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Big Indians party with key Republicans

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NEW YORK - Not many Native delegates are on the roster at the Republican
National Convention, but a lot of big Indians are showing up at the
parties.

According to a spokesman for the convention, some 37 American Indians and
Alaska Natives are delegates and alternates. But the Republican bureaucrats
won't give out their names, not even to the National Congress of American
Indians, which wanted to put together an invitation list for its ad hoc
Indian caucus. A Republican release touting the "diversity" of the
convention didn't even break out numbers for Native attendees, listing them
as "other."

But plenty of well-known Indian leaders showed up at parties feasting
influential delegates, and helped pay for the festivities. The National
Indian Gaming Association and several casino tribes helped sponsor a
post-session "Wild Wild West Saloon" at the Crobar club on the city's
decrepit far west side that honored California Congressman Richard Pombo,
chairman of the House Resources Committee, and its Republican members.

Mark Van Norman, executive director of NIGA and John Harte, its counsel,
waited in line in the street across from a fenced in parking lot and garage
for yellow cabs, along with Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of
Luiseno Indians until the heavy security whisked them in and fitted them
with red, white and blue wrist bands.

In the large performance space inside, Ernie Stevens Jr., president of
NIGA, stood just inside a draped doorway, listening to a live performance
by .38 Special. "It's one of my favorite bands," he said.

Next to him loomed Chairman Michael Thomas of the Mashantucket Pequot
Tribal Nation, who gave thumbs up to a reporter flashing a floor pass to
the tribe's annual Schemitzun festival from the weekend before.

Security screened invitations before letting unappreciative politicos pass
from the dance hall to a somewhat quieter bar, where costumed servers
passed out a constant stream of eats reflecting Chairman Pombo's
agricultural district. Ernie Stevens passed up the Charlie Daniels Band to
chat with John Guevremont, the Mashantucket tribe's Chief Operating
Officer.

Wilson Pipestem of the Eastern Cherokee sampled the spicy and delicious
sun-dried tomatoes. Staff at the bash, also called the Pombo-palooza,
perhaps inappropriately wore fashions inspired by the HBO drama "Deadwood",
celebrating the frontier sociopaths, thieves and murderers who expropriated
the Black Hills from the Lakota. Guests could go a different direction and
wear straw farm-hand hats passed out at door in imitation of Pombo's
trademark headgear.

The convention itself had the flavor of a giant masquerade party. Delegates
pretended to be moderates, and the City of New York came disguised as a
police state.

Police barricades made the blocks around Madison Square Garden a
freeze-down zone. Police on bicycles swooped by like the flying monkeys
from "The Wizard of Oz." A squadron of police buses blared down Sixth
Avenue with flashing blue lights, making it clear that the city could
arrest and whisk away hundreds of would-be demonstrators in minutes.

For the night, however, the point was well taken. The atmosphere on the
streets seemed relaxed, even goodnatured, even when a passing band of
female protestors wearing orange wigs called out to the line at the
"Pombopalooza", "Enjoy your war profits!"