Sen. Hodge Criticized For Native American “Reparations” Remarks

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

A report from Indian Country Today on the unexpected death yesterday of a bill to offer qualifying Native Americans in-state tuition is raising eyebrows–not simply because the bill died, but due to the comments of a Democratic state senator principally responsible for killing it:

A bill in Colorado that would have provided prospective Native American college students with in-state tuition died Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours after the bill was defeated by a 3-4 vote, State Senator Mary Hodge – the only Democrat to vote against it – told ICTMN that the potential cost of the bill was too great and that there was an issue of “reparations.”

“I don’t know how long we can make reparations [to Native Americans] or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.” [Pols emphasis]

House Bill 1124, sponsored by State Representative Joseph Salazar, was to provide a Native American of a federally recognized tribe with resident status when applying to a state-supported institution if the student’s tribe had “historical ties” to what is now Colorado territory. “Often due to circumstances beyond their control, many American Indian tribes and members of American Indian tribes have been forced to relocate across state lines, far from their historical home places,” the bill reads.

“Those people are already gone,” Sen. Hodge said. [Pols emphasis] “At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on? And I don’t know if we’re there yet.”

There are questions about the cost of implementing this legislation, though sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar says that the $5 million cost of the bill wouldn't have come from the state budget. But Sen. Mary Hodge's complaints about "reparations" and how "those people are already gone" in reference to Native Americans displaced from what is now Colorado by white settlement go offensively beyond the scope of an appropriations debate–changing the discussion into one about bigoted ignorance of history by an elected public official. In this case, a Democrat.

Today on Facebook, Rep. Salazar is indignant:

Yes, she is my colleague. But, I did not run for office so as to let members of my own party sell out disadvantaged communities. 

Also, there was money for this bill, it was a priority and it was supported by Colorado higher education institutions and the Governor's office.

Her vote against Native peoples is an embarrassment. But her explanation is far worse.

Unquestionably, Sen. Hodge needs to apologize without delay. Hodge is already on thin ice for her role in killing other bills that passed the House with solid support this session. If Hodge wants latitude to do the oil and gas industry's bidding from within the Democratic caucus, safe to say this wasn't the way to earn it.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    Sen. Salazar was far too kind, Hodge's vote is an embarrassment – yes!  Her comments in conjunction with her vote are simply abhorrent and beyond the pale!  

  2. SocialisticatProgressicat says:

    I'm sure you can defend a vote against the bill, say on cost, but when you vote no and the reason you dredge up is that if you voted yes the red man is never going to stop trying to suck from the honorable white teat…well, that takes a special kind of thinking.

    As for, “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.”  Well, that's true, but you might just help the folks who are still being victimized by those long ago choices to make a better life.  Or you can pretend that the suffering is all in the past, of course.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Exactly. Native Americans are not extinct, do not live in some romanticized version of the old west. They live in crushing poverty and unemployment like nowhere else in the USA. Simple things like in-state tuition could help give hope to Native youth.

      Not a whole lot of lobbying power, but for those of us who care, Hodge needs to be accountable for her lousy vote.


  3. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    The Senator may have made a poor choice of words. But for me, the key phrase above is: "if the student's tribe had 'historical ties' to what is now Colorado territory."  That sounds pretty vague to me and maybe constitutes an open-ended commitment. Reminds me of an attempted Denver ordinance some years ago; that fortunately failed; to provide a bed to any homeless person who asked for one. My thought then was: if I was a poor person living in an unheated hovel on Pine Ridge in SD during winter, and I heard about free lodging in Denver, I think the choice for me would have been obvious.

    Overall, I think Senator Hodge made a correct vote.


    Conservative Head Banger   (AC/DC Rules!)


    • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

      "Poor chooice of words" now there's a typical wingnut dodge. Out of context or I was only joking Misspoke or misheard are a couple variations on that theme.I want you to tell us all how that hypothetical resident of Pine Ridge was going to afford the transportation to denver andwhy were they in that situation in the first place? Hodge's vote is indicative of a couple things.One,the conservative impulse is not confined to Republicans and two, the conservative inpulse will almost always take the shortest possible view especially when there's money involved and no expense of providing for the other is ever an investment.

