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January 20, 2006


As an American Indian whose tribe was the first in the nation to open a "casino," I have long argued with myself over the efficacy of this now widespread phenomenon - what it does to tradition vs. what it does for poverty. And then there's the payback-for-centuries-of-you-know-what aspect of sucking up all that money from the non-Indian population, although Indians aren't always the main beneficiaries.

However, on the idea that tribal money to politicians is somehow tainted, unlike money from other sources, I am not of two minds. Whether this theme is merely Republican spin or another example of America's longstanding love-hate affair with its indigenous peoples I am unequipped to parse. Whichever, it's stomach-turning.

What really bothers me is that no one has explored the basic law that allows Tribes to establish a Casino and how it actually works.

To have any chance at gameing one has to be a "recognized Tribe." East of the Mississippi that has always been a bit iffy -- but for that reason it is political.

However, in order to do gameing, one also has to be in a state that allows a certain level of gaming. For instance, if state law allows Bingo -- then the Tribes can do Bingo. Beyond that, the Indian Tribes have to have a compact with the state. They cannot go beyond the level of risk allowed by state law (and if you have a state lottery you allow unlimited risk you know) but you can fit your allowable games within it.

Does Congress need to revisit this -- absolutely. Read some of the testimony about people who have lived in Indian country by Indian law for generations who have been read out of their own tribes so that the division of the spoils will be cut with a lower divider. Look at the difference between bands and tribes that have invested the income for the welfare of the tribe versus those that have just issued checks to enroled members. Look at the difference between tribes with interstate access and those off the tourist path.

For the most part, Democrats have supported gameing if the income was distributed, and if income was invested for the benefit of tribes. But that position has been a problem because of assumptions.

However, once a state constructs a compact, they really have little control over how the profits - income will be distributed. (Remember thay cannot be taxed under either state or Federal law.)

Congress needs to revisit the original law -- the idea that one tribe can become multi-millionaires and the guys nex door remain with nothing is not the intent of Congress. Nor was Abramoff's scam or the maze of communities trying to establish their Indian Blood Lines with the help of the mob and Abramoff types.

One of the most disturbing examples of (part of) what you're talking about, Sara, is that of post-casino Cherokees and Seminoles (my own tribe) to exclude black members. In the case of the Cherokee, that exclusion includes a direct descendant of Stick Ross, the black son of John Ross, the chieftain who led the Cherokee across the Mississippi on the Trail of Tears.

The egregiousness of this exclusion is particularly galling among the Seminoles, since we are and have always been an amalgam of Apalachee, Creek, "renegade" whites and runaway slaves. There are the Black Seminoles, a separate group, but also blacks among Seminoles, and most of us who are honest about it know we are individually as well as tribally a mix of black, Indian and white blood. Among the Cherokee, blacks were kept as slaves until the end of the Civil War, and were often linguistically and culturally Cherokee.

The impact of casinos has varied immensely from tribe to tribe, with some of them taking quite seriously (and others doing everything in their power to get around) the federal law's requirement that:

...net revenues from any tribal gaming are not to be used for purposes other than— (i) to fund tribal government operations or programs; (ii) to provide for the general welfare of the Indian tribe and its members; (iii) to promote tribal economic development; (iv) to donate to charitable organizations; or (v) to help fund operations of local government agencies

Obviously, the Mob and some businesses with a more legitimate appearance, have done all they can to squeeze their own juice out of this bonanza, something the tribes have had to contend with every since the Pilgrims arrived, whether the resource was land, water, fossil fuel or, now, gambling dollars. Sadly, as always, there have been Indians, like those who betrayed Crazy Horse and Geronimo, who have sought their own gain at the expense of the tribe.

Not only that, the WaPo and others (most recently the AP) seem to adopt a kind of infantilism where the tribes are concerned. Other people make donations; the tribes have to be directed to do so.

But this is wholly inaccurate. Wampum has been on this one and shows that tribes not only can hire lobbyists, they sometimes hire several lobbying organizations. Who is to say that the donations to Dems were directed by Abramoff, and not one of the other lobbying firms or, perish the thought, by the tribes all by themselves without "white" help, and, therefore, as 'wheel points out, just ordinary free speech?

On this story Howells proves herself to be not just a bad reporter and incompetent ombudsman, but a bit patronizing, to say the least. She is an embarassment.

Recognition is not just an issue east of the Mississippi. There's a major wrangle here over restoration of Duwamish tribal status, with other tribes opposed -- recognition might lead to Duwamish casinos and a smaller slice of the casino pie to other tribes.

Not all tribal lobbying is "Abramoff money", but contributions to both parties over the last several years must be examined closely, case by case, for tribes that contracted with Abramoff or any of his shells.

And I'm confident the scandals won't just be confined to tribal money, or Marianas money, though the Tiguas swindles seem to be Abramoff's biggest score.

to hell with whacking the mole.... Lets play whack Rove instead.... pleasssssssssse?! He is a horrid bitter old fart.... and i dont mean whack to death just out of power. We could even play whack the Bush Adminsistration get them all out of power using a large base ball bat demonstrating our love for this nation.... ooor not... but finding some way to rid ourselves of such people in power by taking them out of power would be nice.


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