The native peoples of Montana have some experience with rich white men from back east coming to their territory and telling them they need to change their culture to become successful. It seems history is repeating itself as Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte has expanded his bigoted view of the world from the LGBTQ community to the Indian people who live on Montana’s reservations.
In a recording made in July 2016, Gianforte is heard telling a white audience that the reason for the economic difficulty in Indian country is not because of systemic racism and cultural degradation, nor the failure of state and federal governments to truly offer the assistance Indian country needs. No, the reason the free market isn’t blooming in Indian country, according to Mr. Gianforte is the absence of rule of law, inadequate respect of property rights, nepotism, and a culture that does not celebrate success.
One expects that Mr. Gianforte will come with proposals to mandate that Indian children stop learning their own languages on reservation schools, too, and replacing those with computer coding. The former is just a means of cultural transmission and heritage preservation while the latter is a chance to work for low pay telecommuting from their reservations that often lack decent access to high-speed Internet.
Now, Greg Gianforte didn’t have the courage to tell any actual Native people his real feelings about them and reservation life. While he talks about property rights, he refuses to take a stand on the CSKT Treaty, which restores property rights and boosts economic viability for western tribes. When Gianforte talks to Montana Indian leaders directly, he assures them that, as governor, he will boost prosperity on reservations, but the measure of a bigot is what he says when his target isn’t in the room.
Mr. Gianforte believes that Montana Indian peoples lack the values and culture to become economically successful, raising two important questions: why would Montana re-elect a bigot to Congress and how would Gianforte, if elected, change these issues he sees as obstacles?