NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
THE HONORABLE W. RON ALLEN
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: We will begin with Mr. Allen.
MR. ALLEN: Well, thank you Chairwoman James and Commissioners it's a pleasure to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to be invited to speak to you. My name is Ron Allen I'm the President for the National Congress of American Indians. I'm also the Chairman for the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, it's a small tribe located in western Washington.
Basically I come to you in behalf of what we call NCAI and want to share with you a number of our views and experiences with regard to the issues you're addressing.
I bring with me a number of years of experience. I mean I've been the Chairman of my tribe for 21 years. I've been the Executive Director administering all the different programs that the tribe government runs for the last 18 years. And I have been actively involved in a broad array of issues the Indian country has had to address with regard to raising the welfare in the interest of our communities, you know, in the areas of health and education, the infra structure and economic development and including gaming which the issue we're dealing with here.
You have asked me to come and talk about social impacts. I have been trying to observe and note, you know, the various issues and views that you have been trying to examine and explore to understand Indian gaming within the Indian communities.
And, you know, I when I -- before I come down here I pulled off of the Internet off of your web site, you know, a little paper that was written that was basically titled Native American Gaming. As I scanned through it, as a person who has understood and read and tried to deal with the American Indian law as it has weaved its way through the history of its relationship with the United States it has brought to my attention that it's really important that we work closely with you first of all to make sure that we're working with the fundamental precept of what the Indian tribes are.
I mean we need to continue to remind you that we are governments and that we function as governments. And that even though you'll see an array of competency in the governments from large tribes to small tribes, to what we call sophisticated tribes to less sophisticated tribes, and that is not necessarily relevant to the size. It is relevant to how they have evolved over the various years, and how they have improved their standing with the United States.
And that is relative to a whole array of series of laws and policies and the levels of sophistication of the leadership of those various Indian nations. And it won't substantially vary from Alaska to Florida. And it would surprise you substantially, you know, in terms of what that level of sophistication is, but the bottom line is we're governments.
And when we talk about the issue of gaming and the application of gaming in the United States one of the things that the tribes are trying to advance is the fact that we want to be treated fairly.
Now it's interesting enough the concept fair has various variations from whoever's interest they're looking from. Our view clearly is as governments. We're looking at it from the perspective of the tribes as governments being able to advance our agenda to elevate the welfare of our people.
So my topic here is to talk about social and cultural impacts. What is going on with our communities. As the person before me reported variances of size of tribes. From tribes that may have a handful of people still within their body to the largest of the Navajo Nation of well over 250,000. We have a substantial differences of sizes and complexities and compositions of communities. But the bottom line is that we still are existing governments. The United States recognized this in the Constitution and has reaffirmed that relationship historically through statues and treaties and other legal documents. Our job is to basically elevate the standing of our community.
Now, we have many complications in elevating our community capacities. And those obstacles are a large array of issues. And I know you are never going to have enough time to go over all the documents and all the issues that created these road blocks for our communities to become what we call self sufficient.
Because we do not essentially have tax bases. Therefore, in order for us to become self sufficient and less dependent on the federal government and other resources that we have been dependent on for so many years clearly the business resources is our tax base, there's no question about that. Clearly that opportunity to generate new revenue is to diversify our economy is a major issue for us and it is a new phenomena. It is true that in the last 5, 10 years that substantial progress has been made.
Now while we're doing that realize other communities as they change, because of the various development and various things that go on in the various communities the changing of their basic economic foundation whatever it is. It doesn't matter what it is, timber industries or educational industries or other forms of industries that reside there we have to adjust as well.
And what essentially is happening is that some tribes have a good advantage because of location, we know that's a fundamental in business. But with tribes location is not an option for us we are located where we are what we call our seated territories. And those are the -- there's the limited options we have. While we're dealing with these things we're dealing with the elevation of our community needs and the preservation of our culture and our traditional way of life.
Now it may surprise a lot of people that today those cultural practices and traditions are still practiced predominately. And many of them are lost and we will recognize the fact that many of them are lost. But we are working very vehemently in order to restore these -- the languages, the religious practices, the traditions, the cultural ways of life.
