Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Tom Wanamaker dissects the stereotypes in a Providence Journal editorial dated 12/13/05:
Blaming the victim
Posted: January 03, 2006
by: Tom Wanamaker / Indian Country Today
Turning a blind eye to reality
The explosion of computer technology and the rapid growth of the Internet over the past decade have, among other things, allowed for more rapid communication between individuals and a broader dissemination of ideas and opinions through the new electronic media. This overall expansion of communicative ability, one would hope, would lead to a more enlightened populace.
But while consumers certainly have a wider array of news delivery options from which to select, there doesn't seem to be any greater sense of enlightenment, at least in regard to public perception of the Indian gaming industry. Some of this fault lies with the media itself. A recent editorial published Dec. 13 by the Providence Journal provides a case in point.
The Journal rightfully derided the "intense money lust" currently pervasive in our nation's capital. It aimed its pen (or, perhaps, its keyboard) at scandals involving congressional Republicans; the revolving door between government, lobbying firms and private industry; "bribes for obtaining vast defense contracts"; and, of course, that two-faced fleecer of Indian tribal governments: Jack Abramoff. All of these are legitimate targets for criticism.
But the Journal crossed the line and went way out of bounds in targeting IGRA, which it called one of the "numerous happy highways for corruption these days." This includes, it wrote, "the inevitable influence peddling that goes with the disastrous Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which has led to an explosion of Indian casinos and hence more corruption." Blatantly inflammatory and misguided statements such as these do nothing to inform and educate the public, which the editors of a major daily newspaper surely understand is not only their job but also their responsibility.
Whatever corruption exists surrounding the Indian gaming industry rarely stems from Indians; it often comes from the money-centric horde of lobbyists and the salivating politicians who pander to them. What choice do tribes have but to play this game, just like everyone else who wants a piece of the American pie?
Abramoff and his lobbying cronies deliberately and shamefully ripped off their tribal clients. Should the tribes who employed them have known better? Maybe, but don't forget that gaming tribes are new players in the D.C. influence game and perhaps did not exercise sufficient caution in putting their trust in people who didn't deserve it. You can bet your bottom dollar that the affected tribes and others will show greater savvy in the future.
Connecticut tribes seeking federal recognition have had to battle an onslaught of race-based negativity from state officials. These include the attorney general and the current and former governors (former Gov. John Rowland, by the way, is currently in prison for accepting kickbacks), who hypocritically deny that the Schaghticokes and Eastern Pequots are real Indians, even though both enjoy state recognition and live on reservations created before the state of Connecticut came into existence.
Allegations have run rampant that these anti-Indian politicians unduly pressured the BIA to deny federal recognition to the tribes. Time may well reveal that these hypocrites, who rake in millions of dollars from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, have corrupted the BIA process for other deserving tribes.
Yes, the glacial BIA recognition process may well have been corrupted, but Indians are not at fault for that. Tribes applying for recognition are only seeking something to which they are lawfully entitled through the primary process available to them.
As far as tribal governments are concerned, IGRA has been anything but "disastrous." No, not all tribes are getting rich from gaming (a misplaced but growing stereotype that has absolutely no credence). But gaming has become the best means of economic development in Indian country. Tribes with successful gaming operations have, as mandated by IGRA, used gaming proceeds to fund educational and health care programs, to revive languages and other aspects of cultures on the verge of extinction, to support tribal governmental operations and to reinvest in other business ventures.
Tribally owned casinos have also created hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide, a majority of which are held by non-Indians. These workers spend a large chunk of their salaries to boost their local economies, while their tax dollars support governments at the local, state and federal levels. Tribal casinos and other businesses pour millions of dollars annually into the coffers of vendors, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors who would not have this business but for IGRA.
And, under the concept of "revenue sharing" (which is not mandated by IGRA), tribes have voluntarily (in some cases) ceded a portion of their gaming dollars to state governments, who are becoming increasingly aggressive in trying to obtain such revenue, to which they are not legally entitled. Many tribes also make payments in lieu of taxes to local communities and school districts as a way to mitigate the local impact of their casinos. Likewise, IGRA does not require such payments.
To call IGRA "disastrous" is to willfully turn a blind eye to all the good this federal law has done for Indian tribes and their non-Indian neighbors throughout the United States. Likewise, blaming tribes for being fleeced by Abramoff, or blaming them for the apparently skewed way in which recognition is awarded, is akin to blaming a rape victim for being assaulted, or a roadside car-crash fatality for getting in the way of a drunk driver.
Then again, the general sentiment in Rhode Island seems to condone raiding sovereign Indian territory, confiscating tribal property, disrupting commerce, and arresting Indians for trying to defend themselves and their livelihood -- as happened in July 2003 to the Narragansett Indians. Subsequent promises by that state's governor to explore alternative means for economic development (other than gaming and cigarette sales) have come to naught.
It is the duty of every journalist and editor to be factual and responsible in his or her reporting of the news and writing of opinions. The Abramoff scandal does not mean that IGRA is a "disaster": there is no logic to support such an inference. In baselessly attacking IGRA, the Providence Journal has unfortunately succumbed to an unfounded stereotype promulgated by the same "fanatical worshippers of Mammon" it claims to abhor.
The facts about Indian gaming—corruption
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