Influence of Self-Determination Policy and Gambling Revenues to Native Americans Economy

Tribes also use gambling revenues to support tribal governmental services including the tribal courts, law enforcement, fire protection, water, sewer, solid waste, roads, environmental health, land-use planning and building inspection services, and natural resource management. They also use gambling revenues to establish and enhance social welfare programs in the areas of education, housing, substance abuse, suicide prevention, child protection, burial expenses, youth recreation, and more. Tribes have allocated gambling funds to support the establishment of other economic ventures that will diversify and strengthen the reservation economies. Gambling revenues are also used to support tribal language, history, and cultural programs. All of these programs have historically suffered from significant neglect and underfunding by the federal government. Although the problems these programs are aimed at reducing continue to plague Indian communities at significant levels, gambling has provided many tribes with the means to begin addressing them. There was no evidence presented to the Commission suggesting any viable approach to economic development across the broad spectrum of Indian country, in the absence of gambling.

The Move Toward Self-Determination
Over the past two centuries, the policy of the U. S. government toward the Indian tribes has oscillated between recognition of their separate status and attempts to culturally assimilate them into the broader society. Federal policy toward Indians in the first half of this century emphasized the latter and was characterized by an effort to reduce their separate status, culminating in the so-called Termination Policy of the 1950’s. Under the Termination Policy, several Indian reservations were broken up and the land divided among members and some tribes were “terminated” and declared no longer in existence. This policy was reversed in the 1960’s and 1970’s when Native American self-awareness and political movements expanded. At the same time, there was growing public awareness of the difficult economic and social conditions on reservations. As a result of these developments, the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans shifted toward enhancing tribal self-determination and placing a greater emphasis on promoting economic and social development on the reservations.

The blueprint for this change was laid by President Johnson in his Presidential statement. And, a milestone in this change was the Nixon Administration’s Indian Self-Determination policy. 43 In his July 8, 1970, Message to Congress on Indian Affairs, President Nixon stated: “[ t] he United States Government acts as a legal trustee for the land and water rights of American Indians” and has “a legal obligation to advance the interests of the beneficiaries of the trust without reservation and with the highest degree of diligence and skill.” This emphasis on self-determination has been reinforced by succeeding Administrations. For example, in 1975 Congress passed and President Ford signed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which authorized the tribes to administer several federal programs and provided them with greater flexibility and decisionmaking authority regarding these programs and the associated funding. 44 In addition, promoting self-determination and economic development on the reservations was seen as requiring a move away from reliance on federal money. As President Reagan said in his 1983 Statement on Indian Policy: “[ i] t is important to the concept of self-government that tribes reduce their dependence on federal funds by providing a greater percentage of the cost of their self-government.” These principles have been substantially expanded by President Clinton through four Presidential Executive Orders on various tribal issues. 45

43 “The Forgotten American”, Message to the Congress from the President of the United States, March 6, 1968 and Executive Order 11399, Establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity, 33 FR 4245, March 6, 1968. 44 25 U. S. C. ยงยง 450-458. 45 For example, as recently as May 14, 1998, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13084, “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,” reiterating the relationship between Federal and Tribal governments: “The United States has a unique