Campbell criticized for radio talk
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FEBRUARY 8, 2001

Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Senate's only Native American member, took to the radio waves on Wednesday but not everyone was happy with his performance.

Appearing on the nationally broadcast program Native America Calling, Campbell was set to participate in a one-hour question and answer session with host Harlan McKosato and interested callers from throughout the country. However, the Northern Cheyenne tribal member departed halfway through the program due to another scheduled meeting.

Still, his half-hour stint was not without some heated exchanges. Guy Lopez, one of several Indian leaders who called on the Senate to reject Gale Norton's confirmation as Secretary of Interior, questioned Campbell's support of the controversial Cabinet member.

During her nine-year tenure as Colorado's Attorney General, Norton signed several legal briefs asking the Supreme Court to set limits on tribal sovereignty. But Campbell discounted the idea that Norton was anti-tribal and said she was merely working at the "directive of the Governor."

"You're wrong, its as simple as that," Campbell told Lopez. "The bottom line is her record is good from my perspective and I'm glad she's in there."

"I've got a full plate back here and I don't need to get into arguments over the air with someone who doesn't know her record like I do," a seemingly agitated Campbell added.

Lopez, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples' Endangered Species Program at the Center for Biological Diversity, didn't appear fazed by Campbell's remarks, though. After the show, the Crow Creek Sioux tribal member said Campbell is ignoring the "well-documented, anti-Indian record of Gale Norton" and hoped he would keep in mind issues raised by himself and others.

Cinda Hughes, a staff member in the Oklahoma Senate, was less optimistic. After Campbell departed the program, Hughes said she was "very disturbed" about his conversation with Lopez.

"It was indicative of his arrogance and indicative of his unwillingness to listen to any other opinion that he has," said Hughes, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. "That probably is how he got so far amongst the Caucasians in Washington, DC."

Besides defending Norton, Campbell yesterday said President George W. Bush supports tribal sovereignty. Tribal leaders have been skeptical of Bush ever since he suggested that state's rights "reign supreme" when it comes to tribes but Campbell said those remarks had been taken out of context.

Campbell also addressed another hot topic on the show. The sponsor of a bill that would rid the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its federal recognition, Campbell said other Senators have jumped into the debate in response to "disgruntled" citizens who are "angry" that tribes, like the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, have become wealthy due to gaming.

"I had one of my Ute friends tell me once: 'You know, those non-Indians liked us better when we were poor,'" recounted Campbell. "That may be true. There might be people up the road in Connecticut who are just jealous or something."

Native America Calling has posted an archived version of Campbell's show on their website.

Relevant Links:
Native America Calling -
Stop Gale Norton -

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell -

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Survey: Norton bad for tribes (Politics 2/6)