And I would point out as we talk about the impacts of gaming industry in our community, as been pointed out, 557 or 58 tribes recognized by the United States government. About 185, 86, 87 that are in gaming right now. So they're the ones that are dealing with it right now with regard to gaming impact.
But the majority of them, you know, have to deal with gaming just like any other community has to deal with gaming. The states have to deal with gaming and Nevada has to deal with gaming, New Jersey and Louisiana and et cetera. They all have to deal with gaming in its fatuous community. We too are coping with it.
But we think we are coping with it quite well. We're dealing with the compulsive gambling. Do we have compulsive gambling problems? Yes. If you were going to say you don't have it in the industry you're basically lying to yourself. We know that and we have programs just like the industry has throughout the United States that addresses those particular matters.
But one of the points that we wanted to make is that as we move forward we see various forms of successes. The person in front of me talked about, you know, as some of those casinos have been very successful and they create jobs, which is a big deal for many of our communities, that is an important objective. But those jobs aren't always the right jobs for our people and many of them don't want those kind of jobs.
So our agenda is while we're making those businesses work is look for other kinds of ventures and other kinds of businesses that will help them move on whether it's independently or whether it's a part of a tribal business itself. And those things are going on quite well.
But I also want to emphasize in terms of cultural impact. Cultural impact with regard to gaming is the smallest of our problems. Our community cultural impacts is because of the relationship between our culture and traditions and the non-Indian cultures and traditions.
And all you've got to do is go to these reservation and see small homes, you know, that are questionable against the standards of America and you'll see the satellite system out there. And though that little satellite system out there brings all these cultural values in there and they rub up right against these cultural community values of any communities.
So there are many kinds of influences in terms of what happens to our communities. What we're trying to do is generate the resources to address those issues. And if you don't have those resources then you can't address those issues in terms of how they impact your communities.
And it wouldn't matter whether it's strengthening your economy by strengthening your infra structure, strengthening your educational system so that they know what's going on.
So our objective here is to make sure that when you report on what is going on we would argue that we think that by enlarge if you measure us against mainstream America and how it's handling its affairs we're doing fine. We're new, you know, in this industry for all practical purposes. I don't know how many years Nevada has been in it, but you know gaming has been an age old cultural tradition, but not in the context you see it today.
But the fact is is that you don't see those monies going out of our reservations as much as you may think. Because what's happening is our communities are -- it's changing the system so that the management has responsibilities to transfer these expertise to our people and moving them up in the white collar positions in these industries.
And those industries that are moving in because it's a good benefit and a good opportunity and they create good partnerships now we're moving more and more of them out because they're running our own ship and that is important to us. It is important that we're managing our own affairs and keeping as much of those resources that we're generating in our community, in our economy. That is an important agenda for us.
Now, we hear numerous things that concern us, you know, in terms of, you know, are we paying taxes? Well, we're governments we're not paying taxes, but our people pay taxes. So as governments we need to be treated like governments. But as people we do pay the same kind of taxes and have the same kind of burdens as mainstream American so that's not an issue for us in our opinion.
Is there a fairness across America in Indian country?
Well, it's the luck of the draw. I mean is there fairness with Bill Gates versus his competitors? You know, if you get yourself in a good position, you're in the right location, the right resources are available, you have an edge that's all there is to it.
So Indian country looked at the Pequot's and the Shakopee's and the Mille Lacs and the Oneida's and Gila River's and those folks that are doing well and we say right on. That is a good thing for those guys because there is nothing wrong with rich Indians, there's nothing wrong with rich non-Indians.
So that our point is that let's be fair. Let's use the same standards with Indians as you do non-Indians and let's be respectful of us as government.
So I see my time is up and unfortunately, you know, I can only go over the mountain tops. We want to work with you. We want to cause you to understand what we're all about and what we're trying to do. What has happened with the evolution of and the growth of tribal governments over the last 20 years particularly and where we think we're going in the 21st century. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER WILHELM: Thank you very much Mr. Allen. If you have additional written testimony please feel free to submit it, it will be included in the record.
MR. ALLEN: We appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER WILHELM: And at the end of the session there may be an opportunity to revisit some of your additional points in terms of questions and answers.