Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California). Photo: Loretta Sanchez

Rep. Sanchez apologizes for insensitive remarks and gesture

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California) apologized on Sunday for making an "offensive" statement and gesture about Native Americans.

Sanchez made a whooping noise and held her hand in front of her mouth during a reception held during the California Democratic Party convention on Saturday. A handful of videos posted online captured the encounter between the newly-announced U.S. Senate candidate and a group of Indian Americans.

“I said something offensive, and for that I sincerely apologize," Sanchez later said at the convention, according to news reports.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D). Photo: Kamala Harris

Sanchez at first tried to avoid the controversy and was seen rushing away from reporters who asked about the exchange. During her subsequent apology, she said Native voters are aware of her support for Native issues.

“And they know what many of you don’t know -- that like so many Mexican Americans, I am proudly Native American on my mother’s side,” said Sanchez, The Los Angeles Times reported.

During her 18 years in the House, Sanchez has co-sponsored several pieces of Indian legislation affecting health, gaming and federal recognition. Her district does not include any reservations but she has never introduced any major Indian bills despite coming from a state with more than 100 tribes.

"She knows better, and we are very disappointed," Marc Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, told freelance writer Adriana Maestas.

Sanchez's new campaign has suffered from stumbles. An announcement of her candidacy to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) was inadvertently released to the media but she later confirmed her bid.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose mother is Indian American, is also running for the open seat. She criticized Sanchez after being told about the remarks.

“It is shocking and there is no place for that in our public discourse,” Harris told reporters, according to The Huffington Post.

Harris was elected to the attorney general post in 2011. Since then, she has taken some questionable stances on Indian issues -- just last year she submitted a brief in a
lawsuit that seeks to redefine the boundaries of the reservation of the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

Her office also has opposed at least 15 land-into-trust applications, Dave Palermo reported on Pechanga.net. She's currently representing the state in a closely-watched case that questions the status of land that was placed in trust for the Big Lagoon Rancheria in 1994.

Get the Story:
Loretta Sanchez apologizes for mocking American Indians (The Sacramento Bee 5/18)
Democratic congresswoman apologizes for ethnically loaded gesture (CNN 5/18)
Democratic convention: Loretta Sanchez apologizes for Native American 'war cry' (The Los Angeles Times 5/18)
After 'war cry' fiasco, Loretta Sanchez doesn't rule out another run for Congress (The Los Angeles Times 5/18)
Rough start to California Senate bid with Native American blunder by Rep. Sanchez (The Wall Street Journal 5/18)
Senate Candidate Loretta Sanchez Makes Disparaging Gesture About Native Americans (The Huffington Post 5/17)
Did Rep. Loretta Sanchez make a questionable gesture about Native Americans? (KCRA 5/17)
Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez appears to disparage American Indians (The Sacramento Bee 5/16)

Note: The following video is no longer available.

YouTube: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez Insults Native Americans While Talking to Indian Americans

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