WASHINGTON, DC ? The Democratic National Committee has unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Tigua Indians of the Ysleta del Sur in Texas, in a move injecting the closing of their casino into national politics.
Molly Beth Malcolm, state chair of the Texas Democratic Party, used the measure to attack Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, an announced Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate.
"John Cornyn has ignored the Tiguas' sovereign and legal rights in order to advance his own political agenda and personal ambitions," Malcolm said. "Cornyn has put political gain above working families with his attack on the Tiguas' sovereignty and legal rights."
"This resolution makes it clear that gambling is not the issue in the Tiguas' case," Malcolm said. She noted that the state sponsors a lottery and allows betting on horse and dog racing.
"The issue is the Tiguas' legal and sovereign right to participate in activities similar to other gambling activities allowed under Texas law."
Tigua tribal officials expressed pleasure with the DNC resolution. "We are thrilled," Marc Schwartz, spokesman for the Tigua Tribe, said. "We are glad they have recognized the importance of Tribal Sovereignty."
The Democratic National Committee had strong condemnation for the recent U. S. Circuit Court decision, which will close the Tigua Tribe's Speaking Rock Casino by Feb. 7.
The resolution may also support an attempt to override the decision by legislative action. Schwartz had earlier stated that the tribe planned to pursue legislative relief, if the courts closed down the Speaking Rock Casino. Schwartz said that the tribe had strong backing from both Democrats and Republicans in the state, but the DNC resolution shows a growing national support for the El Paso tribe.
"The Democratic Party has spoken through this resolution," said Frank LaMere, DNC Committeeman and member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. "I applaud the Party's action on this important issue. I am pleased that the National Party chose again to reaffirm its stand on the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. The Tiguas' determination and resolve have improved health care and housing and created well-paying jobs to brighten the future for their children. It is my hope that all Americans, including our elected officials and policy makers, will stand four square with our First Nations and work to strengthen tribes whose rights are under attack by those whose intentions are political and self-serving."
South Dakota Democratic Vice Chairman Dennis Langley summed up the resolution by saying, "This resolution is timely and meaningful. Tribal nations have been strengthened and have affected positive change among their peoples. They must be recognized and respected. It is simply the law."
The Tigua battle has also started a movement by both federally and non-federally recognized Indians in Texas to re-establish an American Indian Commission within the state.
An estimated 280,000 American Indians live in the State of Texas but only 4, 500 live on federally recognized reservations, leaving the rest without health care benefits and representation at the state level.