Casino Gaming and the Native American

The final book of the semester was one that helped tie in all the aspects of native life that I have learned about so far. Mrs. Darian Smith does a nice job of tying together the past with the laws and developments of Native Americans today. The book consists of six sections, plus an introduction and an appendix. We progress though a history of racism and look at all aspects of the white culture and its view on the "native problem". I felt that this book was an important ethnographic look at a people who have been suppressed throughout the history of the continent, and even at the role that their own views affect their lifestyles. The author helps the reader along with quotations and excerpts from other books, as well as an appendix that looks at questions that might arise about casino gaming. How does this fit into the class? I feel that through this book discussion, I will bring forth the points in each section that are the most prominent, and then tie them together in the conclusion. Smith does a great job of displaying this for us, and I feel that she should be commended for her insightful research.

Native Americans have faced adversity at every turn throughout the last 400 years of their history. Ever since Columbus landed here in 1492, there have been problems stemming from the white confrontations with the Natives. Part of this adversity is faced even today with the enduring racism that exists in a lot of contexts. These myths about natives are prevalent and should be looked at, as they lead directly to the majority of anti-casino ideals. The myth that the Indian is a dying race of a primitive, warlike people is exemplified by early 20th century films in Hollywood. Towards the end of the century, however, the films turned the tables, depicting the natives as a helpless people who are inevitably destined to become "extinct". This, on some levels, is a truth. When the early settlers came over from Europe, they brought with them a string of diseases that ravaged the native population. The population dropped dramatically, thus leaving the Europeans with a somewhat racist view of the "Indian problem". Some people, however, had a positive outlook on the noble Indian. In 1511, Las Casas, noted that he felt that the Indian was an actual human being, not an animal to be caged and treated badly. These views were quelled by the onslaught of colonization to follow. The United States was a new country in the early 1800's and began to spread its wings westward. With this spread across the nation came the newest problem for the Indian: reservations. The colonial power of the U.S soon began to round up the Indian and put them in groups, thus educating and civilizing them. The idea that by placing Indian children in boarding schools was meant to civilize, but in actuality it just de-cultured them. Social Darwinism was a huge topic of the day, leading many to feel that Indians were meant to become extinct, and that they were the "white mans burden". These ideals led on to the traveling Wild West shows, where Indians such as Black Elk traveled across the world being Indian. This just led to the subjection of the Native Americans to more and more racism. These were the days that led up to the casino gaming and its problems in today's world.

The problem with the Native American and the law is a complicated one, as it incorporates many different aspects of the government. Law is fundamentally of the majority, not of the minority, which leaves the Indian off with little help. In countries such as Australia, the idea that the Aborigine is non human, helped fight the cause for the colonization of the continent by the British in the last few centuries. This is horribly biased and made the law allow the social inequity to be based on racial and ethnic discrimination. The problems that arose with the casino gaming was based mostly on the question, " Whose interests are at stake in legal reform and legislative change surrounding Indian gaming, and what are the specific interests involved?". The first step for the Indians came when the lands owned by the Indians were allowed to be held in a sovereign fashion. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 helped to place these groups in reservation type lands. The next act to follow was the big step for the suppression of the Indian. The General Allotment Act of 1887, which separated reservations for the Indian, was one of the final steps that the government took to solve the "problem".

Commonly known as the Dawes Act, the cultural community values of the Indian were being broken up. Although they got shoddy land, they at least had some vestige of respect and belonging. The Indian Reorganization act of 1936 was known as the New Deal for Indians and helped to reverse some of the problems caused by the Dawes Act. It helped create a tribal government on the reservations that helped to alleviate some of the strife. This is where the casino gaming problem comes into play. If the government gave the Indians land for their own governing, why can't they do what they want on it? This was no more evident than in the state of California, where rancherias were set up in order to break up the governments of the reservations. Indians were again seen as savages who could not keep themselves in line, or keep their own land. Samuel Morton came out with a study that claimed Native Americans had smaller brains; therefore they were inferior to the white race. This helped nobody but the whites who wanted the Indian land. The only shred of help came when the American Indian Movement formed in the 1960's and 70's. AIM members helped to unite the Indian population of America for one cause, thus making some headway in the long fight for freedom. Although the history is sometimes complicated, it is necessary to look at the problems that arise with the gaming industry for the Indian reservations.

