Friday, April 8, 2005

Oregon OKs Indian Casino, Tribe to Share Revenue

Updated: 01:12 PM EDT Oregon OKs Indian Casino, Tribe to Share Revenue

SAN FRANCISCO (April 6) - Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and an Indian tribe agreed on Wednesday for the tribe to open the state's first casino off a tribal reservation in exchange for sharing up to $200 million annually in gambling profits with the state.

The deal with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation will allow the tribe to build a casino in Cascade Locks, a town in the Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Oregon's biggest city.

The casino would be the largest in Oregon. It will turn over up to 17 percent of its gross gambling profits to the state, marking the first time casino-owning Indians in Oregon have agreed to share profits with the state.

"This compact will benefit the people of the Warm Springs Tribe, the community of Cascade Locks and the people of Oregon. Everyone will reap the advantages of new jobs, increased access to education, enhancement of the Gorge environment and economic development," Kulongoski said in a statement.

The federal government must endorse the agreement, a so-called "compact," for the tribe to break ground on its casino. Gambling profits will be used by the state mostly to support college tuition programs.

Local officials back the casino for the jobs it will bring. But environmentalists are critical of the planned project, because it would be located in a national scenic area.

04/06/05 20:31 ET

Indians Want Big-City Sites for Their Casinos

Indians Want Big-City Sites for Their Casinos By FOX BUTTERFIELD, The New York Times

DENVER (April 8) -- The Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians have not had land in Colorado since many of their women and children were massacred in their sleep by soldiers at Sand Creek in 1864. Driven out of the state, they live today in poor rural areas scattered around Oklahoma

But the tribes are now offering Colorado a gift of $1 billion and are willing to give up their ancestral claims to nearly half of the state, all in exchange for a 500-acre piece of land near Denver on which they hope to build one of the world's largest casinos, complete with a five-star hotel, a golf course, a mall and an Indian cultural center.

"This would be more than a casino for us," said Clara Bushyhead, a spokeswoman for the tribes. "It is the dream of our elders to complete our life cycle, to come back to our homeland in Colorado from which we were driven. Oklahoma was never our home."

Their campaign for a casino in Denver reflects the latest trend in the explosive growth of Indian gambling: tribes in remote areas, some of them without reservations, trying to acquire land near cities for lucrative casinos. It is a practice known as off-reservation gambling. Its critics use a harsher phrase, reservation shopping.

Currently there are efforts by several tiny landless bands of Indians in California to build casinos in three cities on San Francisco Bay. There are also proposals by three tribes, now in Oklahoma, to construct casinos in Ohio, where they once lived. And there are tribes in Wisconsin and Oklahoma, originally from New York, that have proposed exchanging their land claims for the right to build casinos in the Catskills.

Revenues for tribal casinos reached $18.5 billion last year, double the take of all the casinos in Nevada, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. That is up from $5.4 billion in 1995. With that kind of money in Indian gambling, the drive for permission to build casinos far from reservations is drawing protests from more established Indian gambling operations that do not want more local competition, as well as from tribes that built casinos on their own remote lands, limiting the kinds of profits they can make.

The trend has also come under scrutiny in Congress, where the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, headed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is examining such proposals and where lawmakers in both houses are considering more stringent rules, like banning tribes from moving across state borders and giving greater say to other tribes that would be affected.

Certainly, the push for off-reservation gambling is not what Congress had in mind when in 1988 it passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act legalizing Indian casinos. Congress envisioned that the law would help impoverished tribes on remote and already existing reservations in states like South Dakota or New Mexico open small casinos as a way to create jobs and, perhaps, foster long-needed economic development.

In many ways, the law has been successful. There are now 411 tribes operating casinos that employ 553,000 people, the National Indian Gaming Association calculates.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is the only Indian act that ever worked," said Keller George, the president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, a confederation of 24 tribes ranging from Maine to Florida and South Carolina to Texas.

But Mr. George opposes off-reservation gambling. "When you have tribes that want to cross state lines and travel thousands of miles to build casinos, then we object," he told a meeting of state officials and Indian leaders at a conference of the Western Governors' Association.

The reason is largely economic. If the tribes from Oklahoma and Wisconsin succeed in exchanging their land claims for casinos in the Catskills, for example, they would directly compete with a similar plan by the Oneida tribe, to which Mr. George belongs.

The proposal for the casino near Denver grew out of an effort to help the Cheyenne and Arapaho in Oklahoma by Steve Hillard, a venture capitalist from Golden, just outside Denver, who has specialized in making investments to benefit Native American groups, particularly those in Alaska.

