Trump Criticizes Clinton’s ‘Off The Reservation’ Comment, Employs Another Toxic Native Stereotype

By Sameer Rao May 03, 2016

Donald Trump provoked criticism (yet again) for discriminatory remarks. But unlike those previous times, the latest controversy comes from the Republican presidential candidate trying to call out Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton‘s own racially insensitive comments. 

It started on Friday (April 29) when Clinton responded to CNN host Jake Tapper’s question about Trump’s personal attacks against her. "I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak," Clinton said. Her "off the reservation" comment received criticism from many Native people, including Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer and Indian Country Media journalist Ruth Hopkins: 


The Clinton campaign’s political director issued a sort-of-apology for the language choice later that night.


Trump then addressed the comments on CNN Monday (May 2), saying that Clinton’s remarks upset Native Americans and demeaned men:

The way she talks about, "I can handle men, you know, who get off the reservation," I think it’s a very demeaning statement. Now I won’t even bring up the fact that the Indians have gone wild on that statement. You know that, OK. The Indians have said that that statement is a disastrous statement, and they want a retraction. I’m not going to get into that.

Native activist OJ Semans Sr., co-founder of Native voter engagement organization Four Directions, told ThinkProgress that he thought Trump’s response was rooted in racist sterotypes of Native Americans as wild and unruly:

"As for Mr. Trump’s response, his comment was [intentional] and meant as a derogatory remark but not so much made towards Native American Indians but to his base to stereotype of us as ‘going wild,’" he said.

As ThinkProgress reported last September, Trump has previously employed anti-Native rhetoric in business deals with Native-owned casinos:

The most egregious example of this came in 2000 in upstate New York, when Trump began bankrolling an ad campaign to stop a casino from being built in the Catskills. As the The New York Times reported last month, the local newspaper ads showed "hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia… [and] warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town."

"Are these the kind of neighbors we want?" the ad asked, referring to the St. Regis Mohawks Tribe at Akwesasne, which was planning to build the casino. "The St. Regis Mohawk record of criminal activity is well-documented."