By Carlos Ramirez
"There's always the stereotypical stuff about Indians being drunk and high on the reservation, and all of that stuff. And yes, there was a lot of that back then. But you can say that about a lot of other places in the world. If you have a situation as rough as it was for our tribe back then, you're going to have people escaping into alcohol and drug abuse."
Billy said the opening of the Sho-Ka-Wah Casino on his tribe's land saved his reservation, and its people. "My father was on the tribal council, and he and a lot of other people, had a lot to do with bringing in the casino. Once that came in, it cleaned everything on the reservation up. Not just money for education and the water system, but also programs for things like keeping our language alive.
"It was tough in the beginning, because there were people running the casino that had no idea what they were doing. So there was some corruption and mismanagement of funds, but they eventually got the right people in there and it's flourishing now. The casino changed everything for the better."
Ten years ago, critics were talking about how Indian gaming had failed. They ignored several facts, including:
1) Indian gaming was in its infancy then. The money was just starting to flow, and infrastructure projects take time to build.
2) Indian gaming was never supposed to lift every tribe out of poverty. It was supposed to lift only the tribes who actually engaged in it. Because of the vagaries of geography and culture, some tribes couldn't or wouldn't participate.
For more on the subject, see Testament Frontman on Pomo Heritage and Hard Rock Displays Testament's Billy.