In 2001, Mr. Hillard and his company, Council Tree Communications, which had a minority stake in Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network, made money for Native Alaskan corporations that were his investors when Telemundo was sold to NBC for $2.7 billion.

Mr. Hillard, who grew up in Colorado, said he had long wanted to find a deal that would help the Cheyenne and Arapaho, and so two years ago he called their tribal leaders proposing to acquire a chain of radio stations for them.

But after a visit to Oklahoma, Mr. Hillard changed his plans.

"What I saw was 11,500 people locked in a generational cycle of poverty, with 70 percent unemployment," he said.

"It was clear that no set of radio stations were going to make a difference for these tribes," Mr. Hillard said.

The tribal leaders offered a different idea. They wanted to return to Colorado and they wanted to open a casino.

"A casino offers us both a way to break out of years of poverty and a way to return to our land, which is the most important thing to Native Americans," said Bill Blind, the vice chairman of the two tribes' business committee. "We believe land takes care of us."

The Cheyenne and Arapaho already operate two casinos in Oklahoma, but they are small and in rural areas more than 10 miles from a major highway, so their profits come to only $7 million a year, tribal leaders say.

Under federal law, if a tribe wants to open a casino on land it does not already control as part of a reservation, it must get permission both from the governor and the secretary of the interior. So Mr. Hillard decided on a bold two-pronged strategy, a stick and a carrot.

The stick was to file claims with the Department of the Interior in April last year for 27 million acres in Colorado that the Cheyenne and Arapaho said were theirs under an 1851 treaty.

As the carrot, Mr. Hillard proposed that the tribes would pay Colorado $1 billion up front, or about 10 years worth of the projected profits from the casino, which the Indians have envisioned as one of the largest in the world, with up to 5,000 slot machines. The $400 million project would also generate about $100 million annually in profits for the tribes, according to Mr. Hillard's projection.

The tribes would also give up their broader claims for land in Colorado.

But Gov. Bill Owens rejected the plan, leaving the project at an impasse. In an interview, Mr. Owens, a Republican, said his opposition was not a moral "Christian right kind of thing." But he said he worried about the social and economic consequences of gambling, and under the state's Constitution, he insisted, before a gambling proposal can be approved, it must be put to a popular vote.

Mr. Hillard says the tribes can wait out the governor. Mr. Owens's term expires next year, and he cannot run again because of a term limit.

"We have also gotten very heartening overtures from three or four communities around Denver who want our project in their towns for economic development," Mr. Hillard said. "And we think the people of Colorado will get interested in that $1 billion."

The tribes are also stepping up the pressure on the state, saying they are preparing to file a lawsuit in federal court on the broad land claims, which cover all of Denver and could endanger the property rights of many Coloradans.

Governor Owens dismisses that threat, noting that in 1965 tribal leaders agreed to a $15 million settlement.

But Mr. Blind, the vice chairman of the business committee, said there was evidence that the tribal leaders at the time did not understand what they were doing.

"Would you sell Colorado to us for 2.75 cents an acre?" he said.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Earth Day Ceremony

The Earth Day Ceremony

According to Eagle Man, the Sioux nation take Earth Day very seriously and performs a powerful ceremony in its honor. The ceremony is held outdoors, where the four directions are invoked, as well as the powers of the earth and sky, to let these energies know that the people are giving Mother Earth their full support and respect.

Acknowledging the directions is a common part of Native ceremonies, but here they are connected to environmental talk. Eagle Man explains: "We talk about life giving rains coming out of the west. We talk about clean waters. And we ask, ‘How can we help make the water clean?’ We talk about less wasting of water. Also, we talk about fighting for the non-pollution of water. Then we turned to the north and appreciate cleanliness and purity. We know that we have an uphill battle, as most environmentalists have. But we beseech upon the north power to fortify us and give us great strength to endure in our venture into environmentalism. We beseech the east power and talk about knowledge, about educating children. We see that more today. Kids are less apt to throw trash out of their cars windows. I just had three occupants in my car. One dumped his water out from his paper cut, but he wouldn’t think of throwing that paper cup out there on the grass. Had he thrown out the paper cup, I would have stopped the car, turned around, admonished him, and made him pick up the paper cup. It doesn’t sound like much, but it all adds up. So, we talk about knowledge. We go to the south power, and we beseech for bounty to be taken away from these people that are wasting. All business executives care about is making more and more money. They don’t care about taking their bounty and applying it to Mother Earth’s needs. We beseech for the bounty to be distributed to people who will make use of it for the Earth Mother, and for projects that will generate a myriad of environmental items that can cause less pollution."

