April 24, 2010

Marino attacks Pequots and Wampanoags

In Marino:  Tribes Are Too Large or Small I picked up where I left off last year with anti-Indian crusader Jim Marino. Let's continue Marino's butt-kicking education.

The Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act of 1988:  A Well Intended Law Gone Awry

By Jim MarinoThat is why there are now more than 600 Indian tribes in this country, many with only a handful of members, some with only one or two and many with highly questionable, if any, fractional ancestry linking them to a real Indian.Actually, there are 564 federally recognized tribes, bright boy. Only a handful have a "handful of members."

Note that critics like Marino never quantify charges like this one. Either they don't know, or they don't want you to know, how they're lying about tribal size.

What Marino considers "highly questionable" shows his ignorance of the issues. Historically, tribal membership was based on culture, not biology. Tribes are returning to this practice because requiring a level of "blood quantum" is a sure route to extinction.Since the advent of federal programs providing grant monies to “Indian tribes” and particularly since the advent of Indian gambling, there have been many more groups claiming to be Indians and seeking federal acknowledgment as a “tribe” or “band” of Indians.True but misleading. I think a couple hundred groups have petitioned for federal recognition in the last couple of decades. About 10 or so have actually achieved it. So the recognition process is working and there's no huge influx of "phony" tribes, despite the scare tactics of critics like Marino.

The Pequot caseIn fact, Indian tribes like the so-called “Mashantucket Pequot Indians,” which started with “Skip” Hayward and a couple of relatives, parlayed a faux tribal recognition, into the billion-dollar-a-year “Foxwoods Casino” in Ledyard, Conn.The Pequots were recognized by an act of Congress in 1983. This was to settle a lawsuit and had nothing to do with gaming. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was still five years in the future.

Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law. So the recognition process was perfectly democratic even if it didn't take the usual route. If Marino didn't like the outcome then, he was free to vote against Reagan and his congressional representatives in 1984. (How much do you want to bet Marino was cheering for Reagan in 1984, not denouncing him as a sellout to Indian politics?)They have set as an enrollment criteria, a 1/32nd Indian ancestry or blood quantum and it is no wonder that these tribal members literally came out of the woodwork and the tribal enrollment now exceeds 700.Would Marino feel better if the Pequots had only seven or 70 members? Oh, wait...he already complained about tribes with only a "handful of members." What a transparently obvious hypocrite he is.

See Marino:  Tribes Are Too Large or Small for a demolition of Marino's stupidity about tribal size.So there is no surprise that hundreds heretofore never heard of “Indians” and “Indian tribes,” are lining up for recognition and the right to own and operate lucrative gambling casinos, and hiring lobbyists and paying off politicians to grease the wheels of recognition in Washington.There's also no surprise that our government has insisted on a strict recognition process to prevent wannabe tribes from taking resources from real tribes. So far it's worked pretty well, which is why Marino is left with nothing but his pathetic scare tactics. "Hundreds" of tribes on the warpath--none with a chance of being recognized, but never mind. Marino wants you to be very afraid of this imaginary Indian uprising.

We're now about halfway through Marino's column and he's yet to find a single flaw in IGRA. Heck, he hasn't even mentioned IGRA since his opening paragraphs. So much for his title thesis that IGRA has gone awry. Marino is bashing tribes in general and gaming tribes in particular, not criticizing IGRA.

The Wampanoag caseLobbyists like the now disgraced and imprisoned Jack Abramoff, whose assistance was instrumental in obtaining recent recognition for the Mashpee Wampanoag is now seeking to build a casino on or near Cape Cod, Mass.Here's the actual story on the Mashpee Wampanoags. They've been fighting for recognition since 1974, or long before gaming was an issue. After 30 years of delays, they hired Abramoff's firm to speed up the process. They continued using two of Abramoff's associates after they left the firm.

Mashpee tribe got Abramoff boostMembers stress that the tribe's ties to Abramoff are small in comparison to what Abramoff allegedly did for other tribes. The Wampanoags said they paid the two lobbyists $50,000 when they worked at Abramoff's firm, a far cry from the millions of dollars paid by some other tribes to Abramoff and his associates. There has been no allegation of wrongdoing involving anyone in the tribe, Ferson said.And:The Mashpee Wampanoags cited the support of members of Congress when it subsequently sued the government for failing to act on its request for recognition in a timely manner. The case went to District Court Judge James Robertson, who denied the government's motion for dismissal.