  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    If you're resulting to calling someone a "wingnut" instead of discussing the merits of the issue, then your position is rather weak. If someone had a chance at free housing, they would get from Pine Ridge to Denver; trust me on this one (spent 17 years working for Colo. Dept. of Human Services). And sounds like you may not be well acquainted with life on the reservation ("why were they in that situation in the first place"). As for the "conservative impulse," perhaps the sponsor could have come up with a bill that didn't have the vagueness and seemingly open ended commitment.


    Conservative Head Banger   (AC/DC Rules !)


    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:


      What are you talking about? What does the distance from Pine Ridge to Denver have to do with offering in-state tuition to Native students? Why should we "trust you" just because you once worked in Human Services? i try not to call people names, including "wingnut" – but your response is baffling, to say the least.

      If we are offering in state tuition to undocumented students who graduate from high school here, why in the world would we not offer the same to Native students who graduate from high school here?

      There are nine different tribes whose range extended into Colorado territory. Less than 2% of Colorado's population is of Native descent. Wyoming has less than 3%, and the largest is New Mexico with 10% Narive. If those young people want to go to school in Colorado, it's not going to break our universities to offer in state tuition , and it's the right thing to do.



      • farleftfagala says:

        This bill had absolutely nothing to do with offering in-state tution to Native students who gradute high school here.  They have it.  And Native students in other states have in-state tuition in those states as well.

      • Curmudgeon says:

        The only thing that matters to a Republican is that someone else might be getting something they don't think they deserve to have.  Food, Shelter, Education, whatever.    Billions of dollars in Coporate Welfare is A-OK; but threaten to give another human being a meal, an education, or a warm place to sleep, "that their taxes are paying for", and you've got a fight on your hands.

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      If you're resulting to calling someone a "wingnut" instead

      Grammar alert!!!

      I think the word you were looking for was "resorting"…not "resulting"..

      always willing to help out a fellow AC/DC fan…supercedes politics, you know…

    • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

      Oh geebus why don't you throw a hissyfit. That's always been a good way for you wingers to avoid anything you didn't want to deal with. A little pretend butthurt and  just skip away from anything else.Hodge and most other wingers need to read some Sherman Alexie.

  5. farleftfagala says:

    Well seeing as Salazar called Senator Hodge's vote racist before the article, I can't say his reaction was anything other than posturing.  Really hard to see the need for this as well since neither the sponsor or supporters ever made the case for the bill (I mean really, did anyone hear two words about the bill before it died?).  I'm a bleeding heart liberal, but this bill seemed like a total feel good measure instead of actual policy to help Native people.  Unlike ASSET, all those affected by this bill have in-state tuition in whatever state they reside, most of which probably fund higher ed better (ASSET's residency requirements are actually more strict).  Colorado is also home to Fort Lewis, which is free to any Tribal member.  The state picks up that tab rather than the Federal Government who made the commitment to begin with.  So can we really say that in-state tuition would be more of a draw to disadvantaged out-of-state Tribal members than free tuition?  Why are we immediately jumping on this vote when we can't even say how this policy would help Native people?  

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:


      1. Senator Salazar did not call Senator Hodge's vote "racist". What he said was:

      Rep. Salazar told ICTMN that he is “absolutely baffled” by Sen. Hodge’s comments concerning reparations to Native Americans. “This isn’t reparations. This is recognizing that something has to be done in the state of Colorado to encourage native youth to come here to get a higher education,” he said. “The idea of reparations is just absolutely offensive.”


      2. Good point about the Ft. Lewis free tuition being more of a draw than in-state tuition – however, Ft. Lewis programs are not necessarily a "fit" for every student.

      3. Salazar's legislative goal was to attract Native students to Colorado institutions of higher education – which I agree is a worthy goal. It would have increased the diversity of the institutions, bringing different points of view to the table, helped to rectify a long standing social injustice, and benefitted the economy of the state. What's not to like?

