The astounding success of the Indian casinos has not only benefitted the native Americans, but the community at large. For a little over 300 Pequot tribe members that collectively own the Foxwood, it employs 10,000 people.  Of 2,400 jobs at Mille Lacs, 80% are held by non-Indians, majority of them by the “white man.”

‘Most of us are so thankful for the casino.  I had just lost my job and there was no other place to go.  I came here with no experience.  They sent me to school to become a dealer and paid for my education. Two months later I started at $ 30,000 (a year). Where else can you make that kind of money with no experience?  The casino also pays for all  medical expenses, including free medication, which they even home deliver if I am unable to go to the pharmacy’, continues Terri, the Pai Gow Poker dealer – a white woman.

The next day, I broach the subject with Richard Tesler, the casino manager, ‘They have a tribal thinking in which their employees become a part of the Indian family.’

Back at my hotel Norwich Inn & Spa, I am talking to Dawn, a waitress. ‘My sister is not happy about more traffic and crowding in  schools because of the casino, but most of us are thankful that they (Indians) are here.  If not for the casino, we wouldn’t still be here.  This hotel was under bankruptcy and would have closed.’

With that kind of success comes dissent. Even though the Nevada gaming industry supported the passage of IGRA, the phenomenal success of the Indian gaming business has prompted others to protest the deregulation of casinos that favor the American Indians.  Among the protesters is Donald Trump, the owner of three casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, who could face  stiff competition from a New Jersey tribe in the process of planning a casino in the region.

Though IGRA opened up a window of opportunity for the native American tribes, the ultimate success of their enterprises has come from the vision, business acumen and sheer hard work of everyone involved.  Even so, the success has come so sudden, it is as though they have hit a jackpot.  Within a few short years, Joey Carter, the PR director at Foxwood, has gone from cutting wood for five dollars an hour to being one of the owners of the largest grossing casino in the nation.

About a month later, I find myself sitting around the committee members of Ho-Chunk Casinos in Wisconsin. At the end of the day, what does this all mean to the native Americans? I ask.

‘For me personally, our success has gotten us the attention  we were deprived of.  It has given us the tool that white folks understand, namely, money and greed. Now we can capitalize on the same greed that we have learned from them,’ answers Ron Decoralt, of the Ho-Chunk nation’s Planning and Economic Development Committee.

Do you ever get a feeling that now you can afford to strike back at the white man for all the horrible things he has done to the native Americans? I shoot a pointed question.

‘For me, this is not a vendetta.’ Responds another committee member, Lorenzo Funmaker, chairman of the committee and a professional carpenter. ‘We owned all this land around here.  A lot of atrocities and thieving were committed in taking away what is rightfully ours.’

‘The money gives us means to bring back our religion, language and culture. Way back, the white man stopped us from speaking our language. Out went our history and civilization which was preserved and rooted in the oral tradition. White people are hardly civilized. We Indians are very highly assimilated. No matter what, I am still a damn Indian,’ says Amos Kingsley – a construction worker.

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