Indian Gaming - Gambling on Indian Reservations

Indian Gaming – Gambling on Indian Reservations

One of the benefits of becoming a federally recognized American Indian tribe (effectively a “ward of the state” with certain rights and regulations) is the ability to own and operate a casino or other gaming facility on tribal or reservation land.

The Lumbee Indians of North Carolina, who have been appealing to the government for recognition for more than 200 years, have insisted they aren’t concerned with this allowance. They were given recognition in 1885 but the appropriate benefits were withheld.

But Clara Sue Kidwell, director of the American Indian Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, admits the Lumbee probably would open a casino if given the chance, considering the financial benefits.

Native American Gaming

Gaming brings in revenue for tribes and is not taxed by the government, which is a boon for many reservations that suffer some of the lowest poverty levels in the country.

In North Carolina, as Senators Hagan and Burr argue that the Lumbee deserve federal recognition with full benefits, there’s a firestorm surrounding alleged contradictions with a state law banning video poker in the state. A Fayetteville game machine vendor argues that there should be no exception for the casino in Cherokee, N.C.

How did casinos come to be associated with American Indians in the first place? Depending on the part of the country, some connect “casino” with “Indian” quite easily – some states have several recognized Indian tribes with casinos on their reservations – but other states have none.

Kidwell, who has spent much of her life studying American Indians and descends from the Chippewa and Choctaw tribes, explains that it all started with a Florida Indian tribe almost forty years ago.

The Cabazon Decision

In the 1970s the Seminole tribe opened a high-stakes bingo enterprise on their reservation, igniting questions of fairness and gaming legality that led to several cases in the Florida courts system. When the case made it to the United States Supreme Court in 1987, the Cabazon decision removed gambling restrictions on Indian reservations.

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

In response to the Cabazon decision, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGR) in 1988, permitting gambling centers on Indian reservations in states with legalized gambling. By 1996 there were almost 300 gaming centers run by 184 tribes, some on and some off reservations, but all bringing in millions of dollars.

When Congress passed the IGR in 1988, they also created the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to oversee and regulate Native American gaming. This split gaming jurisdiction into three categories, classes I, II and III covering charitable gaming for small prizes, bingo, and casinos respectively.

Native American Indian Beliefs

Totems were used as a way of listening to the innate wisdom of animals, offering psychological insight comparable to methods sometimes used in clinical therapy today.

What are Indian Totem Animals?

The Native American observed nature with the passion of a physicist because of his closeness to it. In particular, he understood animals. If his/her totem was a bear, for example, the particular wisdom of that species was readily sought.

Since bears hibernate all winter and wake in spring, the lesson might be learning the importance of rest after activity, or vice versa. A fox is clever, but its totem medicine also teaches to discard traits of slyness, too. In many ways, totems served as a spiritual mirror and interpretations differed according to various circumstances and the subconscious of an individual.

How Psychology Simulates Totems

Totem medicine was an early way of seeking reflections into one’s psyche very similar to certain methods used centuries later by famous European psychologists, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, via synchronicity and dream interpretation.

Jung writes further on, “Synchronicity reveals the meaningful connections between the subjective and objective world,” implying coincidences can bring personal insights. Jung called these figures Archetypes and his favorite was the Egyptian Scarab Beetle.

Although there’s little scientific basis in Freudian dream interpretation, Jungian synchronicity, or animal totems, many people find meaning in such concepts today and realize much of what Native Indians believed about ecology is true.

American Indian Spiritual Beliefs

Despite being important to American Indian spirituality, totem animals were never made into gods or idols. Totem poles were not worshiped as deities. Animal and man were considered as being the same, neither one above the other. All things were considered different, but equal, from nature’s perspective and to break part of life’s web meant to break the whole.

Possessing a monotheistic belief in only one creator, America’s First Nation People also honored all the precious handiwork, including trees, stones, mother earth and father sky, cloud people (clouds), the winged ones (birds), finned ones (fish), four-legged (animals), and two-legged (people), but only animals were totems.

Totems remained the same for life, though some changed (a person easily had several), but American Indians would never kill, harm, or eat an animal that was their own totem. Instead, they’d honor the species by emulating its personality traits and perhaps by carrying something – such as a tuft of its fur or a feather – to be reminded of its truths. Often, an entire tribe would have one totem, for example, the turtle clan or wolf clan.

How Traditional American Indian Beliefs Reflect Modern Science

Modern man can benefit from the Indian’s respect toward the nature and the concept that every species exists for a purpose. Even the smallest insect is related to man in some way, since all evolved from the same origins: earth.

American Indians were excellent ecologists and Darwinist in their understanding of the natural world, since evolution supports the theory that life is interconnected. Einstein spoke on this, saying, “Relativity teaches us the connection between the different description of one and the same reality.”

Thus, people today can gain knowledge and also have fun learning Indian culture by finding their own animal totems, since man can relate in some way to practically any animal he may encounter. In doing so, personal insights possibly may be discovered. There’s nothing supernatural about this; it’s just unadorned psychology with a very earthy touch of science.