Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Correspondent Cheryl alerted me to the following episode of CSI Miami:
A gaming official accused of trying to dip into Indian casino profits is found scalped to death, and the discovery of a dead prostitute's little black book suggests that he's part of a larger plot involving County Commissioner O'Shay.
"Horatio suspects that the County Supervisor and the owners of a nearby Native American Casino may be involved when a murder victim is found scalped."
Original Airdate: April 09, 2007
And the scalper ends up being a 1/16th blood who had apparently enrolled for the casino money, while the Native casino manager gets killed via stabbing in his eye with a barrette by his Native wife for sleeping with a hooker provided by an investor. ... Lots of nasty business in this one :(
I asked Cheryl if she could tell me more about the episode, which I hadn't seen. Her reply:
The show had many layers of stereotyping and political issues to it from what i saw ... and a very confused sort of shift from pro-NDN to anti-NDN ... ended up pretty damned anti-Native/anti-casino, though.
In August I saw a repeat of the "Bloodline" episode. The scalping and stabbing were arguably the least of the show's problems. "Bloodline" was written by someone who probably read one article on Indian gaming and thought that made him an expert. The episode was riddled with flaws regarding governmental jurisdiction and gaming regulation.
Let's list the show's mistakes and explain why they were mistakes. [Spoiler alert: Don't read any further if you don't want to know the outcome.]
1) A county supervisor has nothing to do with legalizing or expanding gaming at the state level. If he's lucky, he might be able to influence a casino in his jurisdiction, but only by raising public awareness or filing a lawsuit. He probably couldn't block a casino and he definitely couldn't authorize one.
2) Florida has had Indian gaming for decades, so no legislation would be needed there. The only area where the state might pass legislation is in legalizing Class III gaming (slot machines and table games). This is happening now as Governor Crist negotiates a state compact with the Seminole Tribe. Again, local politicians such as county supervisors won't have much involvement in the process.
3) I've never heard of a state having an "Indian Legislative Board" or anything similar. More likely, Lansing would've been appointed to a state agency regulating Indian casinos. But the most a regulatory agency would do is audit the casinos' operations.
Any payments from a tribe to the state would be verified at several levels before going into the state's general fund. State officials are under intense scrutiny; financial scandals usually happen at the local level. It would be almost impossible for Lansing to divert the funds to himself or someone else.
Later the detectives burst into the Veston's apartment at the Kipayo Casino Hotel, only to find Reggie Veston dead. They begin processing the apartment as a crime scene.
County police have no authority on most Indian reservations. That's because of tribal sovereignty, of course. The FBI probably would handle the murder of a tribal member on tribal territory.
The only exceptions are PL 280 states. In a handful of states, the state has jurisdiction over crimes on the reservation. But Florida isn't one of them.
1) The police don't run expensive DNA tests on people just for kicks. The person in question wasn't a suspect at the time. They'd have to have some reason to doubt his story and profile him racially.
2) It's rare for a tribe to determine its membership by DNA testing. Usually it's done by documenting a family tie to a known member of the tribe. Documenting it with a paper trail of records, that is.
3) The test might be able to identify some Indian markers in a person's DNA, but it wouldn't be able to link them to a particular tribe. Millions of people have 1/16th or more of Indian blood, but they could be descended from any tribe on the continent.
1) There's no such thing as a BIA "certificate of authenticity." The BIA has no role and nothing to say about who is or should be a tribal member. Each tribe determines that for itself.
2) The deer-antler knife wouldn't prove anything and wouldn't be part of an enrollment application. Anyone could obtain such a knife and claim it was his. The main thing an applicant would need is a family tree showing the lineage from his Indian ancestors to him. In other words, he'd need genealogy, not archaeology.
3) Deer aren't common in the swamps of southern Florida. The Kipayo would be unlikely to fashion a deer antler into a weapon.
The present tribes in Florida didn't exist until the 1700s, when they replaced the tribes decimated by disease. At that time they would've used metal knives just like everyone else. The extinct tribes might've used bone artifacts, but the suspect wasn't claiming a relationship with them.
Summing it up
A part-Indian scalps Lansing because scalping is how Indians get their revenge. Adrienne Veston stabs her husband Reggie because he cheated on her with a prostitute. So the only three Indians in "Bloodline" are a murderer, another murderer (perhaps guilty only of manslaughter, but still), and an adulterer. Portraying every Indian in the show as a criminal or moral failure doesn't show much respect for Indians.
A reader replies
A note from correspondent Kim:
You wrote: "It would be a shocker if a show depicted a tribal gaming enterprise without crime or corruption and noted how the revenue is going to build homes, schools, and hospitals.
"It would be a shocker to me to see an example where the revenue is going to build homes, schools, and hospitals."
Unfortunately the reality is that casino gambling is doing and has done more in the last ten years to aid disenfranchisement of individual Indians than the federal government's ill conceived attempted tribal buyouts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries accomplished in 50 years. If you look at the Indian country news, almost every tribe which has a casino and which has percapita allocations of the profits is or has recently been involved in efforts to disenroll large percentages of their members, including in many cases members whose families have been accepted as members of the tribe for generations. These cases usually involve political infighting between the 'ins' and the 'outs'. The only cases I can think of where this is not happening are the tribes which do not have percapita allocations of the profits and the Seminoles (who were the original inventors of the Indian casino concept).
In general though I do agree with your review of "Bloodline".
>> Unfortunately the reality is that casino gambling is doing and has done more in the last ten years to aid disenfranchisement of individual Indians than the federal government's ill conceived attempted tribal buyouts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries accomplished in 50 years. <<
I wouldn't be surprised if the tribal buyouts did more to disenfranchise Indians. <g>
>> If you look at the Indian country news, almost every tribe which has a casino and which has percapita allocations of the profits is or has recently been involved in efforts to disenroll large percentages of their members, including in many cases members whose families have been accepted as members of the tribe for generations. <<
Someone should compile disenrollment statistics and post them somewhere. I'd guess it's more like some tribes, not "almost every tribe."
>> These cases usually involve political infighting between the 'ins' and the 'outs'. <<
In some cases, tribes who enrolled dubious Indians freely when there were no gaming profits to share are now taking a closer look at them. Unfortunately, it's impossible to be sure of the exact motives of the disenrolling tribes. The disenrollees always say it's about money and the disenrollers always say it isn't. Without knowing the whole story, outsiders can't determine which side is right.
Anyway, disenrollment is an important subject and it would be fair game for a TV episode about Indian gaming. But just as disenrollment isn't the only problem facing gaming tribes, it shouldn't be the only subject of episodes about Indian gaming. If nine of 10 episodes were about other aspects of Indian gaming and one was about disenrollment, that would seem about right to me.
By the way, I've linked to the best articles I've found on disenrollment on my Indian gaming page. Check 'em out if you're interested.
>> I grant that most of my knowledge comes from various 'news' sources which always lean toward cases where there is change versus those cases where There is no change (in this case, no disenrollment). <<
Also, the tribes almost always refuse to comment on their decisions, which is a mistake from a PR point of view. So the news reports usually quote only the disenrollees. That creates the perception that it's all about money, whether it is or not.
Another reader replies
A note from correspondent Juliet:
>> I can imagine the defense: non-Indian (read: mob-controlled and/or Las Vegas) casinos have been done to death. <<
Except for shows like Vegas, obviously, I don't recall any series TV episodes set in Las Vegas. Shows are usually set in a big city (NY, LA, Chicago) and they don't have the budget to film anywhere else.
Scalping, torture, and mutilation by Indians
The facts about Indian gaming
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