LANSING (WWJ) – The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe wants Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to issue a formal apology after he reportedly used profanity and racial slurs at a fundraiser last week.
Tribe spokesman Frank Cloutier said Bernero also wore a target on his back to suggest that he’s under fire from bows and arrows over controversy about a planned off-reservation casino in Lansing with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewas.
“It was grossly inappropriate,” Cloutier told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Beth Fisher. “The mayor’s rather cavalier in his attitude toward Native Americans and we found it odd that he would be so comfortable saying something like that when he’s actually working with a Native American tribe to make his, his hopes and aspirations a reality in Lansing.”
A news release issued by the tribe called Benero’s comments a “profane tirade.”
Cloutier said the Mayor should have chosen his words more carefully being that there were children in the crowd of hundreds gathered last Thursday at the Lansing Center.
“Bernero was using some profanity and at one point in time, he referred to our coalition spokesman as Chief Chicken Little,” said Cloutier. “Now, what we found rather uncomfortable with that is there are 12 tribes in the state of Michigan and we are the only tribe that refers to our senior most executive on our tribal council as chief,” he said.
Cloutier said they oppose an off-reservation casino in Lansing with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewas and call on Bernero to apologize and take sensitivity training.
Plans call for the casino to be constructed on the back end of the current Lansing Convention Center. Bernero has thrown his complete support behind the $245 million project, saying it will draw more new businesses to the area.
Mayor Bernero issued the following statement concerning his remarks:
“My passionate support for Lansing and our casino project may have gotten the better of me, but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponent’s attempt to spin it that way. I make no apologies for using strong language against our opponents, who have made some very impertinent remarks about me, but I do offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to any and all who were offended by my choice of words.”