Left Justified: Indians are on the warpath

Seen those ads on television about stopping Native Americans from overrunning Beloit, Wis.? No, Chief Black Hawk has not returned to reclaim his beloved Sinnissippi Valley. Illiniwek ain’t moving across the border, and there’s no hysterical racist proclaiming a yellow/red peril.

But Native American tribes are battling each other over an economic engine that provides billions to Native Americans coffers. Gambling also destroys people’s lives while developing dollars for investors who are less than native.

The Ho-chunk casino is well advertised here in Rockfordland. If you want to hear old retro-rock, inhale stale smoke, and waste your life savings, then go north, my friend (unless you want to keep money in Illinois, then go east to Elgin).

But local developers have enlisted a tribe north of Eau Claire to build a large “family style” casino (does that mean my grand niece can play the slots?) just across our Illinois border. This will effectively draw the majority of gamblers to Beloit, away from Ho-chunk, saving gas (how environmental).

Of course, the two tribes are locked in legal battle in the dusty halls of the Interior Department in Washington, D.C.

You’ve heard, maybe, of the lobbyists who took all that money from native tribes and spread it around congressional lobbies? Well, the mess hasn’t been cleaned up. If you want to stop the new casino in Beloit, encourage our congressman to halt, or at least delay, any new tribal “games” until a full investigation can be completed. How many of our government representatives are still holding bags of cash from the last round of tribal largess?

Gambling is not my cup of tea (or beer, or crack cocaine). Only 5 percent of the population is susceptible to the wiles of the wheels of fortune (as opposed to 20 percent to alcohol). But if you are so inclined (and a lot of people don’t know until they try), you can lose your shirt, tie, family inheritance, children’s college fund, and dignity. You can lose your mind.

No one knows what triggers addiction. The booze industry is not gonna fund any studies, and the cigarette manufacturers fought (and still fight) scientific approaches to the cravings of the body. Hell, they want more addicts, and are constantly trolling for new weak links in our society. Do you think casinos will tell high rollers, losing his or her shirt or blouse, “I think you should quit now, you’ve lost enough”?

How many bars on Seventh Street say “Sorry Joe/Jane, I am cutting you off”? I wish they would, then we’d enjoy our little temptations and not feel so guilty when we see/hear of people’s lives going down toilets. Our cravings create this industry, and even if we control our urges, there are those poor bodies that cannot.

That is the main complaint, I think: when selling addictive stuff, big industries do not care about the lives of their customers.

Native tribes have every right to survive. Lord knows the US government took everything they owned.

Smart tribes do not allow their members to gamble in their own casinos. Even smarter tribes own their casinos outright and don’t have outside investors (usually white guys with suits), and running a casino is like printing money.

Fair tribes cut off the problem gambler. And most tribes invest their profits in colleges, health care, and productive industries. When the gambling craze is tempered, and we pray it will be, people can live a better life.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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