Trump Reportedly Encouraged Indigenous Leaders to Break the Law and Drill on Reservations

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“Just do it,” President Trump reportedly told a room full of Native American tribal leaders, whom he hosted at the White House in June. By “just do it,” Trump wasn’t referring to the Nike slogan. He meant: drill and extract as much from Native American land as possible without regard for federal regulations.

Baffled by Trump’s apparent encouragement to violate environmental laws, tribal leaders apparently paused and looked around the room, according to a source who recounted their conversation to Axios. “The government’s different now,” Trump declared. “Obama’s gone and we’re doing things differently here.”

While the White House corroborated Axios’ report, at least one other person who was present at the meeting said Trump wasn’t actually encouraging leaders to wantonly break federal laws and drill on tribal lands—he was, in fact, merely referring to a the necessity of abandoning Obama-era regulations that inhibited energy extraction. Quotes from the meeting obtained by Axios, however, seem to belie this account. Take this gem:

“Chief, chief,” Trump continued, addressing one of the tribal leaders, “what are they going to do? Once you get it out of the ground are they going to make you put it back in there? I mean, once it’s out of the ground it can’t go back in there. You’ve just got to do it. I’m telling you, chief, you’ve just got to do it.”


Tribal leaders aren’t exactly capable of “just” ending federal regulations so that they can, one day, drill on land they control. And just in case the tribal leaders who were present at the meeting weren’t sure of the implications of Trump’s remarks, he clarified:

Trump interjected again: “Guys, I feel like you’re not hearing me right now. We’ve just got to do it. I feel like we’ve got no choice; other countries are just doing it. China is not asking questions about all of this stuff. They’re just doing it. And guys, we’ve just got to do it.”

Trump’s comments, abundant with kingly self-righteousness, are punctuated by his contentious history of attacking Native Americans. As The Washington Post noted, Trump spent upwards of $1 million in attack ads that falsely accused Native American tribe members in upstate New York of being cocaine traffickers. During those years, Trump was a burgeoning Casino tycoon, and smearing Native Americans afforded him more power in the gambling industry.

Ultimately, though, Trump’s June remarks remain absolutely unsurprising. We know by now that one of the Trump administration’s top priorities is revitalizing the fossil fuel industry—no matter its consequences for the planet. Days after taking office in January, Trump eagerly signed an executive order authorizing the Keystone pipeline, a project that was later abandoned, and the Dakota Access pipeline, which is now operative despite the intense, yearlong Standing Rock protests.

Night Editor, Splinter

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