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UNITED STATES: Indian reservations and casinos



Competition is key to our capitalist system. Lake Tahoe is shared by California on the west shore and Nevada on the east. Gambling is legal in Nevada but not in California generally. As a result Californians addicted to gambling rushed to the places on Lake Tahoe just across the Nevada line: Crystal Bay in the north and Stateline in the south. Now Indian reservations in both states have got into the gambling racket. Competition is good, except for the losers. Suicide among them is a feature worldwide. What do they do in the Lake Tahoe area? Throw themselves into the beautiful waters? Tim Brown lives in Incline Village, Nevada, not far from Crystal, but fortunately it is a pocket of virtue. Tim writes:

"I live in Nevada, and my family and I have been involved with Native American affairs for three generations. My maternal grandfather was an Indian agent in Utah, my parents lived next to a large reservation for decades, etc. In the case of the small one near where we now live, with ten or so casinos within a couple of miles, it doesn't have a casino. It does have a smoke shop where they sell tax free cigarettes. On reservations in general, as with so much, what you see depends on where you sit. My parents had a cow and calf spread near the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation. While I was in the diplomatic service, we would regularly send those we thought would be future national leaders of their countries on tours of the United States. I always tried to get them to Nevada, and usually managed to arrange that their visits include visiting the Pyramid Lake Paiutes. Everyone I sent to the reservation, from Paraguayans to Dutch, and, regardless of their politics, had heard hundreds of anti-American horror stories about how poor, downtrodden, and mistreated Indians were in the US. So when they actually saw how some Indians really live with their own eyes, they were amazed by their health, educational, and public services and, more importantly, by how well they live compared to the average person in most countries. There are worse reservations, and better ones, but Pyramid is pretty typical. There IS a problem of Indian well being. But it's one of relative not absolute welfare. On a average they are noticeably worse off that the average American. But they are better off than most other people in the world".

My comment: The last statement is a little too sweeping. During World War II, a Indian GI from Taos pueblo in New Mexico told an English girl about the big house in which he lived. He was referring to the big primitive communal houses without any facilities, but she was dazzled by his description and married him. When she saw the reality she turned around and went back to England. I hope she found another husband.

Ronald Hilton - 3/29/02


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