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Snoqualmie Casino Scandal: Snoqualmie WA Casino Hurts Washington

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
Posted in Reflection by Joel Gross

The Snoqualmie Tribe recently received recognition by the federal government with the sole goal of building a casino near Seattle.‚  In 1996, greedy investors approached the few Snoqualmie tribe members living in the area and set up a deal with them to get them recognition as a tribe (done in 1999), get them a reservation (done in 2006) and get them a casino (opening in a few days).‚  The entire reason the 600 person Snoqualmie tribe decided to band together was not for historic or tradition, instead it was to rip off elderly Washington State citizens who don’t realize how incredibly dumb gambling is.

Gambling is banned for a reason in most states: it takes money from people who are either too stupid to realize what a waste of money gambling is or who are too desperate and sad to do something more productive.‚  Gambling is not an entertainment, instead it is an addiction.‚  People get a weird thrill when they win and feel anxious to win back money when they lose.‚  Just like the house always ends up winning more money than it gives out, the casino gves people more misery than joy.‚  Foolish elderly Washingtonians will spend their Social Security checks in the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Casino, poor blue collar workers who don’t know the math behind gambling will lose their children’s food & vacation budgets and lonely people desperate for a cheap thrill will get sucked into the addiction that is casino gambling.

Not only is casino gambling an evil industry, but it is an industry which should not exist in Washington State anyways.‚  Even as a person who is part Cherokee, I hold a very strong opinion on the special rights American Indians are granted in the United States: they should not have them.‚  Most countries that conquer a territory and settle its citizens in that territory do not allow the former inhabitants any special rights.‚  The Snoqualmie Tribe, the Puyallup Tribe and all of the other tribes should receive no special rights above normal United States citizens.‚  Giving American Indian tribes special rights (fireworks, gambling, tobacco) not only is racist and discriminatory, but it leads to the harm of the very tribes it is meant to help.

The 600 members of the Snoqualmie Tribe are scattered all over and many currently lead successful, healthy & normal lifestyles.‚  The federal recognition of the Snoqualmie tribe and the subsequent building of the Snoqualmie Casino has begun to change all of that.‚  Snoqualmie Tribe members are infighting and some of the members (Carolyn Lubenau, Sharon Frelinger) have been banished because they didn’t agree with the criminal ways that the tribe did business.‚  The Snoqualmie Tribe elders have accepted bribe payments from investors (Seahawks luxury suite, $10,000 to fight a personal traffic ticket, $12,000 monthly for tribal council members)and used the Snoqualmie Tribal offices for personal uses according to the Seattle Times.‚  Now that the Snoqualmie Tribe has built the Snoqualmie Casino, the situation will only become more corrupt.‚  The happy, normal 600 members of the Snoqualmie Tribe will begin to get large quantities of free cash and if they react to it in the way other American Indian tribes have their lives will become more troubled.‚  Studies have shown that people living on reservations have a significantly increased risk of substance abuse, suicide and many other serious problems.

The Snoqualmie Casino is an enterprise founded in greed and disregard for human life (both of Washington citizens and Snoqualmie Tribe members) that is going to be a blight upon our area.‚  The close proximity of the Snoqualmie Casino to Seattle and other very wealthy neighborhoods ensures that it will make a fortune, but at what cost to our society?‚  The Snoqualmie Casino will hurt the individuals, families and social groups of everyone involved.

What is the solution? Very simple: treat all American citizens equally. Do not give special rights and access to any class of people based on race, religion, or sex.‚  Doing so furthers divisions between these classes and leads to a miserable society.‚  Segregating American Indians on reservations and giving them special rights and money just because of their race violates every american principle of individual freedom.‚  The argument that “the white man took American Indian land” holds no water.‚  The white man also took one heck of a lot of land from Mexico, including large swaths of Texas and all of California… why don’t we declare those states “Mexican American Reservations”?‚  When one country conquers another, it has every right (and one might argue duty) to assimilate the people in the new territory fully into its own system of government.‚  Keeping seperate classes leads to racial hatred and strife.‚  The Snoqualmie Casino will continue to cement class differences in America and will lead to the eventual corruption and downfall of the Snoqualmie Tribe.

Anyone who believes in racial equality in America should boycott the Snoqualmie Casino.

13 thoughts on “Snoqualmie Casino Scandal: Snoqualmie WA Casino Hurts Washington

  1. Joel, I’d like to explain a little bit about sovereignty to you and your readers. The reason that Indians have a different status in the United States than others is because the British are a different kind of conqueror, some would even venture to say poor conquerors, I wouldn’t say so, but some would. The British came from a land poor country that was under a feudal government system. They put a huge, larger than necessary value on land ownership. So when they came to conquer in this rich land full of people who were already settled in their rich cultures they came with their belief that everyone sitting on land has a prepensetory right to their land. Instead of conquering they bought the land, they wrote treaties. The treaties were unfair and they seldom honored them, but they wrote the treaties none the less. This obsession with land ownership may also be what led the British eventually to believe that the Indians were less than human, because they did not appear to understand the idea of land ownership and the conquering of land. As a matter of fact, Indians did not appear to believe they owned the land at all and this belief system made them more animal in the eyes the new comers than people. This belief made it easier and easier to kill them and take the land. As time went on and the new people broke away from Britain and formed the Untied States of America the new government adopted the treaties and the policy of writing treaties. This is what makes Indians different; the treaties create sovereign nations within the United States. The sovereignty is limited, but it is subject only to the limitations within the treaties between the parties. As an Indian, I consider myself a citizen of the United States and my tribe. This does not create a conflict; I have dual citizenship and am very patriotic to both. As far as the Snoqualmie tribe, we did not come together for the purpose of gaming. We have never been apart. We have always been a tribe and we have always been together, we began our fight for re-recognition the minute we lost recognition. The fact that we had a government and were able to demonstrate that we have always had one is the primary reason that we regained federal recognition. It is true that some of our members live in different locations, as a matter of fact, I live in California (I also have a home in North Bend, WA), this is the challenge of a landless tribe. This makes the fact that we have been able to stay together all these years all that more remarkable. We were easily able to demonstrate that we have had a continuous government over the years because we have never stopped meeting and conducting business as a tribe. We have had a continuous government since before European contact. Joel and readers, it is important that you understand it is not special treatment that Indians receive from the federal government, what Indian tribes get from the federal government is very little compliance with their own treaties. The land that they promised never materialized or when it did, it was usually not the land promised in the treaty. The money they paid was always less than the money promised. Most tribes do not know the scope of their sovereignty and let the government farther into their business than necessary. Most Indian Tribes insist on being good neighbors to the communities they live in and around, they give way more than they were ever given. We are all citizens of the United States and even though we weren’t given the right to vote until 1924, we vote and we love the United States; we have always been way over represented in every war, we have always been very patriotic. So Joel, maybe you should learn more about your own roots before you discuss mine so freely.

  2. Marilee Mai, Thank you for your very eloquent response to my blog on the Snoqualmie Casino. I know treaties were made with Native Americans by both the original British & French governments and the later American government, but all three entities have ended almost every contract made at or before that time. Why should ancient contracts that are completely irrelevant in our society today still hold sway over important issues such as gambling? I am part German, part Norwegian as well as being Cherokee. The Norwegians had a man who landed in America far before the British or French and claimed America for Norway… why shouldn’t we honor his claim as well as all of the other claims on the land? Or what of native Mexicans who lost a huge swath of the southwest to an aggressively imperialist American government? The American Civil War was fought over several states that also wanted recognition as sovereign nations and many Americans died to keep this country one. Recognizing various areas as sovereign nations within our own borders seems ridiculous to me considering the past history of such endeavors (although Sarah Palin has recently tried to get Alaska to secede… ugh). I think that a vital principle of America is that every American is treated equally regardless of race, religious creed, or sex. The fact that Native Americans were not allowed to vote till 1924 is a travesty, but so is the fact that Native Americans are treated differently today by our government than ordinary citizens. The fact that Native Americans are allowed to set up criminal gambling establishments such as the Snoqualmie Casino is an embarrassment to law and order. The blood money provided by gambling to reservations comes at a great human cost to the lives of both Native Americans and other U.S. citizens. Reservations themselves I think lead to more harm than good. Native Americans living on reservations have a significantly higher rate of substance and alcohol abuse, suicide and crime than does the rest of the country. People who are set apart from regular society have a difficult time integrating and leading normal lives as shown by the statistics. Making every American citizen equal and shutting down harmful enterprises such as the Snoqualmie Casino will make everyone’s lives better.

  3. These contracts are no more ancient than the constitution. The treaties had no ending dates. Most of the Indian Tribes were promised that the treaties would never end, this was the appeal of the treaties to the Indians. The reason the government felt so comfortable making this promise was because they felt fairly comfortable that there would be no Indians in the future, but we are still here and the treaties are still valid. So we are still able to enforce them. That is simple contract law. We do not throw out the constitution of the United States because it is an old document and we should not dishonor the treaties because you do not like them. They were made in good faith and they should be honored. Just because Indians happened to survive and now want to live in the twenty-first century without living in poverty on second rate reservations everyone suddenly objects to us being around again. It seems to me that folks object to us when we are very very poor and they really object to us when we are very rich. Not all tribes want gaming and I happen to agree that gaming is not always the way that tribes should go. It happens to be one of the fastest way to get revenue to tribes so that they can get services up and running. And you have hit on one of the biggest problems and the one that has torn the Snoqualmie tribe in half. The vultures come and prey on tribes, they set up these gaming enterprises and rip off the tribes by helping them set up these casinos. Our Casino start up was just in the paper, but the funny thing is, we will be successful anyway. We will be in debt for generations to come and we will take a few years to heal the rift that these bad people have brought to us, but we will heal. The money will help, but it isn’t the gaming that makes us strong, we were always strong. Gaming is going to make us weak for a while. We will have to survive gaming as we have survived everything else. We will have to pull together and honor our tradition. We will have to remember that banishments are wrong and wound every member of the tribe. We will have to use the money to build better services for us and our neighboring community. This is what will begin to bring healing to the Snoqualmie people. But doing away with contracts because they are old are the words of someone who is young. This is a young country, our ways are older and we understand what it means to honor your words. Fortunately the treaties are still valid and we are still here. I hope for everyone’s sake that we never speak the same way about the consititution as you so freely speak about the other old documents.

  4. Great point, Marilee. These treaties cannot just be thrown out because they are old, but the people who originally created the treaties surely did not intend to end up supporting havens for illegal activity (gambling) in our country. What if the United States government treated the Native American reservations as genuine sovereign nations? What if we put tariffs and duties on goods and services that are imported from them? What if we put immigration quotas on reservations? What if we put a border fence around each reservation with border patrol agents? In response to you other point that the Snoqualmie Casino has temporarily weakened the Snoqualmie Tribe but will in the end strengthen it: I disagree completely. There is a reason that the Snoqualmie Casino has already started to tear apart the culture of your tribe and has led to banishments, infighting and bribery. Gambling is an enterprise that feeds on human misery and even those people who profit on it end up suffering. Do some research into other reservations that have brought in gaming establishments and even though they’ve made fortunes, they have destroyed their culture and seen their youth get sucked into the fast lifestyle of not working and throwing their money away at their own casino while becoming addicted to alcohol and meth and other harmful substances. Blood money brings no good.

  5. If you look at educational standards on reservations, then we might be able to add to the list of problems that the separate entity creates. Delinquency, drop out rates, teen pregnancy, and overall test scores on reservations are abhorrently low. In addition, the number of violent acts on school campuses per capita is much higher on tribal reservations then on state or privately operated institutions. Most reservations or tribal groups in the United States now operate some sort of gambling related business- it amounts to free money that isn’t worked for. It encourages the above types of behavior for tribal members who receive their monthly stipend check and accept minimum wage part time employement elsewhere to subsidize it. And the best part of it is that the cash flow is still upwards moving, with a corporation controlled by outside businessman and a few powerful tribal council members. There is little money reinvested into the community outside of the casino grounds- no meaningful efforts to educate the populace on substance abuse, addictive behaviors, and pursuit of higher education. That seems like a lot of garbage to me. It definitely has been shown that reservations become a cess pool for the people who have a rightful claim to tribal membership. A nice comfortable pit of social disease and corruption. As to the “time immemorial” period for the tribes existence, historical evidence of a “Snoqualmie” people group only tracks to 1844. Before that, a smaller grouping of often competing tribes that were genetically related existed. A 50 year old tribal entity at time of the signing of its treaty seems to have a pretty weak claim to its land.

  6. I’ve blogged about what casino gambling has wrought on the Snoqualmie, as well as California tribes. They are wielding sovereignty as a club. Pechanga has terminated 25% of their tribe, Picayune almost 50%, simply to fatten their per capita checks. The Federal Government needs to get this corrected. Standing by while civil rights are violated wholesale is not what should happen.

  7. Joel- your words scare me… the attitude that you must keep the fools from destroying themselves is something that is reminiscent of Huxley’s prophetic view of the future. You cannot keep people from doing things just because you believe (which by the way is subjective- it is not bad for everybody I gamble a few times a year and have a great time) they are wrong. Why not make McDonalds illegal? Thank god people like you are not in charge of this country- I would not want to live in the book 1984 or Farenheit 451. Frankly I believe you should spend the considerable amount of time that you obviously spend thinking about this kind of thing and actually get involved in maybe helping people overcoming gambling or alcohol addictions instead of just complaining about it.

  8. Surfer Bob, I agree with you that the government needs to stay out of almost all aspects of private citizens lives. My primary problem with the Snoqualmie Casino and other indian casinos is that they are allowed to operate in violation of United States laws because they are on reservations. I think giving certain races of people special status is a very dangerous proposition for any government. My other contention is that gambling is a harmful activity with no benefit to society. In fact, gambling could even be compared to other harmful activities that are banned by the government: murder, crack smoking and rape. All activities may make some people happy for a short time, but the overall effect on a society is so negative that the activity must be banned. Gambling is an activity that preys on the stupid (there is a reason casino’s are usually incredibly rich), desperate (people who feel like they have no other options to get money) and the sad (old folks). The time people spend gambling or smoking crack is a harmful waste. Other than ultra-harmful activities like crack-smoking & gambling, I think the government should stay out of our lives. I am basically a libertarian (read my other posts)!

  9. Joel, Wondering if you can let me know where you got the picture of the ladies at the slot machines? I’m needing to cite it and can’t find it online… Thanks! Natasha

  10. I agree with putting fences around Indian reservations at the expense of the state,federal, or even the local government. We can use the model that Isreal uses with the GAZA strip. Perhaps we can use the Chinese solution for protecting thier borders and people… AKA the Great Wall Of China!!! It would serve the people of the country of the United States to know that these fenced in Reservations were seperate and isolated from the United States.Seperate from the US?Take the United out of United States?Wow!!Would the US really be THE UNITED STATES if we created these borders? The Tribes would accept the tariffs and taxes if we had an agreement.As long as the good people of the US didn’t mind paying Indian taxes and tariffs too. You can have your ENRON’s,you can even help the MADOFF’s,you may have participated in the Ronald Reagan de-regulating programs.The bottom line is the good ole boys and gals of the United States of America have literally ripped themselves off of Billions of dollars. Schemes and Scams from state government,to local businessmen,were designed for what purpose I ask? Money?? Oh Yeah much more than the Tribes of the North American Continent could ever steal or scam.We have much more stealing and scamming to do till we are even with the likes of George Bush and his Tribe of constituents. So what to you make of the Treaties?Who cares.The fact of the matter for people with opinions like yours is kinda like the polluted waters of the Puget Sound.Looks good but just don’t eat anything that is harvested from it. What to make of gambling?? What do you make of the Stock Market?? A nice place to put your money.Except when you lose it.

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  12. As an employee of this casino It is worse from the inside. They actively target those individuals suffering from medical ailments and are supposed to be protected by FMLA. The thing people dont realize is from the begining this was not your typical tribal casino. If it was why are there only 3-4 members working there? its been 3 years, they have had enough time to get a training program together to put there low wage members into better jobs in their own casino. I tell you why, the members have been lead to believe that they are all going to start getting per-caps and all there problems will be solved. Look no further than down the road to tacoma and see how that policy of free monthly money has “elevated” the quality of lives of their members. There is rampant crime, drug abuse and a huge feeling of entitlement whenever they enter “their” casino. I grew up around the Muckleshoot Res my whole life, went to school, played softball and met some of the best people I have had the good fortune of knowing. To sum up my point is This casino has caused nothing but problems, for a non-existent tribe, for the community that moved out there to get away from this exact thing. And believe it or not, for a great portion of the employees. There is a constant atmosphere of fear that they may lose there jobs at any time. every 6 months I am required to do evals. I am told by my boss that 80% fall into the acceptable category. 10% are outstanding and 10% need improvement. Thats flat scale. not based on actual body of work. Do you know how hard it has been to open a place and be told you are the best, thats why your here. You get full time status and then they snoball you out and replace you with part timers who have no benefits. All the while dangling fulltime status just out of reach of most of the part-timers. We are even told to do mandatory EO’s to force people out so that they dont make full time status. God I could go on and but whenever I get to the point of actually quitting I keep telling myself that I have a family and as long as I am there I can help people, customers and employees out as much as I can. Sorry if this rant was a little off-topic, but I rarely see anything revealing what really goes on in their

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