Politicians and some members of the public feel that it an Indian reservation gains the ability to have gaming, then there will be unlimited range of lawlessness involved. There is no way this is true, as there is no tangible connection between both sides. In fact, it may help to alleviate these crime problems, as it would bring money to the reservation legal system. Because North Americans spend nearly 70 billion dollars on gaming every year compared to the 22 million in other entertainment, there is a huge market for casino gaming to tap into. The largest number of casinos have stayed in the deserts of Nevada for the pat 30 years, but are beginning to spread elsewhere. Indian gaming only currently makes up seventeen percent of the gaming industry, and cannot by any margin be considered the majority of gaming. Because of the fact that Americans no longer see gambling as a negative moral splurge, more and more Americans spend their money each year at the gaming tables. In the 1800's, however, the missionaries of the churches of the U.S. spread the idea that gambling was a heathen activity amongst the Indian people, who actively gambled. As this reversed, the Indian bingo hall opened up and became big on the reservation. These establishments were commonly skuzzy and not very reputable, and this is what is changing today. This is when the IGRA, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was formed to regulate the gaming halls of many reservations. Although this helped, it also conceded some of the sovereignty to the government.

The next big step in Native American gaming came with the passing of preposition 1A in California. The proposition advocated the use of Las Vegas style gambling on reservation land. Although those who had stake in the industry put up a huge advertising blitz, the pro 1A side won out by a 63 percent margin. This was a huge win for the cause, as it allowed the reservations to have casinos. Unfortunatly this was a double sided dagger, as it also caused a lot of bitterness between reservations with and those without casino operations. It also caused an increase in tribal roster, as people came out of the woodwork to get a piece of the action. Nevertheless, the industry provided a huge economic relief for the impoverished Indian, who up till the time, were the poorest minority in America. It allowed for the money to flow into reservation projects such as museums and school. It let artifacts be bought back that were once a huge part of the history of their people. It also allowed reservations to pool some money for those who had no casino on their land, in what is known as the Reservation Trust Fund. The casino was now known as the "New Buffalo", referring to the staple of life for the Plains Indian. Many people believe that the New Buffalo is the single hope for a better life for the Native Americans. This has led to some angry people on the other side of the fence, who feel that the government should not be giving the Native Americans special treatment unlike the other minorities. How can they be considered minorities if they were here first?

The example for the hardships faced by casino Indians takes place on the Chumash reservation in Santa Barbara California. The area that is affected by the casino project is a upper class, white community who are into wine and nice cars compared to the more middle class casino gaming. When the Chumash were fighting for their gaming rights the most damage came from inside their own reservation. Those who lost tribal recognition from the government felt cheated and betrayed and took it out on those who had been granted federal recognition. This did not help however, as the casino plans were laid, and the wheels were put in motion. There were big plans for a hotel, parking garage and various restaurants. This was what caused the most strife from the community, as many local businessmen felt threatened by the future of the casino. The Not in My Back Yard feeling spread through the community, and many people outwardly were against the Indian casino. There were some people who felt positive towards the reservation, like those who believed it was actually helping to provide money for the poorer Indians. Some however were the exact opposite, feeling that the reservation was losing its Indian-ness, and its affinity for the land. The old racial views came out again, calling the natives too stupid to run a casino, and too ignorant to see what problems it was causing. The truth of the matter is that the people who hold these beliefs are the ignorant ones. They don't understand the problems that exist on the reservation and the fact that the casino is not a horrible thing.

The Native Americans are the most highly regulated people in the country, but for what reason? They were the sole possessors of the land before the Whiteman came, and now they are at the mercy of them. The fear that a power plant or a toxic waste dump could be placed on a reservation is outlandish, as the government would NEVER allow this to happen. And I feel that the tribal government would never want this to happen. A lot of the fears held by dissenters are on a truly ignorant level and totally unfounded. People feel that "rich Indians are not real Indians", but this is only a progression of the racist ideals promulgated in the first few centuries of the country's existence. With the rise of non stereotypical Indians, a lot of people feel that everything they felt about the Indian will change. This scares many people who may actually be less well off than the stereotypically poor Indian. The fact is that the wealthy casino owners do not hoard their money, but they spread it around the tribe and surrounding community. Many jobs arise from the creation of casinos, including those in the creation and up keep of the casino. The fact that non-Indian companies are involved with the creation of the casino does not take anything away from the reservation; it only adds more money into the economy. And by adding more money to the communities, it is adding a better living standard for their own tribe. This is a breath of fresh air for other indigenous groups around the world. With the steps taken by the Native Americans in the last few decades, who knows where other minority groups in their own countries, will go?

This book was a great look into the sometimes confusing history of Native Americans and the U.S. government. Although I feel that there could be an entire class taught on the intricacies of the first few chapters, it added a certain element to the book that set up the reader for what was to come. I enjoyed looking at a somewhat unbiased approach to the problem, although I feel that Mrs. Darian Smith was a little bit slanted at times. Her research was impeccable, and she quoted many other sources. The content is short and concise, and there is no extra garbage thrown in, like in so many other publications. The steps taken by the Native Americans towards gaining a more sovereign government system was laid out beautifully by the author, and I feel she should be commended for the ability to put it on the mainstream.