Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike...

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event at the Bricktown Events Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday. Credit: AP / Nate Billings

Leaders of the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Monday criticized presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg's characterization of the tribe as "a disaster" at a campaign rally last week. 

Bloomberg told a crowd last Thursday in Oklahoma City, "There’s a Native American tribe right near where I live, the Shinnecock Nation, and it is just a disaster, there's all sorts of problems."

In a video posted on YouTube, Bloomberg promised to help the Shinnecock overcome problems because "we just can’t have a group where there's all the domestic violence, and drugs, and alcoholism.”

The former New York City mayor continued, "when you see that you've got to say something's wrong, and we've got to stop it." 

Calling the statement "outrageous," the Shinnecock Nation Council of Trustees, the tribe's  seven-member leadership body, said Bloomberg, "has resided in the Hamptons for decades and not once has he set foot on our territory."

The statement continued, "The pain and suffering of a community should not be summed up by generalizing that the land the Shinnecock people have occupied, honored, and protected for 10,000 years is a 'disaster.'"

The tribe invited Bloomberg, and other presidential hopefuls, to visit the nation's 800-acre reservation. 

"Instead of passing us on his way to his Ballyshear Estate, he can walk the walk and use his resources and influence to help the Shinnecock people," the trustees said.

The Shinnecock people "are proud of our accomplishments and culture," trustees said. "We have made great strides to improve our way of life. Mr. Bloomberg who lives close to our ancestral burial grounds has never offered any support or inquired about our issues until this election cycle."

A representative of Bloomberg's campaign didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment. 

Nichol Banks, a former tribal trustee, called Bloomberg’s remarks “very hurtful.”

“I believe my home on Shinnecock is a beautiful place and for someone to describe it as he did, and I never saw him actually come and do a tour of the reservation, is very hurtful,” she said. “Every community has issues. Some have challenges. I’m happy to be Shinnecock and I’m comfortable living on Shinnecock.”

Bloomberg made his remarks in a state with a large Native American presence. Oklahoma is home to some 39 Native American tribes, one of the nation’s largest concentrations, including the Apache Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

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