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CNN political commentator Rick Santorum—a Republican former Senator and presidential candidate—is facing a slew of backlash after he claimed during a speech at a Young America's Foundation event there was "nothing" in the Americas before White colonizers arrived from Europe.

The viewpoint is central to the Manifest Destiny view of the 18th century and is perpetuated in modern society by White nationalist and White supremacist organizations.

Santorum went on to stick his foot more firmly into his mouth by claiming the Indigenous peoples that were already here haven't contributed much to American culture.

"We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here."
"I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn't much Native American culture in American culture."

Santorum's comments ignored the fact that the systemic cultural genocide of America's Indigenous peoples contributed to why he thinks not much Indigenous culture has permeated "American culture." Integral parts of the cultures of the United States, Canada and Mexico are owed to the Indigenous peoples who populated North America for millennia before widespread European colonization, but often is not properly attributed to them in Eurocentric educational materials.

Santorum also ignored the thousands of years of culturally rich and diverse history before the colonizers arrived on the North American continent.

Hundreds of Indigenous communities existed in the United States before European invaders, conquerors and colonizers arrived. Each tribe had their own culture, values, language and traditions. Any of these communities and cultures that no longer exist are gone as a direct result of colonization.

The lack of Native American culture in the greater American consciousness is the result of intentional efforts to exterminate those cultures—laws against Indigenous people practicing their traditional spiritual or religious practices, the residential school system stealing away young children to forcibly integrate them into colonizers society by stripping them of their families and traditions, the Trail of Tears and other forced relocations, the list goes on and on.

However, the United States Constitution and the very federal structure of the United States is a direct result of studies of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Powhatan confederacies. Three branches of government—with an executive, legislative and judicial branch—mirrors the way the Haudenosaunee handled their federation of the Kanienkéha:ka (Mohawk), Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca nations.

The framers of the Constitution wrote of these inspirations, but a White supremacist based educational system buried these contributions for years until they were revived when the bicentennial of the Constitution was celebrated.

Dietary staples like corn, beans, squash, potatoes and chocolate are all contributions from Indigenous peoples. The Code Talkers of WWI and WWII utilized the languages the federal government had outlawed to make a major impact on the war efforts. Indigenous languages remained the unbreakable codes from both wars.

And those are just a handful of examples Santorum ignored.

This is far from the first time Santorum has royally stepped in it, so to speak.

He has had problematic takes that have garnered him online flack about many subjects over the past few years, including school shooting victims should take CPR classes instead of calling for gun control, Trump's abuse of presidential power through executive orders somehow being Obama's fault and Trump gaming the system to dodge taxes was A-OK.

Twitter at large responded to Santorum's callous disregard for Indigenous people's with ire, facts and a heavy dose of snark.


Many people called for Santorum to be fired from his position with CNN.

Native Twitter was, understandably, especially upset by Santorum's incredibly harmful remarks.


Santorum reportedly tried to backtrack and non-apologize for his remark.

One of his aids quoted Santorum saying:

"I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture."

You can view Santorum's entire remarks below.

His comment about Native Americans begins around the 20:35 mark.