In March, USCC President Suzanne Clark was criticized following a post she made on Instagram with two women wearing Native American headdresses. The post came just one week after Disney apologized for presenting a Native American dance routine at its Florida theme park. Critics criticized the move as offensive to the culture.
After a significant backlash online, Clark apologized, saying she took the picture while on vacation, and the headdresses were put there in the hands of 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 wrote.
In the following days, the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA), an organization that is a proponent of Native American representation in education as well as other public platforms, approached Clark and requested a sit-down discussion to explore ways that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce could better assist 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) in a statement, stating the actions of Clark are “inconsistent with many of the principles of the chamber's Fortune 500 members.”
As per the group's report, Clark later agreed to meet with the requirement that NAGA representatives travel to her headquarters in Washington, DC. Because the organization is located within North Dakota and would have to travel at its own cost, NAGA interpreted Clark's invitation as an empty gesture, devoid of any 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 was quoted in the press release.
After the meeting's denial, NAGA has now requested for Suzanne Clark to meet with the group via teleconference. In a statement, NAGA general counsel Scott D. Cousins explained to USCC Chief Legal Officer Harold Kim why Suzanne Clark's actions merit a meeting to discuss ways the groups can work together to more effectively serve Native Americans:
It is our opinion that Clark's actions are a mockery of NAGA's ongoing struggle in bringing American Indian traditions and culture to the top of American political and cultural life, and, most importantly–in the public school system. In this regard we would like to see Ms. Clark and the Chamber's leadership team hold an online conference with NAGA and its executive team so we can discuss the reasons NAGA and the majority of American Indians find Ms. Clark's incessant promotion of our culture to be a travesty.
The sacred bonnet is highly offensive.
Perhaps, then it is then that the Chamber and its members–many who consistently proclaim diversity, equity, and inclusion, fully appreciate the importance of the military bonnet for our culture and history and the causes behind American Indian poverty, unemployment, homelessness, suicide, alcoholism, as well as abuse and drug addiction. In the simplest terms, it is clear that the actions of Ms. Clark's are not an appropriate or respectful performance to American Indians.
The letter further highlighted NAGA's efforts to ensure an increase in Native American representation without erasing the entire Native American imagery from the public's eye by the removal of characters such as the Land-O-Lakes lady, and the Redskins team name. NAGA has also filed a suit with the State of Colorado regarding its law, which wanted to establish a “sweeping statewide ban on the use of American Indian names, images, and sports team ‘mascots.'”
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) told News in January that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will no longer be a welcome factor by the Republican Party if it continues to support Democrats and support large businesses at the expense of Americans.
“The Chamber left the party a long time ago,” McCarthy declared. “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,” said the minority leader. “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 a variety of Democrats over Republicans in the congressional elections in 2020 and worked to protect that 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,” News said.