Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
From the LA Times:
September 24, 2004
Steve Lopez: Points West
Are Tribes Cashing In Their Heritage?
If you've had the misfortune of turning on the TV lately, surely you've discovered that California's Indian tribes are at war. Not just with the white man, who wants a piece of their casino action, but with one another.
Dueling ballot propositions, along with opposition to a deal Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cooked up with five tribes, are making for a blitz of TV ads. The combatants are throwing $10 million into the battle this week alone, with a total of about $75 million already on the table.
I'm not sure the ads will help anyone sort through the issues, but they do make one thing perfectly clear:
The tribal casinos must have the tightest slots in history. Where else would all those millions be coming from?
I couldn't help but note that as California tribes went on the warpath to keep the posse away from their slots, the National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington, D.C., to honor the sacrifices of a great people. I guess we all honor our heritage differently.
Sure, the country owes a debt, but should it be paid out in chips? And is there a public official, anywhere, who can come up with something other than blackjack to fill budget holes?
I began wondering if there is a single Native American who has a problem with tribes creating modern-day opium dens, and my quest led me to a Sonoma County man named Homer Dollar.
Strange last name for a man who claims he wouldn't take 10 dimes' worth of casino cash. Dollar calls himself a "half-blood" and says he was evicted from his home on the Dry Creek Pomo reservation a few years back to make way for a casino.
"All we've got left is our land," said Dollar, an electrician who now lives off the reservation in a rental. "Are we going to destroy it like everyone else? Are we so assimilated that the only thing we worry about is money?"
This sentiment is shared by Arizona's Hopi tribe.
The Hopi have financial problems galore, and expect them to get worse if a coal mining operation is shut down as planned. They went to the polls in May to consider approving a casino that might have bailed them out with an estimated $24 million in annual revenue. But there was plenty of opposition to the idea of trading sovereignty to the state of Arizona for the right to deal poker.
"Gaming is making money off other people's bad habits, and the Hopi way says we should not use other people's bad habits to benefit," tribal Vice Chairman Caleb Johnson said just days before the vote.
The casino proposal got dumped, 1,051 to 784.
What were they thinking?
Get off your high horses, Hopi, and get in on the action. Losers are more plentiful than buffalo before Columbus. They're lined up with oxygen tanks and Social Security checks, eager to gamble next month's rent on another tug of the one-armed bandit.
Dave Palermo, a Hopi consultant, insists gaming has been good for many Indian tribes, giving them "their first shot at a piece of the American dream." But, he added, "Some tribes are not doing enough in the way of preserving their heritage and strengthening and rebuilding their tribal governments."
Homer Dollar is more blunt.
"There are so many things more important than gambling or all the hype," he says. "Oh, we're going to be billionaires. Come on, man. Who cares? It's really sad, and we don't teach our kids anything. We're not perpetuating anything other than the idea that we might get a check …
"What are we going to be remembered for, gambling?"
>> If you've had the misfortune of turning on the TV lately, surely you've discovered that California's Indian tribes are at war. <<
Here we have a classic stereotype: that Indians are at war. Whenever Indians are involved in a conflict, even if they didn't start it, the media labels it a "war."
>> I couldn't help but note that as California tribes went on the warpath to keep the posse away from their slots <<
A double stereotype: "on the warpath" and "keep the posse away."
>> the National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington, D.C., to honor the sacrifices of a great people. I guess we all honor our heritage differently. <<
Ironically, critics pointed out that the NMAI featured the cultures of the gaming tribes who funded it. So the tribes who "honor their heritage" with casinos also have honored their heritage with the NMAI. They see no contradiction, so why should Lopez?
In fact, many museums and their exhibits are funded by corporations these days. That includes the Smithsonian museums near the NMAI. Does that mean mainstream Americans are hypocrites for not separating commerce and culture?
Lopez implies Indians are abandoning their past by trying to earn a living and pursue the American dream. I guess he'd rather Indians stay pure and poor than tainted and taken care of.
>> Sure, the country owes a debt, but should it be paid out in chips? <<
Other than not paying them anything, does Lopez have an alternative? Why doesn't he suggest it?
>> I began wondering if there is a single Native American who has a problem with tribes creating modern-day opium dens <<
"Modern-day opium dens"? Wow, not too loaded a phrase there. Once Lopez finishes his crusade against Indian casinos, I hope he plans to tackle Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Their "modern-day opium dens" have been around a lot longer than Indian casinos.
>> This sentiment is shared by Arizona's Hopi tribe. <<
Lopez answers his own question, which proves that his previous statement is shady hyperbole. He knows (or should know) that half the nation's tribes don't engage in gaming, yet he makes it seem as if you'd be hard-pressed to find a single uncorrupted Native these days.
>> They're lined up with oxygen tanks and Social Security checks, eager to gamble next month's rent on another tug of the one-armed bandit. <<
Again, I've missed Lopez's columns on the evils of gambling in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. One hopes he'll write about these evils soon. Otherwise, someone might accuse him of being anti-Indian, not anti-gambling.
>> It's really sad, and we don't teach our kids anything. We're not perpetuating anything other than the idea that we might get a check <<
Most of the tribes I know are using their gaming income to fund tribal programs such as cultural and language preservation. Which isn't surprising, because the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires them to spend the money on such programs and services.
Many Indians have warned their brethren against being seduced by wealth and greed. The arguments echo between factions within tribes. Even those who support gaming realize its benefits may be ephemeral, so they're reinvesting their earnings in other enterprises. Like any town with a single factory or mill or Wal-Mart, they realize the importance of diversification.
The critics of Indian gaming—and why they're wrong
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