In a head-scratching interview Thursday, New Mexico’s Republican nominee to represent the state’s 1st Congressional District suggested her Native American opponent isn’t Native American ― because she didn’t grow up on a reservation.
Former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones took the swipe at Democratic opponent Deb Haaland during an interview on Fox News, reacting to the observation that, if elected, Haaland would be the first Native American woman in Congress.
“Your opponent, she would be the first Native American, as a woman, in Congress,” Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt noted, to which Arnold-Jones replied, “That’s what they say, yes.”
Earhardt, puzzled, asked Arnold-Jones to elaborate: ”‘That’s what they say?’ What do you mean by that?”
“Well, there’s no doubt that her lineage is Laguna,” Arnold-Jones said, “but she’s a military brat, just like I am, and so [long pause], you know, it evokes images that she was raised on a reservation. She belongs to a pueblo.”
Seeming to understand she’d strayed into racist territory, Arnold-Jones hastened to add that Laguna is a “wonderful lineage,” then attacked Haaland on “open border” policies she thinks will endanger Native Americans.
Haaland responded Thursday afternoon, calling Arnold-Jones’ assertion that she’s not Native American because she grew up on military bases “racist, an assault on military families, and wrong.”
“For generations, Native Americans have been subjected to genocide, forced assimilation, and government-backed family separation,” she tweeted. “Even today, Native American Tribes suffer through attacks on tribal sovereignty and the ongoing unanswered epidemic of [missing and murdered indigenous women].
“Despite all of that, Native Americans are still here, we are proud, and we matter. I am proud to be a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and I am proud of my parents’ service in both the Marines and the US Navy.”