ICYMI: Gianforte Insulted Montana’s Indian People

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?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Where was this address given and to whom? Sounds something like DJT’s address ostensibly for African Americans but given to a white audience. I tweeted then that he would maybe address NA’s from his golf club in Scotland.

    • Spot ON, T-rump and ‘G’ are both TONE deaf….fyi, SCOTLAND did NOT want to leave the UK Donald DUCK, you twit (as Brits call him), and he should know that as his mother emigrated from SCOTLAND during the Great Depression and TOOK a job from an out of work American if T-Rump’s anti-world argument would hold….

  • I believe Gianforte’s arrogance stems from his belief that American Indians don’t vote. I hope they prove him wrong.

  • Perhaps Gianforte and his family need to move to a reservation and experience reservation life first hand and see how well he fares.

  • I guess it is all in how close you are to the subject. We have businesses springing up everywhere using the free advertising on facebook – food vendors, restaurants, auto detailing, website design, custom craftwork -using their heads and talents just as my father’s generation did and they did not have “handouts.” For TWENTY FIVE YEARS we ran a custom trail riding business that brought in people from ALL OVER THE WORLD and we enjoyed them all. It is as it is everywhere – look for the good and you will find it! And in EVERY WORLD the opposite is true as well.

    • But you’re not Native, right? So kind hard to white splain to Natives how they should live their lives. Ever been discriminated against? Thought not. You see, when you’re white, you’re always right! Right?

  • Montanas Native American reservations have much higher suicide, burglary, alchoholism and and lower life expectancy than the rest of Montana. Is he so wrong in that the federal gov/bullock administration has not made a good solution for these historically oppressed people by making a system of dependence? Also my friends from crow country told me these unfortunate realities. I am white but feel this situation was not created by my generation. True harmony occurs when people have a purpose in life, not a tribal check to wait for.

    • History is lost on you, my friend. See, that’s why you need a candidate who is actually from Montana. You simply can’t move here and pretend to know anything about Montana. It just doesn’t happen no matter HOW much money you have. Simple solutions only come from simpletons. Things are just a wee bit more complicated than what Gianforte has said. See, not only does he not KNOW anything about Native Americans, he doesn’t even suspect anything! I’m sure that he’s met lots of Native Americans over there in Bozo land. Last I heard, it was flooded with natives! Pow wows every night. Lots of singing and dancing. Oh, and fry bread. Lots of little yuppie fry bread restaurants popping up all over the place. Indian tacos too!

      Yup. GG’s seen it all down there!……………..or at least he thinks he has!

      • Having taught high school on the crow reservation and lived in Montana all my life of nearly 60 years I agree with much of what he says. Oh and I am also native. The reservations are worse than ghettos and the crime and drugs and corruption is what keeps much of the native population in poverty and unable to succeed.

        • Yes but, I hope that you didn’t teach history. BTW, no one is forced to stay on the reservation. Name me just ONE treaty the white man kept with the Indian. Just one. That’s it. That’s all. So, why would any Native think that the white man will keep the social contract?

          I too taught near the rez, Hardin, and everywhere I taught I had Native kids. And I saw the horrible racism first hand. You taught at Prior, right? For that is the only crow high school that I know of.

          A history lesson for GG.


          • p.s. I have worked closely with Native people on environmental issues for the last thirty years. They are amazing. Their relationship with the Earth is powerful. And we must follow their lead if we are to provide a sustainable future for our children as well.

            And their power and spirit comes from their culture, sometime a white boy from Jersey could never begin to comprehend. Why? ‘Cause it’s damn hard to go on a vision quest on the Jersey shore! Or maybe a Walmart parking lot.

            We’re all Native Americans now, and guys like GG made that happen. He’s a bad man. Greed, mean spirited, and selfish, and self-righteous NONE of which are Native values.

            Watch at least the song during the closing five minutes of this video to see real power and spirituality. Funny, but I don’t see no bald headed dude from Jersey singing there!


            • Wonderful people. Some of the best I have ever known. The aforementioned problems however are real and blaming other people’s attitudes (racism) is not the solution or the problem.

              • Yes but, my point is that FIRST one must at least understand the problem. You do, and I do. But Gianforte hasn’t a clue. That’s all I’m saying.

                And one doesn’t have a clue unless you’ve lived here a long time or grown up here in Montana. That disqualifies GG from even having an opinion on the issue. Remember, that opinions are like a**holes. Everyone has one. But that don’t make it right. He embarrasses himself and insults Native Americans every time he opens his mouth on the issue.

                Not only that, he reinforces stereotypes and sends subtle and not so subtle messages to the racists out there. And that’s just pure bullshit.

                He’s wrong for Montana.

  • I am Native American and probebly not going to vote for this guy purely on his stance of land issues and hunting access.
    with that said he has a point… it is time for tribal people and officials to start working towards a better comunity and infrastructure… and if you can’t get the fuck out

    • Vince, I like your input. Also, beware of the usual twisted political rhetoric based on emotional intimidation and not the facts as reported by the Missouian: “Gov. Steve Bullock and Democratic organizers took aim at Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte on Monday after an anonymous liberal blog surfaced …….” and “The incident provided fodder for Democrats who sought to extend their narrative……..”

      Makes you want to vote for Gianforte just so you don’t show support for this type of tactics.

      • Are you kidding me?! If you really think that GG and the Republicans don’t use the same kind of bull crap mud slinging, than you need to pull your head out of your bung.

        The air plane, Bullock having an affair? Give me a break.

        Greg Gianforte has no idea what it’s like to struggle in his life. Yeah he worked hard for his money, but he came from money, he is money. He is a joke.

