Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tribal Sovereignty in the United States

"In a mirror, darkly: Survival vs. casinos"
In an article written in 1995, I predicted the demise of self-governing sovereign American Indian tribes to be completed by 2075. I have now reduced my estimate by 25 years.
The future does not look too good for tribal governments, and sadly, they will have had a part in their own destruction.  It all started in 1988 when Congress proposed legislation that would give federally recognized tribes the right to conduct gambling on their reservations.
Most tribal leaders were elated. They counted dollar signs in their dreams, even though a few straight thinkers warned them of trouble to come.  The legislation was gently-worded, but the devil was in the details.
It was pointed out to tribal leaders that the legislation required that if a tribe wanted to operate games of chance, they would have to give up part of their sovereignty to the state wherein the gambling would take place. "No worries," said the tribal leaders.
Another innocently-worded clause required them to negotiate a "compact," or a contract, that would control how they operated their "gaming," with that same state.  Again, "No worries," they said, as dollar signs flooded their minds. "We can take care of ourselves."
Yeah, sure you can.

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