Excerpted From: Steven Isaacs, American Givers: How the Reneging of the Federal Trust Responsibility Impacts Indian Gaming and Continues America's Apathetic Oppression of Native Americans, 13 UNLV Gaming Law Journal 235 (Spring, 2023) (252 Footnotes) (Full Document)


stevenIssacs.jpegInitially, this paper sought to answer why wealth inequality exists between tribal casinos and reservation life. Through research into the subject, this paper now offers a comprehensive overview of the many contradictions plaguing modern Native American society, explanations of why they persist, and potential ways they can be fixed.

Section II of this paper begins by looking at the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act's (IGRA) initial policy goals and its current progress toward those goals. Section III will analyze the many cracks in the federal trust responsibility. Section IV features a discussion about three major pillars of modern-day America--patriotism, capitalism, and racism--and how they impact the American public's thoughts on Native Americans in general. Section V will merge everything together and show how the interplay between several competing ideologies has resulted in consistent apathy toward Native Americans. Section VI will propose several practical solutions that can be implemented as initial steps toward reconciling these issues. Section VII concludes this paper by summarizing the main point: the dismantling of the federal trust responsibility and the emergence of tribal gaming have helped produce modern-day attitudes that contribute to the destitute conditions of reservation life.

[. . .]

Prosperous Native American communities once spanned the entire continent; now most of them have been forcefully consigned to live in incredibly bleak conditions on smaller and smaller patches of this same ancestral land. After the formation of the U.S., the fortunes of Native Americans swung perilously on a perpetual pendulum. Native American populations, traditions, and customs have survived through eras of removal, termination, and assimilation, as well as the shattered promises of the federal trust responsibility.

With the legitimization of tribal gaming, Native Americans have finally found an industry in which they can generate revenue independently. However, while some tribes have become rich from gaming, the majority have not. Most tribes have become poorer and poorer, making the experience of many Native individuals one of poverty. Meanwhile, media representation remains hopelessly stuck in the U.S.'s racist past, continually reaffirming the view that the “noble savages” are mere sidekicks to more complex and interesting white Americans.

This dissonance, along with the contradictions inherent in the newly prominent rich Casino Indian caricature, leads to inconsistent messaging which prevents the mobilization of potential allies. This confusion contributes to an altogether apathetic mindset. However, through increased and improved media representation, an updated IGRA, and real congressional representation, the paradoxical Native American monolith can be broken, forcing Americans to recognize the true poverty of reservation life and allowing allies to rally around them in solidarity by pressuring Congress to restore the promises of the federal trust responsibility. Until then, the Native American monolith will be one of capitalistic enterprise, because accepting the alternative would mean confronting the reasons why Native Americans have been brought so low.