        I hope he decides to run for Governor again and Brian Schweitzer kicks his rump.

  • Whoa, wait, what?? Did he REALLY say that? Why yes he did! GG said that the reason the rez doesn’t prosper is because of a “lack of nepotism”! That’s surely what the tribes need is more nepotism, right? Methinks that GG ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer! I think maybe some online English classes might be in order for the smartest man in Montana! His cultural language skills are lacking!

  • of course I would favor life long politicians like Bullock and the past administration based on their success rather than a very successful businessman and his ability to pick the right team members……..not….

    • Right you ARE, mr. bill. GG is the smartest dude in the room! Oh sure, he has NO clue as to what the word nepotism means, but what the heck. He’s a computer nerd! And we all know that computer nerds are the most well-rounded folks out there, right? Can’t expect a c nerd to speaka the English very well, for they speak their special computer languages! No need for English.

      And speakin’ of languages, GG is kinda like the Native Americans himself. For you see, he’s also a code talker, just like the Navajo. Yup.

      When GG says property rights, we all know what THAT means. Rich dudes cutting off public access, corporations stealing all the resources they can, and the violation and theft of all Native rights and treaty claims. Hmm. Seems to me though that treaty rights naturally precede property rights, no?

      “Free markets”. Well, GG means free in the sense that corporations should be allowed to steal what they can without any oversight what so ever! Free from regulation. Free to abuse anyone they want to. But what you never hear GG say is just markets! In other words, markets that are fair for everyone, not just his corporate buddies. In other words, nothing held in common for the common good. No public NUTHIN’! And that’s just wrong. Justice is a word that GG will never use.

      No “culture of success”. More code talk for dirty, lazy, shiftless Indians! Heck, anyone from Montana recognizes this code talk instantly. Native Americans don’t prosper because they’re just plain assed lazy! Do away with the reservations and they will thrive. Make them free and watch them run! Well, GG is simply an outta state moron with no sense of history. It comes from being a privileged white bald headed dude who’s never been discriminated against in his entire life.

      The ability to “keep the fruits of your labor”. Not sure what GG means by this, but it appears to be more racist sh*t against the concept of the reservation. I mean, what fruit is he talking about? The Crows not being able to dig up all their coal? Seems that many of the other tribes are not in a big hurry to destroy their lands for GG’s corporate buddies!

      “Consistent rule of law”. Even MORE racist sh*t. Wild drunken Indians are incapable of governing themselves. Another reason to turn all the land over to GG’s fascist pals! Actually, according to GG, everything would be fine and dandy if we just eliminated the rezes altogether! Happy, successful, law abiding Indians free to roam all over the free markets in search of that mythical success! Works for me!

      And finally, a “lack of nepotism”. Why? Because GG is a friggin’ MORON! In fact, he reminds me a lot of that other Eyetalian guy that thought he was the smartest guy in the room!


      • Well, lets see how the Native American”s vote. Four more years of the same?

        And the usual twisted political rhetoric based on emotional intimidation and not the facts as reported by the Missouian: “Gov. Steve Bullock and Democratic organizers took aim at Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte on Monday after an anonymous liberal blog surfaced …….” and “The incident provided fodder for Democrats who sought to extend their narrative……..”

        Find out the read facts.

        Makes you want to vote for Gianforte just so you don’t show support for this type of tactics.

        • I don’t know what you’re talking about, Bill. Could you provide a link? BTW, I seriously doubt that the Native vote will go to GG.

          • LK, you tell me? Who do you think the Native American’s will vote for that may provide the best odds economic improvement. with 4 more years of Bullock or a very successful businessman GG?

            • Ya got me again, Bill. For you see, I’m not really educated in the school of business. But wait! THESE guys are. And this is what they have to say about guys like our very own GG.


              I, like all the Natives I know, will be voting for Bullock. We like real people, not outta state arrogant yahoos like Mr. I-was-only-joking-when-I-cut-off-access! I’m thinkin’ that maybe G-O-D told him to block off access so that his fundi pals could go down to the river to pray and take a nice cold holy dunkin’! Baptized in the privacy of GG’s own river!

  • Here it comes! I knew that this was coming. The fascists to NOT care one whit what you think. They WILL use violence to get their way and they don’t care who sees it. Dogs on peaceful protestors? Why not?! Indiscriminate use of pepper spray by thugs on people? Why not?! These are NOT cops. They are thugs! Goons, just like in the old days. Goons for hire. There’s an endless supply!

    Now, where does it go from here? Again, I don’t want to think about it. But I know that the Indian people will NOT stand down at Standing Rock, for they are in the right. This pipeline is illegal. It was “fast tracked” to avoid any scrutiny through the normal permitting process. And now, the fascists are gonna try whatever they think will work to continue, for once it’s in the ground, they win.

    But that ain’t gonna happen without a bloody fight. Oh sure, they might build it, but that will be at a huge cost.


  • The other Bill. LK, Montana gets 80 million a year from pipeline property taxes. Some eastern Montana counties have very low property tax because of this.

  • I find it very juvenile for so many to become irate and jealous over anyone that has become successful and has money!! How racist and insulting to use the words “Rich white men”! Funny thing is that several tribes have endorsed Mr Gianforte! The Crow and Island Mountain Developement on the Ft Belknap tribe have! So ease give accurate information otherwise you are just spreading FAKE NEWS! Proud to be a lifetime Montanan!!!

    • Actually, Wendy, the Crow Tribe did not endorse Gianforte. Their chairman gave a personal endorsement, but he did not speak for the tribe. Gianforte is lying.

      And I’ll reserve my concern about racism for someone who insults Montana native peoples like Gianforte did.

      Thanks for the comment.

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