In 1994 Burns told the editorial board of the Bozeman Chronicle that when asked by a constituent, "how can you live back there Washington, DC with all those niggers?" he replied, "[It's] a hell of a challenge." About the use of the racial slur: "I never give it much thought."
Burns also has a legislative history of supporting measures and bills which would reduce (American) Indian tribal sovereignty, including a bill, co-sponsored with Slade Gorton, that would require tribes to waive sovereignty rights such as immunity from lawsuits, in addition to meeting means testing, before they could receive federal funds. He has also sponsored legislation that would violate treaties by eliminating Native jurisdiction of reservation land owned by non-Indians.
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