That prompted the government to negotiate with the tribe, resulting in a pact to reach a preliminary decision by the end of March 2006. If that is granted, the government would give final approval by March 2007.
So Marino criticizes the recognition process as being muddled and unfair. When the Wampanoags complain about the same thing, he criticizes them. Marino doesn't care whether the process is fair. He wants fewer Indians and Indian casinos whether they're legitimate or not.

Again, the recognition process existed before IGRA and has nothing to do with IGRA. The Wampanoag case, like the Pequot case before it, proves the point. Both tribes sought recognition long before they could conceive of profiting from gaming.

And let's reiterate that these are two tribes out of 564. What do their issues have to do with the hundreds of legitimate tribes who conduct legitimate gaming operations? You know, the tribes Marino never mentions because they don't help his anti-Indian crusade?

Interference bad, unless it's goodThis is a recent federally recognized Indian tribe, which was determined by a federal judge to lack the very criteria for recognition needed, in a case decided during the 1970s, when the tribe tried to take over acres of land around Mashpee, Mass., including the massive multi-million dollar New Seabury country club and resort development.Hysterical. When a federal judge intervenes in the recognition process, Marino is all for it--as long as the judge rules against the tribe. But if judges or legislators intervene in the recognition process to help a tribe, he's against it. Again, it's not the process he cares about, it's the outcome.

Marino the anti-Indian crusader is against increasing the number of recognized Indians. It doesn't matter whether recognition happens via the official process or not. "More Indians" = bad, according to Marino.Not only did Congress fail to clarify what constitutes an “Indian tribe” and who is an Indian when they enacted the IGRA, they also failed to clearly define what lands are the “Indian Lands” required by that Act, and which are the lands a tribe is required to have before they can build, own and operate any gambling casino.IGRA didn't need to clarify who's an Indian because the recognition process is reasonably clear. Most prospective tribes petitioning the government didn't get recognized before IGRA and haven't gotten recognized since IGRA. Despite Marino's scaremongering--Pequots! Wampanoags!--the system has worked for most tribes.

Recall that Congress approved of recognizing the Pequots. Who says the "clear definition" Marino wants would exclude rather than include the Pequots? Why does Marino think Congress would adopt a definition that invalidated its own decisions? If the definition encompassed the Pequots and other recently recognized tribes, then what?

This is blatant stupidity. The only clear definition Marino wants is "no more Indians." Don't let anyone else be recognized as Indians and eliminate some of the people presently recognized as Indians. Terminate the Indians before they rob us blind!

The practice of "reservation shopping"This failure has opened the door to real Indian tribes as well as highly questionable tribes alike, to buy or acquire fee land usually, with money furnished by non-Indian gambling investors, and then claim it is eligible “Indian Lands” on which they can build and operate a gambling casino and can do so wherever they believe there is a lucrative non-Indian gambling market to be had in the area. This has fostered a practice now called “reservation shopping!”True but again misleading. As with the "hundreds" of tribes seeking recognition but not getting it, dozens of tribes have sought to open off-reservation casinos. I believe only three have succeeded so far.

Politicians and local leaders are aware of "reservation shopping" and determined not to let it happen. There's no evidence whatsoever that the government is about to open up the country to off-reservation casinos. IGRA provides a process for taking "Indian lands" into trust and that process is working. That most tribes haven't opened off-rez casinos proves the point.

Once again, Marino is conflating an imaginary potential problem with actual flaws in IGRA. He's bashing real tribes who use the legal processes as well as phony tribes who "violate" these processes. Clearly he's prejudiced against Indians, period.

We saw this in his initial screed about "gaming" vs. "gambling." He didn't note that the commercial casinos of the American Gaming Association have championed this practice. In fact, he has nothing to say about the "evils" of non-Indian casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Marino is attacking only Indian casinos and on the basis of race, which means he's a racist.

For more on Marino's views, see Too Many Indians, or Not Enough? and Calif. Tribes Are "Highly Questionable"? For more on the subject in general, see The Facts About Indian Gaming.

Below:  Marino's view of Indians in a nutsell, again.

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