While most of the fifteen or so committee members are trying to restrain their resentment to the white man, a twenty-one year old Shawnee Hunt is blunt in his assessment in what this new found success can do for them. ‘The casino money empowers us in other ways.  It helps us get education.  As I am growing up, I realize that first and foremost I am a native American living in the white man’s world. I live in the white community and go to the white man’s school and listen to the older kids always berating how dumb the Indians are.’

Like Shawnee in Wisconsin, several hundred miles east of them, their brothers in Connecticut are as blunt.  ‘Success of the tribe as a whole allows the tribe to be re-born.  The tribe was broken up by the Dutch and the English in 1634.  Over the next centuries, it was assumed that the Pequots no longer existed.  To bring back whatever remained of the tribe, an economic base had to be formed. Thanks to the vision and efforts of our tribal chairman Skip (Richard) Hayward, we have been able to do just that.  It has allowed us to raise our heads a little bit.’  Talking to me is John Holder, director of project development for the ever expanding Foxwood.

‘You know, I don’t feel exactly like we are striking back.  But suddenly, people don’t look at me as the person I once was.  Now they look at me as the same person with money.  One of my close friends, a white man, continuously asks me, How much money do you make? And the good friends that we were, I would tell him. Over a period of time, he began to resent the amount of money I make.  Suddenly you don’t know who your friends are.’

‘You bet they resent us dark folks making all that money,’ Joey Carter tells it as it is, ‘behind our backs, they still call us all sorts of names.  But my attitude is, you can call me what you want, but call me at the bank.’

‘I make it a point to always work on Columbus day,’ continues Joey as a slight smile  crosses his lips.  As much as I feel that he does this in defiance to the white man as symbolized by Columbus, I feel that there is deeper significance to his non-acknowledgement of the very existence of Columbus, whose arrival on the American continent must mean to him and the native Americans as the beginning of them being pushed out of their way of life.

Whatever the case, they have learned well from their experience with the white man.  The French were the first ones to scalp.  The Indians imitated and perfected the art of scalping.  Likewise, the Ho-Chunks were first introduced to gambling, also by the French as early as 1634, in what was then known as the three beans game. And see now what they have done with that knowledge!

There are still people who are upset by this sudden resurgence of the damn Indians.  Most of them however, are happily clanging away at their slot machines, and the ones who are not, are quite happy for them.  ‘Good for them!  After hundreds of years of oppression from us, they deserve it,’ says my friend Beth (Jones). The owner at the local Midas muffler shop, Joe Simchak, sums it up pragmatically, ‘We had it a long time coming.’

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, March 28, 2014

THE STRANDED BRIDE

Just married in India. On her way to the west to meet up with her husband and start her new life. Miss her connecting flight in Rome. Totally lost. Run into me.

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