Haaland: Santorum's Native American comments 'unfortunate'

Haaland: Santorum's Native American comments 'unfortunate'
© Getty Images

Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Sanders opposes Biden Interior nominee in procedural vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing | Democrat presses Haaland on oil and gas review | EPA puts additional delay on Trump lead and copper in drinking water rule MORE on Wednesday responded to CNN contributor and former Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R-Pa.) claim that there was “nothing” in America before European colonization, calling the remarks an “unfortunate” reflection of how Native American history is taught.

“It’s unfortunate that, first of all, that perhaps we haven’t done a good job of educating Americans about Indian history, because Native American history truly is American history,” Haaland, the nation’s first Senate-confirmed Indigenous Cabinet secretary, told HuffPost in a Zoom interview.

“When we think about the influence that Native Americans have had on the forming of the United States, right? The U.S. Constitution is based on the Iroquois Confederacy. Native Americans from some tribes here in this country have some of the oldest democracies in the world,” she added.


In April, the former Pennsylvania senator told attendees at a conservative youth conference that “there was nothing here” at the time of the nation’s founding, adding, “I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

“I could probably suggest a few pieces of reading for the senator that would, you know, help him to branch out on his knowledge of American history,” Haaland said. “Hopefully, he’ll take a second look.”

Santorum was widely condemned for the comments and has since said he “misspoke.”

"[Native Americans] have a huge impact, particularly in the West and many other areas of the country, where they have a huge impact on American culture. I was talking about — and I misspoke in this respect — I was talking about the founding and the principles embodied in the founding,” Santorum told CNN’s Chris CuomoChris CuomoCNN insults #MeToo movement, provides happy ending for Jeffrey Toobin Club for Growth bashes CNN in social media ad The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Biden, Capito meet today as deadline looms MORE on Monday.

Haaland has pledged to make Native American issues a priority as Interior secretary and last week undid several Trump administration orders the department said needlessly complicated the process of taking tribal land into trust.