NAJA’s open letter to New York City Mayor Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Source:


The Native American Journalists Association sent out an open letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg via e-mail today asking for an apology for statements he made in a radio interview on August 13th. The Mayor offended the Seneca Indian Nation with his remarks suggesting Governor Paterson collect disputed cigarette taxes while wearing a cowboy hat and holding a shotgun. According to the NYDailyNews, “the Senecas are asking a federal judge to block Paterson’s push to collect state cigarette taxes sold on reservations next month. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser indicated there is no reason to apologize. “The Supreme Court has ruled several times that tribes have no right to sell cigarettes in violation of state tax laws,” he said.”

Read more here.

Here is what Bloomberg said in the interview:

“I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, you know, ‘Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thurway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips — the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.'”

To hear the entire interview, click here.

Here is the letter NAJA sent out today:

August 20, 2010

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

The use of the Cowboy and Indian theme when describing how to deal with the tribes in the state of New York demeans all Native American tribes as a people. By enforcing this stereotype you also perpetuate an image of the past that certainly does not pertain to the tribes that reside in your area.

It is apparent you need to open up lines of communication with the tribes to regain some sort of diplomacy. It would also be important to understand what tribal sovereignty is.

Tribes in the area of New York were there before the state was what is known now as New York. It is astonishing that you would take the cavalier attitude of showing them a shotgun to make tribes do what you or your state wants them to do.

Inflicting violence on any ethnic group is not prudent. Even your own faith of being Jewish, would know this course of action is wrong and certainly not humane.

I ask you issue an apology not only to your area tribes but to all tribal nations for suggesting violence against Native Americans.


Rhonda LeValdo
President, Native American Journalists Association

Jeff Harjo, Executive Director
Native American Journalists Association
OU Gaylord College
395 W Lindsey
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-4201
405 325-9008

And, for more on the history of this battle (because this is not the only time the Senecas have had to fight to protect their sovereignty)…visit here.


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