Senate remark stirs racial strife
- The following article appeared on page A20 of the Saturday 23 March 2003
edition of The Arizona Republic and is credited to Robert Gehrke of the
Associated Press. As someone who once used the chorus to an old heavy
metal song called "Bang Your Head" in reference to an Orthodox Jewish
ritual conducted at the Wailing Wall, I'm certainly not in a position to
condemn people for poking fun at religious rituals. I would say, in the
way of comradely advice, that advocacy groups among the Natives would do
far better to concentrate on addressing the very real and material problems
of economic development, employment, quality health care, substance abuse,
and discrimination rather than wasting their energies on answering real or
perceived slights to traditional religion and traditional culture. It won't
do to go through the 21st Century stuck in the 19th.
"RAIN DANCE" REMARK ASSAILED
Washington--Uta Senator Bob Bennet suggested a way to avoid serious forest
fires in the drought-gripped West: Have the only American Indian senator do
a rain dance.
Bennett said the comment was not meant to be offensive, and Senator Ben
Nighthorse Campbell, the subject of the remark, said he took no offense.
But an American Indian activist said Bennett was insensitive to make light of
a ritual sacred to many tribes.
During a hearing Thursday on next year's forest-firefighting budget, Bennett
noted the drought in much of the West and told Forest Service Chief Dale
Bosworth, "Aside from doing a rain dance and making it rain--we'll assign
that to Senator Campbell--I'm not sure what you can do."
Campbell, Republican of Colorado, said that he believed the comment came in a
moment of levity and that Bennett may not have understood the significance of
rain prayers and dances to American tribes.
Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morningstar Institute, an Indian advocacy
group, said you "can't get much more offensive than insulting a religious
"I was unaware it was a sacred redual. It's part of the folklore of the
West," Bennett said.