It’s been a long while since I last wrote something. Life has a way of getting in the way of your plans. I thought about this blog yesterday and thought it would be a good idea to formulate my philosophy on Indian gaming.
I’ve written a lot about secondary effects of gaming since this blog’s inception. You’ve heard me rail on and on about tribal disenrollments, the Indian Civil Rights Act, and greedy tribal councils. Yet at the same time I don’t think I’ve done enough to elucidate a clear stance on Indian gaming. I’ve written a sentence about it here and there, but it never received its own post. So, here it is.
Indian gaming is beneficial to tribes. It is a unique and lucrative economic tool that tribes may use to earn money for their people. Many tribes were shockingly poor and living in almost third-world conditions prior to the advent of Indian gaming. The money was desperately needed. Since its inception, Indian gaming has led to running water, indoor plumbing, standardized housing, clinics, schools, scholarships, jobs (for Indian and non-Indians), roads, buildings, and vast infrastructure improvements. Tribes have donated money to charity and invested some of their money in surrounding communities. In a perfect world, Indian gaming benefits everyone.
Unfortunately, Indian gaming has been used to oppress others. On this subject I’ve written plenty and need not repeat most of it here. To put it simply, avarice has begotten numerous civil rights violations and blackened many tribes’ images. Gaming tribes are seen as duplicitous, greedy, corrupt, and oppressive. Their use of tribal sovereignty as a means to use their money as they see fit and then hide behind sovereign immunity whenever they want is not an endearing quality. Many have called for an end to Indian gaming.
The remedies to these problems vary. Stronger congressional oversight, amending federal laws, partial or total abrogation of tribal sovereignty, more state power to intervene in tribal affairs, and exemption from taxation laws are just some of the proposed solutions. I honestly don’t know how the problem can be truly solved. I used to think (and still think) that Congress needs to step in and regulate tribal activity regarding membership despite tribes’ unique place in the law to handle their own membership affairs. However, I am becoming more convinced that one cannot simply legislate the problem away.
Ultimately, the solution has to come from the Indian tribes themselves. It’s hard to tell someone to stop acting badly towards others let alone an entire tribe, especially when the ruling families of that tribe firmly believe that they’re right, and in some cases, believe that society as a whole owes them something. But tribes need to realize that they are part of this society like everyone else and as a pluralistic society, we rise and fall together. Tribal sovereignty will always have its place, but it should not be a blank check to cast aside their own people over what they believe is an entitlement, whether it is for money or for the unfortunate belief that the disenrolled were never really members of their tribe to begin with. The Creator does not see things the way they do.