Tribal government gaming on Indian lands is significantly changing life for many of the more than 4.1 million American Indians in the United States. It has proven to be there first and most effective tool for economic development on sovereign, Tribal lands.
Gaming generates a few billion dollars in much needed Tribal government revenue annually to provide essential government services to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. It is helping Indian nations build strong and diversified economies. Gaming is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for reservations Indians and neighboring non-Indians. Gaming has allowed many Tribes to economically support themselves, contributing to the prosperity of those on and off the reservations, generating Federal, State and local taxes, employment and economic development in nearby counties (Mason, 4).
Gaming has given Tribal leaders the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and self-confidence needed to build strong Tribal governments and, for the first time in generations, provide for the health, education and welfare of their people. It has restored to American Indians a sense of pride and self-respect. It is helping Indians recapture their past, preserve their culture and ensure their future (Grinde, 169).
According to Tribal- State Compacts between the State of California and the California Gaming Tribes, "American Indians are the original peoples of the United States, endowed with inherent rights of sovereignty and self-governance. The United States acknowledges the sovereign status of Indian Tribes in both the Treaty Clause and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Pursuant to the constitutional plan, the United States entered into more than 300 Indian treaties that guarantee Tribal rights of self-government."
The first Indian treaty, entered into in 1787 with the Delaware Nation, created a vitally important military alliance during the Revolutionary War. The government-to-government relationship between the Federal and Tribal governments is the cornerstone of the Federal Indian Policy today. For example, Presidential Executive Order 13175 states: "Our Nation recognized the right of Indian Tribes to self-government. As domestic dependent nations, Indian Tribes exercise inherent sovereign powers over their members and territory (Mason, 10).
Government policies in the 1800s devastated Indian Tribes. The Indian population in the United States plunged from as high as 15 million before Columbus to only 250,000 by the end of the Indian wars at the close of the 19th century. Despite U.S. treaty pledges to protect Indian reservations, from 1886 to 1934 Indian Tribes lost more than 90 million acres of land. By the beginning of the 20th Century, Indian Tribes held only 48 million acres in the lower 48 states, much of it unproductive desert or arid land.
During the 19th century, the United States destroyed traditional Indian economies through war, removal, reservation policies, land theft and destruction of native species. General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered the U.S. Army to issue free bullets to white hunters to kill the buffalo herds because destroying the Native American food supply made it easier for the United States to confine Indian tribes to smaller and smaller reservations (U.S. News and World Report).
Indian Tribes in California were removed from lush agricultural lands to rocky outcroppings at the edge of the mountains or desert. As the Supreme Court noted in the California v. Cabazon 480 U.S. 202, 220 (1987), California Indians were left with reservations that "contain no natural resources which can be exploited." Throughout the 20th Century, Indian Tribes across the United States suffered from poverty, unemployment, disease and life expectancies much shorter that the national average (Eadington, 40).
With little or no economy or tax base, Indian Tribes in the late 1960's and early 1970's turned to Indian gaming...