Ultimately, addressing the directions leads to communion with the Creator. But Indians do not focus directly on the all-seeing Great Mystery. Rather, they speak to His Creation as manifested in nature, represented by each direction.

from the site: Native American Healing

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Story Telling

Story Telling


Stories can revive our spirits and transform our perceptions of the world. Even when a story is not be believable, it can contain elements that speak to the human experience. This point is made by Tchin, an award winning Blackfoot and Aragansett artist and story teller from Norfolk, Virginia. Tchin shared this story with me about the creation of autumn, and then told me about the psychological healing such a story can promote:


"In traditional Native American culture, adolescent males and females are not allowed to be alone together. A young man and young woman never see each other unless the young woman is chaperoned. Her aunts, her sister, her mother, or someone else is always with her.


"Parents come together, at the right time of year, when the moon is in correct part of the sky, and plan a hoop dance. The hoop dance is where all the eligible young people come together to be introduced. They learn about the clans of the other people, and about who they can marry as well as which marriages are taboo. People dance, and frequently change partners. This way, everyone gets to be introduced to each other.


"During this hoop dance, the parents noticed one couple that did not change partners. In fact, they even heard some of the conversation. The young lady was saying that she worked in her mother’s fields during the day. And the young man said that his uncle was teaching him to play the flute.


"The next day, the young man went down to the field with his flute and played a song. People hearing the flute didn’t know what it was. They would say, "Listen to that sound blowing through the trees. I wonder what it is.’ But the young lady knew it was the young man playing the flute for her. It made her so happy that her heart jumped.


"She wanted to send him a message, so, she went to a tree, and asked the tree for a leaf. After receiving that gift, she placed it into a stream. The stream took the message down to where the young man was playing. He knew it was from the young lady. It made him so happy that his heart jumped. He picked up the leaf, and went home.


"Day after day, the young man would go down to the stream and play his flute. And day after day, she would go to the tree, ask for a leaf, receive that gift, and place it into the stream, where it would travel to the young man. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, their love for each other grew strong and powerful, even though they never spoke a word to each other.


"Then one day, the young man’s uncle came to him and said, ‘Young man, it is time that you stopped fooling around down by the stream, and that you learned how to make a living. I’m going to take you out and teach you how to hunt.’ It made the young man really happy to know that he would learn how to make a living by hunting. If he learned this, he could take his place in the village. If he could make a living, he could get married. And he knew with whom he wished to marry. So, with great joy and expectations he went out to learn how to make a living.


"Day after day, the young lady would work in the fields of her mother, and not hear the flute of the young man. She wondered why he no longer played for her. Maybe he had to help his aunt. Maybe he had to do something for his uncle. He had to help the elders. He had more important things to do. As days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, she exhausted all the possible reasons why he could not come and play. And after all of these reasons were exhausted, she came to the thought that he might be playing his flute for some other woman. When this thought came to her, a great pain stabbed her in her heart causing her to fall to the ground. Her parents, who loved her strongly, called to all the medicine people to doctor their daughter. But even in those days, people did not know how to heal a broken heart.


"After many months, the young man came back, very much a new person, with new muscles, and a joyful outlook on life. He ran down to the stream and began to play his flute. But no leaf flowed downstream. At first, he thought to himself, ‘It’s too late in the day. Maybe all the people have gone home.’ Then, as he was walking back to the village, he saw the young lady’s brother. It made him happy and they talked about all kinds of things that happened to him while he was learning to hunt.


"Eventually, he got around to asking the brother, ‘How is your sister?" The young brother bowed his head and said, ‘I guess you have been gone for a long time because they placed my sister over there in the rock.’ When the young flute player heard what had happened to the young lady, the pain stabbed his heart so great that he fell to the ground.


"The flute player was in tears, saying, "Please take me to where they placed your sister." The young brother agreed, and they walked the distance to the rock, where she was. He left the young flute player there never ever to see him again.


"The young man took out his flute and played a song. Then something miraculous happened because, you see, love is strong, and true love is ever lasting. As that young flute player played his song, all the leaves on all the trees began to fall.


