Trump tweeted, “Thank YOU Indian Country for being such an IMPORTANT part of the American story! I recently signed 3 bills to support tribal sovereignty…. ….and native culture – S.216/Spokane Tribe, S.256/Native Languages and NDAA Sec. 2870 officially recognizing Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. My great honor to do so!”
After Trump recently mentioned that the late Rep. John Dingell might be “looking up” at his wife, Debbie Dingell, referring that he might be in hell, and no one can forget that he once called Africa “sh**hole countries,” thousands of people Twitter rebelled against his usage of the term Indian country as racist.
While Trump has said numerous off-color comments, and misspelled legal terms while tweeting online, this was not the case with Indian country.
Still, many people on Twitter unaware of the official term expressed their anger and said all of America should be considered Indian country. One user tweeted, “Indian Country,” also known as “the entire United States territory prior to the arrival of Europeans.” Another tweeted, “Trump just referred to Native Americans as “Indian Country.” Sounds deliberately racist to me.”
Democrats, Republicans & The New York Times Use The Term ‘Indian Country’
In this instance, Trump was actually using the correct legal term. “Indian country” is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 18 U.S.C. § 1151 and 40 C.F.R. § 171.3 as:
A) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation;
B) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state; and
C) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.
Washington congressman Denny Heck used the term Indian country recently, as did New Mexico representative Deb Haaland. She tweeted, “As we get ready to celebrate the holidays with our families, we cannot forget that there are families across Indian Country who will have empty seats at their tables.”
Indian Country Today is the name of an official news outlet, and its official Twitter account has nearly 104K followers.
Native Americans Use The Term Indian County
For many Native Americans, the term Indian country is regularly used. Attorney Brett Chapman shared an Axios article on Twitter writing, “Nowhere is credit inequality in the U.S. higher than in Indian Country. Three of the top four most credit insecure counties have large Native American populations: 86%, 68%, and 94%. Politicians on both sides have ignored Native issues for far too long…”
Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at U.S. Department of Interior, Tara Sweeney, who has various opposing views from Trump, an re-tweeted an article which wanted to broaden the term Indian country: “You are still Indigenous whether or not you live on your homelands. ‘Indian Country’ is wherever Native people are.”