Tim Giago: Rich tribes still not helping poor ones

In order to write this week’s column I must do a 180-degree turn in my thinking about Indian casinos. I do not make this change in thinking lightheartedly.

I visited Indian casinos in South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma over the past two weeks to get a feel for the impact they have on the Indian communities. For the most part the feeling was good. There were jobs, money going out into the community, improvements in infrastructure, and a general sense of well being. But the most prevalent sense I came away with was a new and genuine feeling of “respect” from the non-Indian community.

That’s right. R-E-S-P-E-CT! Aretha Franklin sang about it. Respect is a word an Indian could never expect to hear in the towns bordering their reservations. But it is amazing the amount of respect that money can buy. Those ragtag Indians scraping by on little or nothing now have an abundance of cash in their pockets. Or at least some of them do. Those casino dollars now make the Indian people much sought after consumers. They can now buy new furniture; clothing, automobiles, appliances and they can now open bank accounts.

I recall that not too long ago when I owned a weekly newspaper one of my advertising sales people went into a local carpet store to solicit an ad for the paper. The haughty sales manager quipped, “Oh, I didn’t know Indians had carpets in their tee pees.”

From a lady who prepared taxes for the IRS my sales lady heard, “Well, I know that Indians don’t pay taxes,” and from a local new car dealership, “Your readers just don’t have the credit to buy our new cars,” and finally from the manager of an upscale department store, “I don’t think your readers are the kind of people that would be comfortable in our store.” As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “No respect, I don’t get no respect.”

But my travels to the Indian casinos also revealed that there are still many deep pockets of poverty in Indian country. If there is no population base near their casinos they will not draw enough customers to make their gaming establishments profitable.

I will not make a complete 360-degree turn for Indian gaming because I still see many serious problems. For one, although nearly 20 years have passed since the onset of gaming in Indian country I still do not see a viable effort by the casino rich tribes to reach out to help their less fortunate brothers and sisters on the very poor Indian reservations.

Joe McKay, a 54-year-old member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana, a businessman with a law degree, offers a solution I find to be highly commendable. He proposes a National Indian Gaming Tax to be levied on all Class III Indian gaming operations. The tax would be on gross revenues graduated according to income and capped at 5 percent. The money would be used to fund the Indian Development Trust Fund. The fund would then be made available to tribes without Class III gaming or to those in geographically isolated areas where a casino, even one with a Class III license, does not have the population base to make a profit.

McKay suggests that the funds be assigned according to need in the form of grants and low interest loans for infrastructure development on Indian reservations (water, sewage and sanitation), law enforcement, judiciary, health care, housing and for elderly and child care services. A second but separate program would make funds for economic development available. McKay also suggests that the funds be managed by a Board of Commissioners to be nominated by the contributing and eligible tribes and appointed by the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs.

I differ with him on this point. I do not want to see more bureaucracy piled on to the equation. I would suggest that Ernie Stevens Jr., the head of the National Indian Gaming Association, develop an office within his organization to handle the trust funds for acceptance and distribution. I would also suggest that Mr. Stevens lobby the Indian Affairs Committee to push for legislation to incorporate this tax. And if an outright tax is unacceptable to the gaming rich tribes, perhaps Mr. Stevens can twist their arms to get them to voluntarily contribute money to an Indian Development Trust Fund under the auspices of NIGA.

McKay believes that the extremely poor conditions on many Indian reservations are totally overlooked and distorted by the wealth and prominence of the “new and rich gaming tribes.” Money talks in many ways and when it becomes the main topic for success, the poor tribes without access become footnotes. As it has been since the European incursion on this continent, the ultimate victims of those with wealth, or those seeking wealth, are the poor, traditional indigenous people still trying to retain their inherent values.

My 180-degree turn is based upon the single word “respect.” But those new and wealthy Indian tribes must also learn the true meaning of that word. They must learn to respect those Indian people that fought and died without surrendering their culture, traditions, language and sovereignty so that they, the rich tribes, could enjoy the benefits of the unlimited wealth afforded them by their casinos.

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 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: Standing ground against 'Dropout Nation' (5/14)
Tim Giago: Indian prophecies and medicine (5/7)
Tim Giago: Help the poorest county in America (4/30)
Tim Giago: Honoring those who died at Washita (4/23)
Tim Giago: Mainstream media ignores the real issues (4/16)
Tim Giago: Racism and hypocrisy over Imus (4/11)
Tim Giago: Kill the Indian and save the child (4/9)
Tim Giago: The dark legacy of boarding schools (4/2)
Tim Giago: Tribes continue to surrender sovereignty (3/26)
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)