"You know that I am telling you a true story, and you can prove the truth of this story to yourself because around October and November, if you were to go out, you could look at the trees, and you could see that when you look around, all the leaves on all the trees start to fall. This is because love is strong and powerful. Now you know why all the leaves fall off all the trees at that time of year."


Tchin explains that while such a story may not be true, it tells us an event from a perspective that is different from the scientific one, which can be healing. As an example, he met a woman who was grieving over the loss of her son. She was having a hard time dealing with the whole idea of death, and even found herself in the fruitless pursuit of picking up the leaves in autumn, and trying to glue them back to the trees. After Tchin told her the story of the creation of autumn, that part of her was healed. It didn’t change her sadness over her son dying. But it made her see the fall in a new way where she looked forward to it. And because it’s a story of death, it helped in the process of healing from the loss of her son. Tchin observes that you never know how a person is going to interpret a story, or how it might hit a certain part of their spirit. So, stories can be healing in many ways.


Jamie Sams, author of Earth Medicine: Ancestor’s Way of Harmony for Many Moons, says stories are wonderful medicine because they allow us to find ourselves without someone pointing a finger at us. We take what we need from the story to heal ourselves. The stories Sams writes helps people feel more whole, which, in turn, enables them to find inspiration, bring forth their best talents, and help make the world a better place. She wrote this one for children:


"While the river moved over rounded stones, and Night Hawk circles in the twilight, the young mother whispered to the child who suckled at her breast: ‘You are the blessed that fell from the stars and took root in my heart, little one. You rested inside of my body, and I carried you there for nine moons. It gave me joy to carry the burden of such love. I toiled for many hours to give you birth. And finally, the earth mother’s magnitude threw you into your earth walk. Now that you are here, I want you to know how my heart sings. The love I bear your father is the stuff of dreams. He has walked the path of strength and has been strong enough to share his dreams with me as well as his tears. He has lent me his courage. And I have respected him with all that I am. Together we have walked many trails and have faced each challenge heart to heart. In you, I see his courage, his determination, his laughing eyes, and his curiosity. In you, I see my gentleness, my compassion, and my desire to live life with joy. There is a love between your parents that fills each day with song. I want you to remember always that you are, and will forever be, a product of that love."


Another story by Sams is based on the belief that our spiritual essence is the glue that keeps us together. When we are spiritually out of balance, we may try to compensate for a feeling of inadequacy by developing intellectually, physically, or by expressing ourselves artistically. But these can never heal a wounded spirt. The eyes reveal this unsettled state of being, which is why we feel afraid to allow people to look into our eyes when we are off balance. Sams addresses this issue with a short, but profound, story entitled "The Openings of the Orinda."


"The little girl asked her wise grandfather why the Great Mystery gave eyes to two legged tribes of humans. Grandfather smiled silently, remembering her grandmother’s eyes that were reflected in the little one’s face. And then he replied, "Your eyes can see the world around you and take in the beauty of creation. Your eyes can shed the tears that cleanse your hurt, allowing you to heal. Your eyes were meant for seeing all that the Earth Mother places in your path. So these things can be recorded as memories of your passage in this earth walk. Yes, little one, our eyes have many ways to teach us how to see the truth. Your eyes can betray your thoughts and feelings to others because they are the openings to the spiritual essence.


"One day, you will find a warrior to share your life with. When that time comes, you will be able to look into his eyes and see him with your heart. Through his eyes, the opening of his Orinda, his spiritual essence, you will know if his spirit can shelter you, and if his heart is pure. When you look into his eyes, seek the truth of his nature. If he looks away, he is not strong enough to shelter your love for him. If he looks directly into your eyes and allows your hearts to connect, adding his strength to your own, you will know that he is a courageous man worthy of sharing your earth walk."


Finally, Sams writes about the need to prepare for a move to an age of illumination and peace. This requires that we all work on ourselves to let go of malice, envy, greed, and judgement. The ultimate result of this personal transformation will be a better world society for ourselves and our children. If we cannot do this during peaceful times, a disaster will occur as an ultimate wake up call. In this story, Sams is saying that we can’t change society, but we can change ourselves. We can’t change others but if they are showing malice towards others, there are times when we can intervene:


"The woman scrubbed herself with sand at the river’s edge. After a long winter, the sand washing felt good as the layers of dead skin rolled off the soles of her feet. Lost in her thoughts, she did not notice anything amiss until she heard a little girl crying. Looking up, she saw the child’s stepmother scrubbing the child’s skin raw. It was bleeding.


