Tim Giago: Tribes continue to surrender sovereignty
The quasi-sovereign status of the Indian nations of America has slowly eroded since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 became the law of the land. The Act made it mandatory for the Indian nations to sign gaming compacts with the state governments wherein their Indian reservations were situated. The tribes, from that day forward, began to surrender much of their status as sovereign nations.

The tribes would only be allowed to establish gaming that was already permissible under current state law. In other words, if slot machines were outlawed within the state, the tribes could not, without extra special permission, introduce slot machines into their casinos.

When South Dakota opened up nearly all forms of gambling for the City of Deadwood, it then opened up the same gaming opportunities for the Indian tribes in the state. However, while allowing the steady growth in the number of slot machines in Deadwood, the state gaming compact restricted the Indian nations to a total of 250 slot machines for each tribe (there are nine tribes in South Dakota). The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe of eastern South Dakota last week brought a lawsuit against Governor Mike Rounds and the state for greatly diminishing their efforts at economic growth by this restriction.

In New Mexico, in exchange for limited non-Indian competition, the tribes signed compacts that would pay the state no more than 8 percent of its slot machine revenues. These compacts expire in 2015. Seeking a long-term extension of those compacts in order to bring about stability and certainty to their gaming and tribal government operations, the tribes moved to establish new compacts with the state.

The new compacts would extend the gaming compacts to the year 2037. The state will receive a gradual gaming revenue sharing increase to 10.75 percent over the life of the new compacts. The state proposed that the tribes set aside an additional 1 percent of their slot revenues for infrastructure improvements on reservations within the state that do not have casinos. The tribes immediately rejected this proposal. Setting aside a small portion of their casino profits to help the less fortunate tribes in the state was apparently unthinkable.

The only businesses in America that considers losers and the addicted as their best friends and customers are the gaming casinos. And you can take that to the bank.

Charles J. Dorame, Chairman of the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association in an op-ed piece in the Albuquerque Journal, even bragged about the sovereignty the tribes of New Mexico are willingly and gladly surrendering to the state. He wrote, “The proposed compact amendment significantly increases the level of state oversight. For example, state gaming representatives would have access to expanded slot data and the slot machines themselves, to slot accounting systems and to raw, unadulterated data.”

He then unabashedly threw sovereignty out of the window with, “The amendment also would require each tribal regulatory authority to submit an annual compliance report to the state and to maintain all records relied upon in preparing the compliance report for review by the state gaming representative. In addition the state would have the right to request any additional documentation and to conduct its own inspection of the Gaming Facility, Class III Gaming activity, individual gaming machines and all records related to the Class III Gaming of the Tribe.” Phew! He could have turned over the keys to all of the bathrooms while he was at it.

I wrote an editorial for Indian Country Today newspaper in 1989 when I was its editor and publisher that read, “Why are the tribes submitting to blackmail by the state governments that forces them to hand over their limited sovereignty in order to operate a gaming casino? They should proceed with whatever it takes to build their casinos, including an unlimited number of slot machines, and then tell the state government to go to hell if it questions their sovereign right to do so.” I stand by that editorial even to this day. To stand in fear of state government and to sell out their sovereignty, limited though it may be, for a casino, is not only mindless, but also totally untraditional.

If it wasn’t for the haste preceded by the greed that caused many Indian tribes to plunge into gaming pell-mell, they would have listened to the warnings of the great tribal leaders like Roger Jourdain of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota and Wendell Chino, the fearless leader of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico, who warned them from day one to take their time and to not surrender one more ounce of their sovereignty in order to get into the gambling business. Jourdain and Chino must be spinning in their graves to see tribe after tribe sell out their very souls to build another casino.

To see the tribes of New Mexico eroding and surrendering their sovereignty for 30 more years of state-regulated gaming is indeed a sad day in the history of Indian country and a harbinger of the predictions so sadly rendered by Jourdain and Chino.

