Scottsdale, AZ

“MAGA Country!” Store Owners Tirade Against Natives

Marcus Ringo

A Scottsdale business owner has been charged with disorderly conduct for a confrontation with a group of Native American dancers in front of his gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. He spouted off a racist rant including demeaning and sexual slurs in the dancer's native language. That's not a good look for a business profiting from indigenous art for decades.

The Native American man who filmed the incident, Cody Blackbird, said that he and his people no longer feel safe. The video can be seen on Blackbird's Instagram. Ortega can be heard yelling a few different racially charged things and rambling about being in MAGA country.

On the Instagram post, Ortega's cousin responded and even went as far as to apologize for Gilbert Ortega Jr.'s tirade, and being of Apache descent herself, stated his actions are not representative of their family's company.

MSN reports that:

The confrontation occurred Tuesday afternoon in Old Town Scottsdale, which has been seeing a high volume of visitors who are in town for the big game and the Phoenix Open golf tournament. Ten dancers were performing in front of the Native Art Market on Main Street. ESPN filmed the group in the store, then had the dancers pose outside by a Super Bowl sign.

Blackbird and company are seeking involvement from the AZ attorney general, the F.B.I., and the U.S. Justice Department and would like Ortega the incident to be tried as a hate crime. Blackbird also states that many are choosing to boycott the business on social media.

Mayor David Ortega, (in no relation to Gilbert Ortega Jr.) has publicly stated that Gilbert's actions and statements are reprehensible and inexcusable.

Arizona's Family contacted Gilbert Ortega Jr. and he issued a public apology and can be quoted as saying:

I have watched the video and I am both embarrassed and ashamed by my actions. I see that I came off as incredibly insensitive toward the Native American community and that was not my intention. I deeply apologize for this. My family has traded with the Native Americans for over 5 generations, and I continue to do so to this day. I grew up with the Navajo and Zuni cultures in Gallup, NM. So, I have always had the deepest respect and admiration for Native Americans and their ingenuity. Again, I apologize for my actions, and if I could go back and change my words and behavior, I certainly would.

I personally have had the pleasure of seeing Blackbird before in Old Town and believe it's amazing to have artists representing their culture and keeping their traditions alive and sharing it with us. It's unfortunate when people forget where they come from (even if temporarily) and how they got to where they are.

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Freelance writer, unapologetic centrist, spirit of the world.

New River, AZ

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