Scottsdale gallery owner apologizes after racist comments to Native American dancers

Scottsdale police is recommending three counts of disorderly conduct.
A Scottsdale gallery owner is facing charges after a video showed him mocking Native American dancers and calling them racial slurs.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:55 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 9:03 PM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Scottsdale gallery has issued an apology after racially-charged statements were caught on camera and have since gone viral on social media.

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in Old Town Scottsdale after a Native American group was performing on ESPN. A social media post of the tirade went viral late Tuesday. Police have since formally identified the man in the video as Gilbert Ortega, who is seen in eyewitness video yelling at the performers and causing a disturbance. Some statements included expletive language and appeared to mock traditional movements and chants.

Native American musician Cody Blackbird recorded the video. He says the verbal assault started before he was able to pull his phone out. “He started doing the typical mocking and tomahawk chops,” he said. “He mocked the dancing. Just trying to antagonize us. He looked at us and said you sure backed up you [expletive] Indians.”

Blackbird said the group of performers he was with was asked by ESPN to dance and play music at their tailgate party in Old Town Scottsdale. They perform at other native shops three to four times a week.

Blackbird said his community faces this type of racism too often. “These are memories these kids are going to have their whole lives of running into this situation. It’s sad in 2023 during the Super Bowl in Scottsdale, Arizona, this is the painting that the world’s seeing of how Arizona is,” he said.

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Arizona’s Family reached out Wednesday to Ortega, who issued an apology, saying in part that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by his actions.

After an investigation, Scottsdale police recommended three counts of disorderly conduct, a Class 1 misdemeanor. As the video spread online, many Native American groups remarked on the statements as being racist, suggesting that a hate crime had taken place. However, officers say that misdemeanor disorderly conduct does not qualify for a hate crime designation, based on the FBI’s definition.

“There is no specific offense of “hate crime” in Arizona, rather, a hate crime designator can be added to another criminal offense if it can be determined that the crime was motivated by race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” further explained Scottsdale police in a news release.

Still, the city wants to remind the residents and tourists alike that such offenses have no place in the city. “The City of Scottsdale prides itself as a welcoming community and condemns this individual’s racist comments - they do not represent our community,” Scottsdale police said.