OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Cherokee Nation leaders say remarks made by U.S. Senate candidate Tom Coburn during a town hall meeting in Altus last month were divisive and offensive to Indians.
In a news release Thursday, tribal leaders quoted Coburn as calling treaties between the United States and Indian Nations "a joke" and "primitive agreement(s)."
"I mean, this is a joke," Coburn was quoted as saying. "It is one thing for us to keep our obligations to recognize Native Americans, but it's a totally different thing for us to allow a primitive agreement with the Native Americans to undermine Oklahoma's future."
The Cherokee Nation also released audio of Coburn's comments.
"I'm a Republican and it's hard to understand why Tom Coburn takes pride in dividing Oklahoma and ridiculing people," said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Coburn also said he represented the congressional district where most Oklahoma Indians reside and "the problem is most of them aren't Indians."
The 2nd Congressional District, which Coburn represented for three terms, has a sizeable population of members of the Cherokee Nation and tribal leaders said they took Coburn's comments to mean that Cherokees "aren't really Indians."
Coburn is in a close race with Democrat Brad Carson for the Senate post being vacated Republican Don Nickles.
A spokesman for Coburn said he had not heard about the criticism from the Cherokee leaders and had no immediate comment.