"In a heartbeat, she was on her feet, running through the water, whisking the crying child from the stepmother’s grasp. She rocked the little girl, whispering to her, and then handed the child to one of the other women. Without any anger, she softly spoke to the erring woman, ‘Feather, I understand how hard it’s been for you to raise my decreased sister’s child. She was your old rival, the first wife to your husband. I will speak to her father, who was once my brother. He will understand if I lighten your burden by taking the child to my lodge to live.’ "Feather spat on the ground and used a hand signal to indicate that she was done with both of them forever and stormed off. The woman stood in the water watching her retreat, thinking of how much effort it must take to be that hurtful. She turned back to the river and made the blessing sign with her hand, showing her gratitude to the Creator for her own medicine and her name, Offers Kindness."


Sams concludes that people have an idealized concept of Native American people, but that the red nations are going through the same healing process as the rest of the world. The lives of American Indians changed drastically with the arrival of the white man, partially because local dialects were changed to standard English, and many of the old ideas and concepts were lost. Before the world was seen in a conceptual way, and everything was viewed as a circle. With the arrival of the Europeans, Indians adopted the idea of cutting the circle to divide and conquer. Since these ideas havebeen part of Indian life for hundreds of years, Native peoples, like everyone else, are in need of overcoming ideas of separation. Sams concludes, "All the peoples of the earth are going through the same thing because we have been in this fourth world of separation for over 60,000 years. It is very important that we encourage the potential and the desire in each and every person that wants to transform, that wants to go beyond the limitation, hesitation, and separation that we have created in our lives. To do that, we have to embrace the realized self, the part of us that can become our potential. When we do that, we are standing at the final frontier. The final destination is always the same--healing and transformation."


fromNative American Healing

Monday, April 4, 2005

The Rites of Passage Ceremony

The Rites of Passage Ceremony

George Amiotte, an Ogalala Lakota from Pine Ride, explains that the Rites of Passage ceremony is performed for young people, about 14 or 15 years of age, who are traveling from adolescence into young adulthood. The Indian word for this ritual is hablacia which means crying for a vision. During the ceremony, a young person will leave behind the mundane problems of life, and contemplate on his place in the universe. Similar to a vision quest, the individual will sit for four days and four nights, without food or water, and contemplate the whys of his existence. A person will ask, "Who am I?" "What am I doing here?" "What is my purpose?" Basically, this ceremony helps a person get in touch with their spiritual being. In other words, they ask the spiritual part of themselves to come to life, so that they may fulfill their part in the Divine Plan.

taken from the site:

Native American Healing


Sunday, April 3, 2005

The Winter Dance

The Winter Dance

The winter dance is a ceremony for the renewal of the earth that is performed by the Salish people on the Colville Reservation, north of Spokane, Washington. John Grim, a religious historian, an adopted member of a Crow Indian family, and the author of The Shaman Patterns of Religious Healing Among the Ojibway Indians, attends the winter dance each year, and explained the ritual to me. Grim states that the dance for renewal is not an abstract notion. Rather, it is performed to invoke heavy rains so that root crops will grow to provide sustenance for humans, and to keep animals alive for man to hunt.


The winter dance is performed for four days, from eight in the evening until nine the next morning. The first day of the winter dance is usually for family. Then intimate friends of the family are invited. It grows from there, and by the fourth day, there may be as many people as s 100 or 150 people in attendance. The location of the ceremony is chosen by a Shaman. It is held in a single room; the windows are covered, and there is a pole made of pine in the middle of the room that extends from the floor to the ceiling. This pole is referred to as the old man, and is a symbol for our relationship with the Spirits that created and gave meaning to this world.


During the winter dance itself, Spirits call out in the form of songs. Those who can hear the songs will sing them. This exchange between the Spirits and human beings is called Samish in the Salish language, a word which implies that a special sound is being imparted to a person by the creative presence of the world. No one touches the pine pole except for the singers, who begin to sing very slowly, one at a time. There is no set order regarding who will sing when. The singers are believed to be in trance, although this word doesn’t fully capture the experience of what actually takes place. A translator is usually present to give the English interpretation, or if the words are already in English, to project the message loud and clear for everyone in the room to hear. These are personal statements about ethical and moral life, about community, about Spirit presence, and about the origin of the song. The singer begins to sing at a much faster pace, and people get up to dance.


The four day ceremony attractswet heavy snow, then a frost and a cold spell, followed by more snow to get moisture down into the root crops. Grim notes how each time he attends the winter dance, it snows.

Native American Healing