Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hopis Balk at Blackjack, Dance to Different Drum Arizona Tribe Choses Cultural Heritage over Gambling Jobs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hopis Balk at Blackjack, Dance to Different Drum Arizona Tribe Choses Cultural Heritage over Gambling Jobs

Article excerpt

THE casino gambling business presents an almost irresistible lure for many North American Indian tribes: ready revenues at a time when federal subsidies may be drying up.

It's no secret that Indian-owned gambling enterprises are sprouting on reservations across the nation. Already, about one-third of the 330-plus tribes in the lower 48 states have licenses to operate casino games. And the pace isn't slowing, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

But this isn't a lock-step movement.

Last week, the Hopi Indians in Arizona joined a handful of American tribes that are choosing not to let their futures ride on the roulette wheel.

But the close Hopi vote -- 986 were against gambling and 714 for it -- underscores the complexity of a decision that often pits a tribe's impoverished living standards and religious and cultural mores against the desire for an immediate source of cash and jobs.

Since 1990, when the first agreements between states and tribes were forged allowing casino gambling, only the Hopi and Navajo in Ariz., two other tribes in New York, and one in Texas have explicitly rejected casino gambling, says Linda Hutchinson of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The Hopis rejected gambling even though the proposed site, on a tribal-owned industrial park near Winslow, Arizona, was more than 60 miles from their reservation. Backers had promised the casino would provide 500 jobs and $15 million in annual revenue for the tribe.

Some Hopi leaders say the vote is proof that their people still value culture and tradition over money. "Our people are taught to work the honest way," says former Hopi Chairman Ivan Sidney. "We believe that we are the last to hold a strong and complete tradition, and that if we fall, it will be the end of Native American traditions in this country."

A former tribal police chief, Mr. Sidney says he has seen how gambling addictions can tear families apart. Rather than ending reliance on government programs, he says, casino gambling replaces one form of dependency with another.

Herschel Talashoma, spiritual leader of a windswept village on Third Mesa, says he also urged people to vote against the casino, and not just for cultural reasons. …

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