Tribal leaders send message from G2E
LAS VEGAS - Using the Global Gaming Expo as a public forum, American Indian
leaders urged conference attendees to return to their tribes and spread the
word to get out to the polls in this important election year.
Stuwart Paisano, governor of Sandia Pueblo, used his speaking time during
the Tribal Leaders Roundtable to explain to a packed room the importance of
voting in the 2004 presidential election. In New Mexico, a state which
former vice-president Al Gore won in the 2000 presidential race by just 376
votes, Paisano called New Mexico tribes the "sleeping giant' in what is
expected to be another toss-up state this time around.
"Voting is very crucial in New Mexico, as it should be in any other state,"
Paisano said. "We are trying to encourage not only Native American people,
but all of our employees. We're trying to educate them about protecting
their jobs because it does relate back to the gaming compacts, their
relationships with the states and with the federal government."
Paisano said New Mexico's 12 casinos employ roughly 12,000 people. He said
letters were placed in their checks explaining the candidates' positions on
health care, education and infra-structure needs as they relate to the
tribes. In addition, Paisano said, the New Mexico Gaming Association has
worked to educate the politicians themselves on tribal matters, but he
admits it hasn't been easy.
"It's been a huge struggle. A long difficult process," he explained. "But
we are an influential player when it comes to politics and representing our
Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, agreed
saying, "People really need to understand the strength and energy that we
have and the impact we have on the national election. We really need to get
our people out, our elders to the polls and our young people to understand
the impact that we can have."
Anthony Pico, chairman of Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, took the issue
of voting a step further, telling the crowd that the future of Indian
country will be left in the hands of all Americans, and it's the role of
tribal leaders to push for a future full of promise.
"These new fronts, economically and political are the new battlefield,"
Pico said. "We have an opportunity, the first in hundreds of years, to
define sovereignty on our terms. We need to involve our tribal leaders to
educate the American public and bring them with us on our quest because our
ability to move forward, like it or not, will be decided in the court of
public opinion. In the end, the voting public will decide the fate of
Meanwhile in California it appears two anti-gaming ballot questions -
Proposition 68 and Proposition 70 - are headed for defeat. Supporters of
Proposition 68 threw in the towel on an initiative aimed at ending the
state's Indian tribes' monopoly on slot machines and forcing California
tribes to pay 25 percent of their earnings to local governments.
The admission of defeat came during the Las Vegas-hosted gaming expo Oct. 5
- 7, and was well received by tribal leaders especially Mark Macarro,
chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula, Calif. During
the roundtable, Macarro summed it up saying, "Governments don't tax other
governments. They have no right to tax a tribal government, just as Nevada
cannot be taxed by Arizona or the state of California. It's that simple."