A congresswoman in California vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate apologized Sunday for offending Native Americans after a video surfaced of her making a stereotypical Indian “war whoop” when addressing a room of Indian Americans.
“In this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive, and for that I sincerely apologize,” Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said Sunday at the state Democratic Party convention in Anaheim, California, Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times reported.
Sanchez was speaking to the Indian American Caucus in Anaheim on Saturday when she attempted to differentiate Native Americans and Indian Americans.
“I’m going to his office, thinking I’m going to meet with …” Sanchez said in the video before patting her hand on her mouth and making the “war cry” sound.
“Right? … because he said, ‘Indian American,’” Sanchez added.
When a reporter attempted to question Sanchez about her offensive gesticulation she literally ran away, fleeing into a building.
Sanchez’s congressional opponent, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, said she was “shocked” by the congresswoman’s gesture.
“I don’t know what to say to that,” she said. “That’s shocking.”
During her apology Sunday, Representative Sanchez claimed to have Native American ancestry on her mother’s side.
“They know my record,” she said, referring to Native Americans. “They know how much I have spent – the time that I have spent with them at their tribal councils, listening to them, advocating for them. They know that I have always had their backs. 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.”
The man who filmed Sanchez said people in the room were taken aback by Sanchez’s offensive gesture.
“I was shocked and appalled that she’d make the disparaging comments about Native Americans that way,” Uduak-Joe Ntuke of Long Beach, California told NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA.
Joe Horse Capture, who is A’aninin and based in Washington, D.C., told ICTMN he finds it concerning that a congresswoman who wishes to represent a state with a large Native American population lacks “the basic understanding of Native American culture – what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”
Horse Capture said Sanchez’s claim that she is part Native American is trite, since many who are caught offending Native Americans later claim to have some indigenous North American heritage.
“And what people often do when they find themselves in a culturally inappropriate circumstance is they claim that they‘re Native American,” Horse Capture said. “Of course if she were actually tied to her Native American culture and practiced her heritage she would know better.”
ICTMN’s attempts to contact Representative Sanchez for comment were unsuccessful.
Watch Sanchez’s offensive “war whoop” here: