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Sean Duffy’s ‘toxic’ comments about Native Americans draw strong response from Native group

Fox News

Last month, Sean Duffy made an appearance on Fox News that deeply offended Native American advocates.

Duffy is northern Wisconsin’s former Congressman and a potential candidate for Governor.

Duffy and his wife, Rachel, spoke to Fox News Primetime host Jesse Watters about their perceptions of Native history and current tribal culture. They compared the acts of Native Americans to the acts of European colonizers in a discussion about rebranding of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Now, a Native American advocacy group is warning about toxic stereotypes and calling for their firing.

Duffy represented northern Wisconsin in Congress for almost nine years until 2019.

Seven of Wisconsin’s 11 tribal communities are within his former district.

On the October 13 edition of Fox News Primetime, Duffy said this to host Jesse Watters.

“Listen, I had a lot of Native American tribes in my old district in Wisconsin. Good people. Love them. But if we’re going to look at the past, they burned villages, raped women, seized children, took the people they defeated, took their lands, scalped people, Jesse. It was a horrible time all across the globe,” he said.

His wife, fellow Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy, spoke about present-day tribal communities.

“The conditions for Native Americans have everything to do with government dependency, cycles of poverty and alcoholism and family breakdowns,” Campos-Duffy said. “These are things that the Democrats don’t want to talk about.”

Watters commented Democrats were just seeking to send more “slush funds” to reservations and making Native Americans out to be victims.

Crystal Echo Hawk is the founder and CEO of IllumiNative, a national Native advocacy group.

“Honestly, I felt sick. I felt sick, I felt so angry,” Echo Hawk said in an interview with WXPR.

“Enough is enough. I think Native Americans are so tired of non-Native people, particularly white people, in this instance, pushing these constant narratives. In a state like Wisconsin where he came from and he was serving as a representative, where tribes have a big impact…I know tribes and Native peoples in that state are deeply upset by that caricature,” she said.

Research by Echo Hawk’s organization found that 80 percent of Americans know little to nothing about Native Americans.

Some are unsure if Native Americans still exist.

Echo Hawk said widespread lack of knowledge of Native Americans allows toxic stereotypes like those advanced by the Duffys to spread.

“Words matter. These very toxic and dangerous representations, they have real-world consequences in terms of advancing bias and racism against our people,” she said.

Echo Hawk is calling for the Duffys’ firing from Fox News and for better education about Native issues.

Three days after Duffy’s comment, former President Donald Trump called on Duffy to run for Wisconsin Governor in next year’s election.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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