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Arts & Entertainment
NativeTV: Animated show tells Texas tribal gaming tale

KING OF THE HILL: John Redcorn, massage therapist, heavy metal frontman.
It's not often that a television show accurately, and humorously, depicts Indian issues but that's what happened last night during an episode of the long-running animated series King of the Hill.

The Fox show, in its 7th year, has featured an Indian character since its second season. John Redcorn -- whose voice is provided by Jonathan Joss, a Comanche actor from Texas -- is an Indian massage therapist whose relationship with a non-Indian woman is known to everyone in their Texas town except the woman's husband.

The affair and the son it produced are the focus of most of Redcorn's plot lines but occasionally the show uses his Indian heritage to draw attention to Indian issues in a funny but factual way. On one episode, he filed a land claim lawsuit against the U.S. that was settled for a mere 12 acres. On another, when asked whether he celebrated Thanksgiving, he cooly responded "Once."

When Redcorn decided on last night's show to open a casino to promote his fledgling heavy metal band, Big Mountain Fudge Cake, Indian gaming became the latest issue to join the Hill archive. Considering that two tribal casinos have been shut down in Texas in recent years, the subject was rather fitting.

GAMING NATION: Redcorn signs gaming deal with "Brother" Henry Mankiller.
"Hello Brother Indian, I'm Henry Mankiller with the Tribal Gaming Corporation," says the bolo-wearing man who would become Redcorn's financial backer.

"You got my e-mail?" responds Redcorn. "Cool website."

"Yes and I hope you're enjoying your subscription to Gaming Nation," says Mankiller.

Indian gaming brings with it a lot of associated issues about blood quantum, culture and heritage and the show pokes fun at them. "Exactly what kind of Indian are you?" asks Redcorn's bass player. "I'm 1/64th Creek on my mother's side," says Mankiller.

The biggest issue, though, is the legality of gaming in Texas. When local authorities raid the "Speaking Wind Casino and Entertainment Center" -- the Tigua Tribe's casino is called Speaking Rock -- Redcorn can't believe what's happening.

"But we're on Indian land," he protests. "And that land is in Texas, where there is no Indian gaming," the local officer counters.

NO DICE: Local authorities shut down Indian casino.
"Texas tribes traded their federal gaming rights for state recognition of their tribes," the officer adds. The courts have ruled that Texas tribes agreed to give up gaming in exchange for federal recognition.

Redcorn soon finds out that removing slot machines and other lucrative games from the quickly renamed "Speaking Wind Entertainment Center" no longer brings in the crowds. "Blackjack wins a stuffed lion!" a dealer says to an extremely disappointed customer.

Then he learns that "Brother" Mankiller isn't so brotherly after all. "Just stopped by to give you a friendly reminder -- you still owe us $32,000," Mankiller says, a rather small amount in terms of casino deals these days.

When Redcorn threatens to sue, Mankiller tells him "you'd spend years in the white man's courts fighting the white man's lawyers -- which we have a lot of."

The solution? Turn the place into a toxic waste dumping ground. "Not only have I failed as a musician, I'm going to have to destroy my own land -- my people's land," Redcorn laments.

But with the help of that clueless husband, Redcorn finds a new career as a children's entertainer. The old casino is quickly transformed into the "Redcorn's Land" family fun center and the gambling tables and the feather-wearing waitresses are put to new use.

"Yeah, when I first found Redcorn, he was in some go-nowhere Whitesnake meets White Lion meets Great White rip-off group," says a proud Dale Gribble, "but I recreated him as the Native American Raffi."

King of the Hill airs Sundays at 7pm/6pm on Fox.

From the NativeTV Archive:
California Indian Patrol - Is there an Indian rancheria in California? Only CHiPs officers Ponch and John can find out.
Walker, Texas Stereotype - Is there a Cherokee reservation in Texas? Ask Washo, Cherokee law enforcer.
Student at center of controversy - A high school student discovers she is Indian. Send her to Indian Camp!
Peltier subject of documentary - A new documentary discusses Leonard Peltier's high-profile murder case.

Relevant Links:
King of the Hill -
King of the Hill, Series Guide -