond to request for comment.
Trump has raised eyebrows recently with his derisive references to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” which many Native Americans find abhorrent. When she ran for office, Warren was criticized for identifying as a minority during her academic career, citing Native American heritage. Warren, an outspoken critic of Trump, has been unable to provide evidence of her purported Cherokee ancestry, nor could genealogists.
Trump’s hostile relationship with Native Americans appears to have begun with his involvement in the casino industry, when his gaming businesses competed with tribe-owned casinos in the 1990s and 2000s.
His competitors, unlike him, operated tax free—something he objected to strenuously.
“I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations,” Trump said in June 1993, on shock jock Don Imus’s radio show.
He later questioned whether some of the people who had opened casinos which competed with his were actually of Native American heritage: “I think if you’ve ever been up there, you would truly say that these are not Indians.”
“Organized crime is rampant on Indian reservations,” Trump bellowed during testimony before Congress a few months later, according to a contemporaneous report. “It’s going to blow. It’s just a matter of time.”
In many ways, his rhetoric before that House subcommittee in 1993 mirrors that of his views on Muslims today.
Referring to crime on Native American land, Trump said he refused to be “politically correct” and added, “What is happening on the Indian reservations is known by the Indians to a large extent.
“If you knew some of the characters that you are dealing with, I think they would be afraid to do anything about [organized crime],” Trump added, implying that Native Americans didn’t have the backbone to stand up to criminals.
For good measure, he implored the overflow crowd of onlookers: “Go up to Connecticut,” he said, “and you look” at the Mashantucket Pequots.
“They don’t look like Indians to me,” he remarked, according to the Hartford Courant.
“In my 19 years I have been on this committee, I have never seen such irresponsible remarks,” shot back Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California. “You have cast on the Indians in this country a blanket indictment that organized crime is rampant. You don’t know this; you suspect this.”
An FBI section chief who appeared at the same hearing said his office found no evidence of criminal activity in Indian gaming. And other federal law enforcement officials said they had found no evidence that organized crime had infiltrated Indian gaming operations.
In 2000 Trump and his aides acknowledged that he had been the financier behind newspaper ads railing against casino gambling in New York, as the state considered a proposed Indian casino. The businessman agreed to pay $250,000 in penalties, and was forced to issue a public apology after failing to disclose to the state lobbying commission that he had financed seven advertisements that appeared under the auspices of the plainly-named Institute for Law and Society.
“Under a dark photograph showing hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia, the newspaper advertisement warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town,” The New York Times reported.
Trump also railed against the name change to the nation’s tallest mountain: in 2015, President Obama restored the historical name of Denali to the mountain formerly referred to as Mount McKinley. Trump called it a “great insult to Ohio,” since President William McKinley had hailed from that state. Denali had been the name that Alaskan Natives had originally called it.
The Navajo Nation may have initially reasoned that a visit could temper Trump’s worst instincts. But if history is any guide, Trump will be Trump—with all the ugliness that entails.