(McClatchy News Service in Washington, DC distributes Tim Giago’s weekly column. He can be reached at najournalists@rushmore.com. Giago was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He was the recipient of the H.L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the class of 1990 – 1991. Clear Light Books of Santa Fe, NM (harmon@clearlightbooks.com) published his latest book, “Children Left Behind".

More Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Venezuela steps up for Indian nations (3/19)
Tim Giago: Cherokee Nation votes out Freedmen (3/12)
Tim Giago: Oglala Lakota Tribe still struggling (3/5)
Tim Giago: A view from South Dakota, the 'red' state (2/26)
Tim Giago: 'Chief Illiniwek' does his last dance (2/19)
Tim Giago: Greed is the new God in Indian Country (2/12)
Giago discusses 'dark legacy' of boarding schools (2/5)
Tim Giago: Writing helped heal wounds of abuse (1/29)
Tim Giago: How many others will die over Iraq? (1/22)
Tim Giago: Apache journalist opens doors in media (1/15)
Tim Giago: Newspaper fills gap in South Dakota (1/8)
Tim Giago: Recognize an Indian hero in the new year (1/2)
Tim Giago: Christmas and Lakota traditions (12/25)
Tim Giago: Sen. Johnson never wanted the spotlight (12/18)
Tim Giago: The 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee (12/11)
Tim Giago: R-word just as insulting as the N-word (12/4)
Tim Giago: Mainstream media lacking in accuracy (11/27)
Tim Giago: Thanksgiving - A holiday of the imagination (11/22)
Tim Giago: State stifling growth on reservations (11/20)
Tim Giago: Taking stock of Election Day 2006 (11/13)
Tim Giago: Few roles for Indians in Hollywood (11/6)
Tim Giago: Freedom of the press has a chance (10/31)
Tim Giago: Important election day for South Dakota (10/24)
Tim Giago: White media ignores Indian contributions (10/17)
Tim Giago: Termination a dirty word in Indian Country (10/10)
Giago: Domestic violence from a male perspective (10/3)
Tim Giago: Culturecide started with innocent children (09/19)
Tim Giago: Indian people mark 500 years of terrorism (9/11)
Tim Giago: Lawsuit challenges church on abuse (9/6)
Tim Giago: Day of reckoning for Oglala Sioux Tribe (8/29)
Tim Giago: Tribes giving up their sovereignty (08/08)
Giago retires as editor and publisher of magazine (8/4)
Tim Giago: States looking for ways to take from tribes (8/1)
Tim Giago: Religion invaded Native America (7/25)
Tim Giago: Daily screw ups in tribal governance (7/18)
Tim Giago: Happy Birthday to Van Cliburn and me (7/11)
Tim Giago: South Dakota tilting further to the right (7/3)
Tim Giago: Americans still the invaders in Iraq (6/27)
Tim Giago: Tribal colleges in Bill Gates' backyard (6/21)
Tim Giago: Gaming brings new wealth, new problems (6/13)
Tim Giago: 'Oz' author called for genocide of the Lakota (6/6)
Tim Giago: Too much uncertainty in gaming (5/30)
Tim Giago: Deny gaming to newly recognized tribes (5/23)
Tim Giago: Congratulations to the class of '06 (5/16)
Tim Giago: Rich tribes should help poorer tribes (5/9)
Tim Giago: Fighting substance abuse at Pine Ridge (5/2)
Tim Giago: Censorship in the mainstream media (4/25)
Tim Giago: Brainwashing on Pine Ridge Reservation (4/18)
Tim Giago: The growing pains of tribal sovereignty (4/11)
Tim Giago: Indians most affected by immigration (4/4)
Tim Giago: Little attention for Native American Day (3/28)
Giago: Oglala Sioux president on state abortion law (3/21)
Tim Giago: The road to true tribal sovereignty (3/14)
Tim Giago: The basketball miracle of 1936 (3/7)
Giago: Real problem in South Dakota is race relations (2/21)
