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National Indian Gaming Association
Raps 60 Minutes Report
of Mashantucket Pequots

By Rick Hill, Chairman,
the National Indian Gaming Association,
Pequot Times, October 1994

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 Association.

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 is creating 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 cultural deprivation.

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.

Rick Hill