Congressman's reference to American Indians as 'wards of the federal government' causes outcry

Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar's reference to American Indians as "wards of the federal government" has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts.

The Arizona Republican stunned an audience gathered in Flagstaff last week with the comment that came in a discussion about a land deal that would clear the way for a copper mine.

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Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe says the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs.

A spokesman for Gosar says that wasn't the intent. He says Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening tribes' relationships with the federal government.

Congress maintains authority over Indian affairs. But the trend has been for tribes to take more control over things like crime, education and health care from the federal government.