US lawmaker apologises for Indian ‘war cry’, Indian-Americans shocked

Washington (IANS): A veteran US house member who stirred a major controversy by making a gesture mocking native Americans or American Indians, has apologised even as a shocked Indian-American community expressed outrage.

California Democrat Loretta Sanchez who is opposing the state’s Indian-American attorney general Kamala Harris for the party’s nomination for a 2016 Senate run said that candidates “who don’t hide behind the handlers sometimes misstep.

Speaking to an American Indian group in Anaheim on Saturday, she was caught on mobile phone video raising her hand in front of her mouth and making a whooping sound like a typical native Indian ‘war cry’.

In talking about how she was confused about an upcoming meeting with an Indian American, she said: “I’m going to his office, thinkin’ that I’m gonna go meet with woo-woo-woo-woo, right? ‘Cause he said ‘Indian American.'”

Sanchez apologised on Sunday at the state convention, saying “in this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive and for that, I sincerely apologise.”

“Those of you who put yourselves out there like I do, who open your heart, and who don’t hide behind handlers you know how hard it can be,” she said.

“It’s hard to put yourself out there and do what leaders need to do day in and day out. Sooner or later, we all make mistakes. We’re all human. But that is the only way to truly connect with people. You can’t change the world from behind a desk.”

Harris called the action “shocking” and said there was no place for it in public discourse, according to Sacramento Bee.

Her spokesman Nathan Click said Sunday “the attorney general thinks Congresswoman Sanchez was right to apologise for her comment. She hopes this campaign will be about uniting all Californians”.

“I was taken aback, as many others in the audience were, at her insensitivity, which immediately alienated non-Indian guests as well,” Sayu Bhojwani, New York City’s former commissioner of immigrant affairs, was quoted as saying by Los Angeles Times.

However, Aaruni Thakur, one of the hosts of Saturday’s reception, said Sanchez’s overall speech was “very positive” for the Indian American community.

“I really think what she said is being taken out of context,” said Thakur, 35. “We understood what she was trying to say.”

Saturday’s stumble could haunt Sanchez in the coming months, Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy at University of California Riverside and a researcher on political participation by Asian Americans told the Times.