The following is a letter written to CBS-TV and
60 Minutes, in particular, by Rick Hill, Chairman of the
National Indian Gaming Association, in response to a story they aired
on Indian Gaming and the Mashantucket Pequot Indians. This letter is
taken from the October issue of the Pequot Times. The story aired on
60 Minutes in September and was particularly negative in
regards to Indian Gaming. The segment was filled with negative
statements and obvious bias reporting, many of their statements
raising the question of racism, in many opinions. Again this is an
opinion letter written by the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming
The National Indian Gaming Association represents 122
Federally recognized Indian nations from across the country.
On behalf of those nations we are writing to express our
outrage with your piece
Wampum Wonderland. Littered with
inaccuracies, half-truths and innuendo, we are shocked that
you allowed it to be aired.
We call on you to correct the misconceptions that you conveyed to the American public by quickly developing a segment that accurately depicts the Indian gaming industry. We are confident that our member nations would be pleased to assist you as you work to make things right.
Because your interviewer (Steve Kroft) apparently knows
nothing of Federal Indian law, which provides the
underpinnings for much of what he observed, his interview
builds upon the rhetoric of Indian gaming detractors. And
their rhetoric is generally founded in racism, market share,
or both. His
when did you stop beating your wife approach
suggested that he knew what he wanted to convey before
developing the piece. And, clearly, his biases showed.
Federally recognized Indian nations are legitimate
governments whose long relationship with the United States is
amply visible in jurisprudential and legislative arenas.
Since the 1820's Indian nations have been recognized by the
Federal government as
domestic dependent nations. The
inherent rights of these nations as soveriegns is amply
codified and is found not only in a vast body of law, but in
numerous treaties and the Constitution of the United States
itself. It is not , as you stated, a
quirk of law.
We do not recall
60 Minutes doing programs on Indian
governments when their unique status merited them poverty,
ill health, desperation and
annihilation. But with one program, focusing on the most
unique and successful of all Indian gaming operations in the
country, you convey that anyone can be an Indian, is founded
in schemes, and that tribes are so affluent that they have to
find ways to spend their money.
Let us share what is real and factual! The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 did NOT authorize Indian gaming, but limited the Indian nation's rights by requiring that they compact with the states. In choosing to air the comments of local people who oppose Foxwoods, you even had erroneous allegations about environmental impact (by law, impact studies must be conducted before development.)
You neglected to mention the 27,000 jobs created both directly and indirectly by the construction and operation of the casino (9,300 casino, 900 tribal direct hires), the support of the state legislature, and virtually every other conceivable benefit beyond the income of the Pequots. (And, on that point, should these people be maligned for operating one of the most successful, legitimate, professionally operated and regulated casinos inthe world?) The Pequots annually pay in excess of $120 million to the state, and you have an issue over their not paying corporate tax?! This is higher than the Connecticut corporate tax structure would require. You also did not mention the $500 million in goods and services purchased from Connecticut and New England vendors.
Had you researched, you would know that with the dramatic
downsizing of the local shipyards, the already depressed area
would be in desperation if not for the employment
opportunities afforded by the Tribe. Instead you chose to
have locals say they didn't know what the Tribe was doing.
The Ledyard town planner recently announced how the casino
an upswing in the real estate in the area. A
feeble attempt at balanced reporting would surely have
resulted in local residents speaking positively of the Tribe
and the community's economic boom.
Your interviewer even challenged the Pequots' right to
determine their membership. If someone is 15/16 something
other than a U.S. citizen, should we say that person should
not be an American? Governments determine their own criteria
for citizenship and Indian nations exercise those
authorities. Choosing to use footage from a House hearing,
showing what Congressman Miller called
Trump's Look Test,
clearly conveyed the intent of the interviewer.
Maybe you should do a piece on the history of Indian
education and boarding schools. The philosophy of Col. Pratt
guided American policy. His famous quote
Kill the Indian,
save the man likely contributes to why the Pequots know
little of their own history. An expose on how America
systematically kept Indian people from knowing their history
culture and traditions and punished them for using their
language might help your interviewer understand
Cheap shots like
The Royal Family of Connecticut, innuendo
about Malaysian investors, etc. again show either the
ineptness or lack of ethics of your interviewer. Twenty
years ago only one retired person lived on the reservation.
Might the absence of any employment opportunities have
contributed? It was shared that there were foreign
investors. Would it have been fair to share that the Pequots
approached 500 equally-legitimate potential domestic lending
sources - and no one would work with them? New England banks
- NONE are standing in line for Pequot business.
A program segment on state gaming, since state governements enjoy 35% of the nations gaming, might make an interesting program. Like the governments of Indian nations, they too use gaming in their economic arsenals to meet the needs of their constituents. Perhaps your interviewer could ask why state governments don't pay corporate taxes or tax on state lotteries. He could accurately point to the Pequots and their thousands of employees who pay Federal income tax and query if they do too. Perhaps the final thought is that you have diminished the legitimacy of an industry in the eyes of millions of people. Proceeds from Indian gaming are building schools, sewer systems, providing health, education, and social services. The funds are providing the first leverage capital for economic development in the history of the relationship of the Indian nations and Federal government. Your misunderstanding and misrepresentation foments division between Indian nations and their neighbors. You should be ashamed! The First American has already had a Century of Dishonor!
We look forward to learning of your decision regarding, at a minimum, a retraction of the erroneous points noted above and a public correction of the inaccuracies. We are optimistic that you will truly make things right by showing the realities of other gaming tribes and the remarkable things that are happening for our elders, children, and the seven generations as a result of this resource.
The National Indian Gaming Association will be available to work with you to inform the public of the touch and to see an honorable outcome is achieved.