Indians need security of gambling hallsThe Evening Sun has...

the Forum

October 13, 1993

Indians need security of gambling halls

The Evening Sun has recently carried a number of articles regarding the plans of the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy of Southern Maryland to open a gambling casino and resort complex in Charles or Prince George's counties.

The newspaper published an editorial Oct. 6 entitled "Piscataways Roll the Dice."

The editorial castigates the National Indian Gaming Act, passed in 1988, as compounding the problem of Indian gaming on federally-recognized reservations.

In spite of the fact that Indian gaming operations are permitted only if the state permits similar activities, Indian gaming is seen as somehow different, and more dangerous, than non-Indian gaming.

The fact is that Congress passed the Indian gaming law to protect sovereign Indian nations from exploitation as well as to ensure a dialogue between those Indian nations and the states.

The current uproar nationally regarding Indian gaming is exacerbated in part by a lack of understanding of the treaty-based rights of sovereign Indian nations to conduct their own political and commercial affairs.

All federally-recognized tribes have either their own tribally-run police and law enforcement systems, just as other non-Indian jurisdictions do, or they have United States Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement services.

But the various state attorneys-general chafe at their lack of jurisdiction on reservations, and the controversy over Indian gaming exemplifies the fact that their hands are tied.

Whether one approves of gaming or not, one only has to review the unemployment statistics on most Indian reservations to realize that any enterprise that brings jobs and revenue to the residents is sorely needed.

The unemployment figure on most reservations is conservatively at least 60 percent. Indian leaders are constantly challenged to devise ways to bring employment opportunities to the reservation.

In the instances of the current successful gaming operations at other reservations around the country, one will find that the bulk of the revenues are used for education and economic development programs to benefit the tribe as a whole, to provide emergency medical and housing improvement funds, and to enhance the renaissance of tribal cultures.

Non-Indians, taking for granted a standard of living that most Indian people can barely imagine, had better think twice before blithely condemning an effort such as running games that improves lives and the general well-being of tribal people.

Finally, The Evening Sun concludes, the Piscataways' attempts to cultivate a climate that could eventually allow them to operate a casino or games of some sort "is a dangerous situation that could easily spin out of control."

This is inflammatory and inaccurate. In the first place, there would need to be federal recognition of Piscataway Indians in Maryland. Even if the several groups of Piscataways in our state were united, the process takes a very long time -- decades, most likely.

The process involves meeting numerous stringent requirements set forth by the Bureau of Acknowledgement and Research within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which apply to all tribes seeking federal recognition.

On other occasions, tribes have turned to Congress for legislative recognition, which is even more tenuous and can take just as long a time. Just ask the Lumbee Indians how easy it is to achieve federal recognition.

One will see that the newspaper's recent attention to Piscataway gaming proposals is completely untimely. The only purpose the news articles and the editorial serve is to broadcast misinformation and to fan the anti-Indian sentiments that bubble usually just beneath the surface of our unfortunately still-racist communities.

Maryland's congressional delegation could better use its time not in tinkering with the existing law on Indian gaming "before it is too late" but on providing Maryland's Indian communities with the information, procedures, and neutral support they need to take their claim forward.

If in fact there is federal recognition of any Indian community in Maryland, then they will be entitled to the trust protections and benefits that extend to other federally-recognized tribes.

Indian cultures -- including those in Maryland -- have rich and historic traditions.

The survival of those cultures, which requires economic self-sufficiency, is of enormous benefit to us all.

Wrexie Bardaglio

Catonsville

No excuse

In reference to your article (Sept. 6) about the $100 million lawsuit against a Roman Catholic priest, I have one question:

How low can the practice of law get when a defense lawyer pleads that the "affair" the 13- and 15-year-olds had with the priest was "the love of their lives?"

Claude W. Todd

Baltimore

Sports column

Ken Rosenthal's excellent sports column Oct. 2 about the name ''Bombers'' inspires me to respond in a more serious vein.

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