      4. Salazar said that this was basically political pay back from Hodge – she voted no on his bill because he had voted no on her bill last month.

      5. All that aside – it's Hodge's comments defending her vote which are really offensive – she would have done better to just say, "I voted no to get back at Salazar," and left it at that.  That unlikely bluntness wouldn't have impressed her constituents, but it also wouldn't have outraged as many people.

      • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

        A long time friend of mine once commented that the indigenous should have met the Mayflower slaughtered the passengers and crew,burnt the boat to the waterline and repeated as necessary then met the white settlers at the Mississippi River with a lawyer.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      You don't sound very very left.  I'll have to take your word for it on the rest, though I'd have spelled it "fagela".

  6. farleftfagala says:

    That was not his only comment, and like I sadi it was before the article.  And how does giving in-state tuition rectify what the state did in the past?  Let's remember also that we're talking about Tribal members, not just all decendents of those who were wronged by the state.  There are a lot of Native people living in Denver, and I don't think it's fair for higher ed to take a $5 million hit, making college more expensive for them as well as other needy students living in the state.  I don't know that increasing the Native population in higher ed from out of state is as worthy a goal as increasing Native and minority populations from in-state.   Like I said, there is no state that does not offer in-state tuition to Native residents and many of those are propably much cheaper because those states fund higher ed better than Colorado (which is close to the bottom).  

    As for political payback, that's quite the accusation.  Perhaps he and everyone else repeating the claim should look at the other bills he has sponsored and if there was a similar trend (there wasn't).  And the bill in question was not Senator Hodge's bill anyway.

  7. mamajama55mamajama55 says:


    So are you defending Senator Hodge's remarks ?

    I don’t know how long we can make reparations [to Native Americans] or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.”

    Those people are already gone,” Sen. Hodge said. “At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on? And I don’t know if we’re there yet.”

    You seem like you may be one of her main supporters. What's up with that? Are you her staffer? Do you work on her campaign?

    As far as the rest of your post, too many straw men in line to knock them all down.

    I think it's OK to offer in-state tuition in CO to out-of-state Native people from those 9 tribes historically connected to CO –  you disagree. Oh well. The bill's dead, anyway, unless it comes up for another committee vote.

    Nobody's debating on whether in-state residents of whatever ethnicity should get in-state tuition. Obviously, they should.

    Political payback was Senator Salazar's take on the Hodge vote, not mine. You do seem to have lots of information on her bills and votes – my guess is that you are a campaign or staff person.

    • farleftfagela says:

      I've worked in the building so I'm familiar with the process.  All votes are publically available and easily searchable, but my guess is you don't care to dig that deep.

      I'm not defending the remarks, though the reaction to them is overblown.  I think Rep. Salazar knows a thing or two about sticking his foot in his mouth.  My problem with this entire controversy (if you can give it that much) is the reaction has little to do with the pros and cons of the policy, but a reaction to some words.  Everyone likes to grandstand and act like they're helping Native people, but rarely does anyone have a clue about the actual problems.  My point is in-state tuition is neither a problem from what I can see, nor a solution to what affects Indian Nations.

      • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

        You know what actually is a problem?  Folks who think like "I don’t know how long we can make reparations or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did." and "Those people are already gone. At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on"

        You call those "some words."  I could care less about the vote, people in that building do petty shit to each other all the time.  People are right to feel outrage, however, at the base ignorance of Ms. Hodge's comments.  Her sort of thinking is so dangerous both because of her position and the profound lack of understanding it show for the plight of native peoples in this country.

        Fuck reparations.  Reparations are for past misdeeds.  As a country we continue to screw these people every day!  We have found no meaningful way to honor these people as equals.  Attitudes like Ms. Hodge's only perpetuate the myth that we've "done what we can."  We ain't done jack.

  8. Gray in Mountains says:

    I don't know that there is a liit in what we ought do to reay Native peoples for what we took and did to them. The rest of us would really have to leave and return to Europe

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