Tim Giago: Yes, Virginia, Indians do pay taxes (2/14)
Tim Giago: Gas-guzzlers, Indian cars and the Big Three (2/7)
Tim Giago: Lions, Tiger, Bears and Indian mascots (1/31)
Tim Giago: Christians and Muslims still at war (1/24)
Tim Giago: Bush started Iraqi war over 'dark lie' (1/17)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder out of limbo after 66 days (1/10)
Tim Giago: The Olympics of Indian basketball (12/20)
Tim Giago: BIA schools turned abused into abusers (12/13)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder shakes up establishment (12/6)
Tim Giago: Della Warrior steps down from IAIA (11/29)
Tim Giago: Deloria gave Indian people a voice (11/22)
Tim Giago: Indians never forced religion on others (11/15)
Tim Giago: Exposing false medicine men (11/8)
Tim Giago: Government ignores Indian health problems (11/1)
Tim Giago: Indian newspapers revise history (10/25)
Tim Giago: Two friends make journey to spirit world (10/18)
Tim Giago: Politicians need to know Indian law (10/11)
Tim Giago: Doors opening to Indians in South Dakota (10/4)
Tim Giago: 'Indian' myths and misconceptions (9/27)
Tim Giago: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina (9/20)
Tim Giago: NCAA loses its spine on mascot policy (9/13)
Tim Giago: The Indian 'scandal sheet' phenomenon (08/30)
Tim Giago: Indians became refugees in own land (8/23)
Tim Giago: Censor tribes for supporting mascots (8/17)
Tim Giago: New addiction takes over in Indian Country (08/02)
Tim Giago: Tribes trade sovereignty for dollars (7/26)
Giago: Seminole Tribe wrong on Indian mascots (7/19)
Giago: Underground Railroad to escape boarding school (7/12)
Giago: Skeletons hidden in Rapid City's closet (07/07)
Tim Giago: Air Force base not a blessing to Lakotas (6/30)
Tim Giago: Tribes to claim downsized military bases (06/07)
Tim Giago: First revolutionary was a Native man (5/31)
Tim Giago: Many 'wannabe' tribes seek recognition (05/17)
Tim Giago: South Dakota press censors Indian writers (05/10)
Tim Giago: White lawyers growing fat off tribes (04/26)
Tim Giago: Gay marriage debate killed Democrats (4/19)
Tim Giago: It's time for wealthy tribes to think Indian (04/05)
Tim Giago: Wealthy tribes don't need federal funds (03/31)
Tim Giago: Gaming leads to addiction, crime (03/22)
Tim Giago: Discrimination in the media and advertising (03/08)
Tim Giago: Black Hills land theft a dishonest deal (03/01)
Tim Giago: Committing slow suicide with foods (02/15)
Tim Giago: Bush probably still against Indian gaming (01/25)
Tim Giago: Calvary re-enactors should know better (01/18)
Tim Giago: Racism continues in South Dakota (11/30)
Tim Giago: Should we listen to Osama bin Laden? (11/23)
Tim Giago: GOP moral values will hurt Indian Country (11/09)
Tim Giago: Indian reformists stamped out tribes (11/02)
Tim Giago: I'm not a racist and I haven't seen NMAI yet (09/29)
Tim Giago: Eastern tribes are African-American (09/15)
Tim Giago: Indians have cause to fear Republicans (07/21)
Tim Giago: Casinos create culture of 'us' and 'them' (06/30)
Tim Giago: Boarding schools cause of many ills (06/14)
Tim Giago: 'Real' Indians don't fight over money (04/05)
Tim Giago now plans to run for Senate as independent (03/31)
Tim Giago: Indians pay no taxes, and other myths (01/26)
Giago: Indian gaming erodes tribal sovereignty (01/07)
Giago: Gays were highly respected by Sioux Nation (09/22)
Tim Giago: I'm a fully recovered Catholic (09/11)
Giago: State should refund tax money first (08/06)
Giago: Oprah show changed minds on Indian mascots (07/31)