The Native American Guardians Association (NAGA), an organization that advocates for Native American representation in education and other public platforms, has now requested a teleconference with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark after she snubbed them for an in-person meeting to address the headdress controversy.
This past March, USCC President Suzanne Clark came under fire after she posted a photo of herself on Instagram smiling alongside two women in Native American headdresses. The photo came within a week of Disney apologizing for featuring a Native American dance routine at its Florida theme park, which critics saw as culturally insensitive.
After significant backlash online, Clark apologized, saying she took the photo while on vacation and that the headdresses were placed there by the DJ.
“While they were only worn for the seconds it takes to snap and post a photo, it was wrong to don those headdresses, which hold deep meaning for Native Americans, all of this was a mistake, and I am deeply sorry,” she said.
Clarke, in a note to staff, says she is “deeply sorry” for a “momentary lapse in judgment” and says “it is my highest responsibility to be intentional in how I represent our members.” pic.twitter.com/d31W5rWEq1
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) March 25, 2022
Shortly thereafter, the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA), an organization that advocates for Native American representation in education and other public platforms, reached out to Clark and asked for a sit-down meeting to discuss how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce could better serve Native American communities.
“We at NAGA, along with most American Indians, find Ms. Clark’s indiscriminate promotion of our sacred bonnet to be highly offensive,” said NAGA board member Eunice Davidson Wicanhpiwastewin (Good Star Woman), adding that Clark’s actions are “inconsistent with many of the principles of the chamber’s Fortune 500 members.”
According to the group, Clark subsequently agreed to the meeting only on the condition that NAGA representatives fly out to her office in Washington, DC. Because the group is based in North Dakota and would have to fly out at their own expense, NAGA interpreted Clark’s invitation as an empty gesture devoid of substance.
“We are not surprised that Ms. Clark ignored NAGA’s request for a meeting to discuss its employment and philanthropic support for American Indians by making a statement to Politico—through a spokesperson.” Eunice Davidson said in a press release.
Weeks after the meeting snub, NAGA has now requested for Suzanne Clark to meet with the group via teleconference. In a letter shared with Breitbart News, NAGA general counsel Scott D. Cousins explained to USCC Chief Legal Officer Harold Kim why Suzanne Clark’s actions warrant a meeting to discuss how the organizations to better serve Native Americans:
We believe that Ms. Clark’s actions mock NAGA’s continuing fight to bring American Indian culture and tradition to the forefront of American culture, politics and—most importantly— in our public education system. To such ends, we request that Ms. Clark and the Chamber’s leadership team schedule a teleconference with NAGA and its leadership team so that we can explain why NAGA and most American Indians find Ms. Clark’s indiscriminate promotion of our
sacred bonnet to be highly offensive.
Perhaps then, the Chamber and its members—many of whom repeatedly profess diversity, equity and inclusion—will truly understand the importance of the war bonnet to our history and culture, as well as the root causes of American Indian poverty, unemployment, homelessness, suicide, alcoholism, abuse, and drug addiction. In short, Ms. Clark’s actions were not a respectful or culturally appropriate display of American Indians.
The letter further profiled NAGA’s work to push for positive Native American representation without erasing all Native American imagery from the public eye through the elimination of characters like the Land-O-Lakes lady and the Redskins team name. NAGA also recently filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado over its law that sought to institute a “sweeping statewide ban on the use of American Indian names, images and sports team ‘mascots.’”
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) told Breitbart News in January that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would no longer be welcomed in the Republican Party if it continues to endorse Democrats and back big business at the expense of Americans.
“The Chamber left the party a long time ago,” McCarthy said. “In the last election, the Chamber supported Democrats. The Chamber gave a higher score to Democrats who are voting for this policy because they signed some letter then voted the opposite of what the letter said than Kevin Brady who was chair of Ways and Means and brought us the tax cuts.”
“I just assume they have as much influence in the future as they do now—none,” he added. “Our responsibility is to the American public. That is who’s going to drive it. If special interests are the American public then they’ll have a say, but it’s the American public we’re going to.”
The Chamber also backed several Democrats over Republicans during the 2020 congressional elections, working to preserve the Democrat majority.
“Had Republicans flipped just a handful more seats—they flipped a net 15 from Democrats in 2020—they would have the majority instead of the Democrats right now. The Chamber, which endorsed 23 House Democrats in 2020, may have made the difference in helping keep the Democrats in the majority as some of the members the business group endorsed survived tight reelection races,” Breitbart News noted.