August 05, 2007

Indian leaders = supermen

Up Close with Victor Rocha, Founder of Pechanga.netHow do you feel about the state of Indian gaming?

From my perspective, as a Native, as a member of a tribe, as a beneficiary of the fruits, it's amazing Indian gaming is still under attack. You know these compacts, they could sign for a hundred years, and they'd still be under attack. Gaming is being discussed in political think tanks across the country, and they're still trying to figure how to roll it back. The Supreme Court scares me. The tribes get the picture. They're starting to understand it. They're starting to look at the recent Agua settlement. You have an angry court that is turning back precedent left and right. To me, not just as an Indian but also as an American, it's scary. Gaming is about self-survival, self-reliance, about doing it yourself, you know. You see the tribes are making some ballsy moves. We're constantly being attacked and threatened. We're not going to hit you first, we're going to be good citizens, and we're going to be good people. Which brings me back to the beauty of Indian gaming. Now with food, shelter and clothing taken care of, you can see that in our tribe, people really are bettering themselves. And personally, I see it with my own family. Gaming has absolutely transformed our lives. We went from being below the poverty level, to the opposite end of that spectrum.

What does it mean to you to be an Indian leader?

One of my biggest inspirations and influences is my cousin. He's the chairman of our tribe. He's the real thing and doesn't use power as his weapon or his soapbox to elevate himself. He’s very humble. I haven't gotten the humble thing down yet, but I've learned other lessons. He's always an inspiration.

I think people, for whatever their reasons, still underestimate us. But these leaders in Indian Country are just amazing, and you take one down, and another one comes in. And he's bigger and stronger and faster and able to leap tall buildings. The leadership is just amazing. This is a battle that they're stepping into that has been going on a long time.
Comment:  As I've said before, I work for Victor and

Below is Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

No comments: