Gambling Relations with Social and Economic Life of Indian Tribes

Indians suffer from diabetes at 2½ times the national rate. Indian children suffer the awful effects of fetal alcohol syndrome at rates far exceeding the national average. Perhaps most shocking of all, Indian youth between the age of 5 and 14 years of age commit suicide at twice the national rate. The suicide rate for Indians between the ages of 15 and 24 is nearly three times the national rate. 34

Congress directed the Commission to conduct an assessment of the extent to which gambling provided revenues to… Native American tribal government, and the extent to which possible alternative revenue sources may exist for such governments. 35

Since the early 19th century, the federal government has attempted under specific treaty obligations and overall trust duty to provide for the health, education, and welfare needs of tribes and Indians. This has included federal efforts to promote mainstream economic activities in Indian communities such as agriculture, natural resource development, and various forms of industry and commerce. For example, the Allotment policies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were aimed at breaking up the tribal land base and distributing it to tribal members thereby transforming Indians into farmers like their non-Indian neighbors. These policies failed to produce successful agricultural economies in tribal communities and, instead, are widely recognized as having had a disastrous impact on tribes and caused substantial reduction in lands owned by tribes and individual Indians. 36

Today Congress continues to pursue efforts at stimulating economic development and to provide for the basic needs of Indians in Indian country. Recent enactments in pursuit of these objectives include the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, 37 the American Indian Agricultural Management Act of 1993, 38 the Indian Energy Resources Act of 1992, 39 the Indian Tribal Justice Act of 1993, 40 the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992, 41 and many more. In addition, the federal government operates dozens of programs through the Department of Interior and the other federal agencies to provide assistance to tribes and Indians in the areas of health care, law enforcement, fire protection, tribal courts, road maintenance, education, child abuse and neglect, housing, and natural resource management. However, major federal expenditures on behalf of Native Americans have declined during the period from FY 1975 through FY 1999 (in constant dollars), except for the Indian Health Service. 42 Further this decline indicates that most federal Indian program spending areas have lagged behind their equivalent federal spending areas.

The poor economic conditions in Indian country have contributed to the same extensive social ills generated in other impoverished communities including high crime rates, child abuse, illiteracy, poor nutrition, and poor health care access.

But with revenues from gambling operations, many tribes have begun to take unprecedented steps to begin to address the economic as well as social problems on their own. For example, through gambling tribes have been able to provide employment to their members and other residents where the federal policies failed to create work. This has resulted in dramatic drops in the extraordinarily high unemployment rates in many, though not all, communities in Indian country and a reduction in welfare rolls and other governmental services for the unemployed.

34 141 Cong. Rec. S11881 (August 8, 1995) (Statement of Sen. McCain) 35 Pub. L. 104-169, 4( a)( 1)( E). 36 Hodel v. Irving, 481 U. S. 704, 707 (1987); see also County of Yakima v. Yakima Nation, 502 U. S. 251, 255-56 (1992); Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law 137-38 (1982 ed.). 37 25 U. S. C. 4101 et seq. 38 25 U. S. C. 3701 et seq. 39 25 U. S. C. 3501 et seq. 40 25 U. S. C. 3601 et seq. 41 25 U. S. C. 3401 et seq. 42 Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, 1999 Report of the Committee on the Budget, United States Senate to accompany Con. Res. 86, together with additional and minority views, Report 105- 170, March 20, 1998.