Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Casinos are bringing billions of dollars to Indian tribes. Yet reservation Indians don't pay taxes. To most Americans, Indians seem to have an "unfair advantage."
Naοve and ironic as this accusation seems to us Indians, who once lost our whole world, it represents a national, negative sentiment that threatens Indian tribal status altogether.
I predict that casinos will cause Indians to lose our tribal status. Casinos will cause Indians to lose our reservations. Casinos will finally cause Indians to lose even our genetic identity through forced assimilation. Casinos will destroy Indians.
Indians have mocked my concern. Those with casino connections, or those involved personally with gambling, have accused me of grandstanding paranoia.
But my concern is validated as I write.
Shepherd Smith featured the Indian casino issue on Fox News (Aug. 12, 2003). It was a California state issue, but it represents the national issue as well.
"California faces major budget gaps, but American Indians who are making hundreds of millions in casino profits are not required to pay state taxes. Some argue it isn't fair; Native American leaders say they've paid enough." That was the headline.
The Fox News Politics site featured a detailed story last April. California is more than $34.6 billion in debt. Soon to be ousted Governor Gray Davis, desperate for money, wanted to tap into the Indian profits. Gaming consultant Michael Lombardi says this feeling that states should access Indian casino profits is spreading across the country.
But the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1998 bars states from taxing Indian casinos. Congress had no thought that states would be facing such fiscal crises.
Now crafty attorneys and individual Indian leaders negotiate agreements that allow states to share significant profits, particularly in Arizona, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. If a tribe is granted exclusive rights to have casinos in a certain prescribed area within a state, the tribe in turn will profit-share.
In Oklahoma, however, the "It isn't fair!" attitude prevails. There is a new organization called One Nation, which is devoted to the dissolution of Indian tribal status and sovereignty, thus ending "unfair tribal advantages."
One Nation references Oklahoma Tax Commission reports saying some $80 million in sales taxes is lost annually to Indian exemptions, Then ON adds its estimation of property tax that would otherwise be paid, and the tally rises to a staggering $500 million in tax losses, due to the Indian "nation" status.
This is incendiary. People don't like playing against "unfair" advantages. Never mind about the unfair advantages Americans had over Indians in the past. What counts now is the inflammatory concept that Indians are somehow cheating.
Add to this fiscal based crisis the (August 6) USA Today report that reservations are drug smuggling havens, and we have visceral public outrage. The American people will call for the government to eliminate the reservations completely. Laws will ensue. It's only a matter of time.
$1.8 million worth of marijuana was seized in a single incident on the Tohono O'odham reservation in southern Arizona. Tribal police and Border Patrol say they stop only about 25 percent of the Mexican drug traffic that passes through. (This is not to mention the illegal Mexicans that sneak across the very loosely guarded boarder of the 2,8 million-acre reservation. That number is estimated at about 1,500 a day.)
Nationwide, there were 4,259 drug possession cases filed against Indians on Indian lands. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (that bastion of equity and responsibility) says the drug industry has deeply infiltrated Indian communities. Indeed. Some 3,000 pounds of marijuana pass through the Tohono O'odham reservation each week.
Tribal members are paid to cooperate. It's an offer they can't refuse: lots of money, or lots of broken legs. The reservation is sparsely populated, and even more sparsely policed. The tribe cannot control the situation.
Yet, the tribe is one of those "sovereign" nations: like the Blackfeet, along the Canadian border, among whom 30 cocaine traffickers were recently convicted. The BIA took over the tribal police department after investigating; Like the Oneida Nation, and the Mohawk nation, the Blackfeet nation is supervised by a team of seven white boys who are constantly investigating and convicting Indians for illegal drug trafficking and related crimes, not the least of which is assisting in illegal immigration, as Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell observed before the a tribal summit on Homeland Security.
The casino billions are a mysteriously ineffective fix. The reservations now represent a blackhole in America's Homeland Security system. What greater cause to abolish them?
Dr. David A. Yeagley teaches humanities at the College of Liberal Studies, University of Oklahoma. His opinions are independent. He holds degrees from Yale, Emory, Oberlin, University of Arizona and University of Hartford. He is a member of the Comanche Tribe, Lawton, OK. For more information on Dr. Yeagley's initiative to teach patriotism in the schools, click here. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his website at http://www.badeagle.com.
Yeagley has a point: that Indians face a backlash against sovereignty unless they convince other Americans they aren't cheating or profiting unfairly. But mostly he's guilty of grandstanding paranoia, as his critics claim.
"Reservation Indians" pay federal and other taxes, so they're not tax-free. And most Indians aren't "reservation Indians." Most aren't profiting from casinos, either.
Yeagley has created a fantastic scenario out of his vivid imagination: that mainstream Americans will become so outraged at Indian casino profits that they'll terminate all tribes and reservations, including the majority that don't participate in gaming. He's ignored the reality of the situation. Gaming revenue has saved Indian lives by funding health care. It's preserved Indian cultures by funding educational programs.
Real benefits trump imaginary drawbacks any day. Until there's some evidence that mainstream Americans are planning another semi-genocidal crusade against Indians, Yeagley's screed is the worst sort of scare tactic. Frankly, he sounds jealous that other Indians are succeeding without his "wisdom" to guide them.
The real stereotypes in Yeagley's piece are the claims that reservations are havens for illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Not just one or two reservations on the border, mind you. Yeagley implies that all 560-plus reservations are hotbeds of crime and corruption.
He also confuses drug possession with drug smuggling. Reservations, like other struggling communities, may have problems with drug use, but drug use doesn't even prove drug trafficking, much less drug smuggling.
Yeagley's silliest claim is that "seven white boys" are supervising at least three sovereign nations. The implication is that Indians are lazy or incompetent, incapable of managing their own affairs. Many early Euro-Americans compared Indians to children and Yeagley seems to agree. Only babies need "boys" to babysit them.
The shocking crime wave
Fortunately, Yeagley provides a link to the source of his claim. It quickly proves the stupidity of his assertion.
Apparently, the "seven white boys" are members of the New York State Police's Casino Gaming Detail. They have jurisdiction over exactly two casinos: the Oneidas' Turning Stone Casino and the St. Regis Mohawks' Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. The NYSP's 2000 annual report lists exactly two investigations. In one a casino beverage server was taking sports bets from co-workers. In the other a con man gulled several casino employees into investing in a fictitious import/export business.
Investigating isn't supervising, of course. And there's no mention of any "white boys" investigating or supervising the Blackfeet, which isn't surprising. The New York State Police isn't likely to have jurisdiction in the Blackfeet's state of Montana.
So where is the crime wave? Where are the white boys supervising whole tribes? In a year's worth of investigation, the NYSP's Casino Gaming Detail found one minor crime (the sports betting) occurring within and because of a casino. The other crime could've happened anywhere any only coincidentally involved a casino.
I imagine the NYSP's Casino Gaming Detail is still searching for crimes. I imagine the tribes are fully cooperating with it to keep their record clean. If the above is the extent of the criminal activity in New York's casinos, Yeagley should be jumping for joy. Every industry in America would be happy to have such a near-perfect record.
Basically, Yeagley has lied about the crime on New York's reservations to bolster his scare tactics. As Susan Shown Harjo reveals below, Yeagley seems to lie or exaggerate habitually. I guess he hasn't heard that Indians are traditionally known for being honest.
Yeagley the Indian apple
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