Only about a third agreed that “Indians have gotten a raw deal” and are using money from casinos to “make sure they have a voice in the system.”
A recent story on a casino expansion plan drew this response from a reader of SignOnSanDiego.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune's Web site, which allows people to post comments anonymously: “I have no respect for these tribes anymore, they are just typical greedy corporate businessmen now.”
Public perceptions can lead to policy changes, and voters next year may decide the fate of four compacts signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calling for a massive gambling expansion.
“In Washington, D.C., perception is reality,” McKeag said.
For instance, the success of Indian gaming has hurt efforts to fully fund programs such as Indian health care, she said.
Perceptions of Indians as rich also come from a darker place in American history, said Doug Elmets, who works with tribes on their public image.
“You still have a certain amount of latent racism,” Elmets said. “That type of attitude exists in society, and it's not just necessarily targeted at Native Americans; it's really targeted at any group or ethnicity that does well.”
See Greedy Indians for more on the subject.