Senator Murkowski’s Double Talk: Calls Tsimshian Item “Evil Looking”

WASHINGTON—Non-Natives are still referring to Native items as “evil looking.” This time it involves a United States senator who spoke out of both sides of her mouth last Thursday.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is under fire for calling a Tsimshian item that she used as a gavel as the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee “evil looking.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Murkowski is a member of US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Her comments came last Thursday at the conclusion of the Energy Committee’s hearing to mark up the Keystone XL pipeline legislation that is due to go to the full Senate this week.

Ironically enough, Murkowski’s “evil looking” comment came after she had explained her usage of the Tsimshian item was given to her grandfather by a Tsimshian and then sat on her father’s desk for years. She seemed to value its usage.

Moments later, she switched her opinion of the Tsimshian.

Apparently, thinking her microphone was off, she leaned over to Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and asked: “It’s kinda evil looking, isn’t?”

The Indigenous Environmental Network issued the following statement:

“Although we cannot assume the full history and connection the Senator has with the cultural item, her remarks were inappropriate and disrespectful nonetheless.

In the context of this meeting and the Senate discussions on the Keystone XL pipeline, we are curious why the only indigenous representation seen so far is a gavel used by Senator Murkowski. Given that the proposed Keystone XL route passes through Oceti Sakowin — Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux – territory in the Great Plains, and given that Senator Murkowski has been a longtime member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, we wonder why Native voices have not been included in these US Congressional discussions on the issue. These nations have not been properly consulted on the construction of this pipeline, as is required by US Federal Law, and South Dakota state law.”

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