Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh the Casino

Going into the reservation, I was intrigued by the casino. I had preconceived notions about it and thought that it was a way that the government was creating more debt for indigenous people and was an economic model that marginalized and not help the community.

But when I was at Cherokee, I learned something completely new to what I have read or heard before. First of all, when you enter the reservation, the majority of buildings are one story. But then, as you approach downtown Cherokee, you see this beautiful, huge, exquisite building. How does this building and the one floor buildings coexist?

Lets look at the history of the casino. Harrahs Cherokee Casino and Hotel is not just a Cherokee built casino. Harrahs is in fact a franchise. They built this beautiful casino but the community bought it from the Casino is sure time. Now the casino provides jobs, pays full tuition for any one who lives on the reservation (native or not) for college. Citizens get 9000 dollars every year. The casino invests so much money into the community. The casino finances the hospital! The casino for its workers provides free health care and pensions and life insurance. The casino provides outreach programs. The casino is... something else. It is nothing that I have ever had the opportunity to deal with. The casino has made 2,128,400,000 dollars in the past twelve years! The community gives 37% to health, 30% to public relations, 11% to seniors, 11% to education, 10% in cultural environmental programming, and 1% to communities outside the casinos.

But you know what? Only 16% of its 1200 workers are Cherokee. Only 300 people? Its crazy. How has that happened if natives have so many amazing perks for working there? But then again, as one of the women I talked to in the casino who worked there told me how there was such thing as 'Indian' time. The cross-cultural discrepancies between Cherokee and American are very deep. We are talking about polychromic and monochromic time. So where does this put us?

One woman who helped us on our church mission that when people get their checks they spend it quickly and do not really save it. That's what she does and other women at church she introduced me to. I am not sure where to go from here. All these stories- what is development? How do we measure the success of a community's development? Economically? Because Cherokee is quite well- off. But there is one thing I must state that is really important: each nation is different. Native American is a term that was constructed in the 1960s as a response to years of oppression (my next blog is on this). So Cherokee honestly is prospering in many ways compared to those tribes on the other side of the United States. I feel as though I need to bridge out and see more. As far as Cherokee goes, however, it has been doing fantastically financially and socially. It is a dry reservation and alcoholics have meetings that public transportation takes them to for free. Not many reservations really have that. Where does this put me? Indigenous rights is larger than I thought.

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