January 04, 2007

Harry Shearer on Indian gaming

Harry Shearer

The comedian and media expert on Indian gaming, the Jerry Lewis telethon, and why New Orleans isn’t funnyDid you research the casinos and their culture for this book?

Yeah. I talked to people knowledgeable on both sides of the issue, including a lawyer in Louisiana who is the leading anti-Indian-gaming attorney in the country, apparently, C.B. Forgotston--unforgettable name and a remarkable guy--and I got connected to a resource that’s operated by one of the members of the Pechanga tribe that sort of aggregates an awful lot of information about Indian gaming--I’m sorry, gambling! Who are we kidding? The Vegas stuff had come to me earlier when I was working on a [1986] television show I did with Paul Shaffer for HBO called Viva Shaf Vegas.

The town of Gammage votes itself to become the Filaquonsett tribe. That’s probably been going on all over the country.

As I tour the country, I hear the most amazing stories about, “Gee, that’s sorta like what’s happened here.” My inspiration was the Mashantucket Pequot, which was the tribe that opened the first really big Native American casino, Foxwoods. When they opened, The New York Times ran a piece saying that the number of full-blooded Mashantucket Pequots living on tribal land at that point was one. So, I just went: “One take away one is a funny idea for a book.”
Comment:  There are probably lots of tribes with no full-blooded members anymore. That's a pretty flimsy basis on which to build a book. Sounds like Shearer didn't do enough research before writing Not Enough Indians.

And yes, I know the Pequots have a questionable history. I'm just going by what Shearer said. Given our history of decimating Indians, it's not unusual to find tribes without full-blooded members.

Note:  The "resource" Shearer refers to is PECHANGA.net, where I work.


Rob said...

Shearer didn't say anything about researching the Pechanga tribe. All he said was "I got connected to a resource that’s operated by one of the members of the Pechanga tribe."

Your BIA skit sounds stereotypical rather than funny. It's probably a good thing they didn't produce it.

chrisrowlandfineart said...

Once again, Writerfella
has stumbled and fallen.
And can't get up! Face down, he reaches for the phone to call his physician, but will only see one who "plays" a doctor on TV...

I can see where you are trying to go with your skit but because you have not grown up on the Reservation you truly have no parameter with which to work from.
I feel you are simply mimicking your self-hatred as a Native American with your plausable self identity. Perhaps, when you saw those people passed out and intoxicated at Crow Fair,(as a young boy) you felt
To avoid these painful feelings, one will often "split," escaping into their own safe world, as it were.
And, who would want to identify themselves with this embarrassing kind of behavior anyway? I escaped in to the world of art, just as you have, but you didn't have the advantage of living on the reservation so as to feel the true consensus of these dispossessed people living in this oppressive atmosphere, day in and day out. Perhaps your father wanted to shield you from this pain, and chose to opt out, leaving the reservation. To me this is perfectly understandable.
Your knowledge and understanding of the "industry," mixed with your intellectualization and humanistic references to cultural ideals, only lead me to believe that you have overcompensated for a lack of, or percieved lack of, some basic elements in your life...
Safe Jouney, I say, as you find
your way inward to where your
heart is waiting patiently for you.

Rob said...

Re "Notice that, like the Pequots, Hedassian gets his land put into trust. And that's enough for you, Rob, to consider him Native...." In reality, the BIA recognizes a tribe (not an individual) and then takes land into trust for it. What does this have to do with the BIA's not recognizing someone as an Indian and then taking land into trust for him?

Once again, you've basically claimed that I said the opposite of what I said. If you keep making mistakes like that, I'll keep pointing them out. That's pretty much guaranteed.

Re "The BIA reacts the way they always do, but then upon finding the man isn't Native, again quickly react the way they always do toward non-Natives." Which way is that, pray tell? By treating them as if they were Natives? How does that square with the fact that the BIA has rejected most of the recognition petitions it's received since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988?

Your scenario doesn't make sense unless someone knows the controversy surrounding the Pequots, which isn't common knowledge. It isn't particularly funny even if someone does know the controversy surrounding the Pequots. The BIA isn't recognizing "ersatz" tribes in great numbers, so the satire misses the mark.

Rob said...

I know what I said, Russ, even if you don't. I said federal recognition is enough for me to recognize a tribal member as being Indian. I didn't say not being Indian is enough for me to recognize a tribal member as being Indian.

We've noted that there are few full-blooded Indians these days--that many Indians have only a quarter or less of "Indian blood." I've asked you what your standard for Indianness is and you either couldn't or wouldn't answer.

At least the federal government offers a standard, one backed by a lengthy examination process. That's more than you've done.

Instead of a definition or standard, you've invented something called a "genetic racial memory" or an "awareness granted by heredity." Conveniently, you've applied this fiction to Indians you approve of but not to Indians you don't approve of, such as the Chickasaws or Chickahominies.

So I'm waiting for you to tell us what an Indian is, Russ. Can you do it, or is this yet another subject you're unable to debate?

I see you have no answer to my critique of your skit, so I'll simply repeat it: The BIA isn't recognizing "ersatz" tribes in great numbers, so the satire misses the mark. Oops.