Feinstein Responds to Indian Country Today Media Network

Dianne Feinstein

To the editor:

Your article, “Feinstein’s New Bill: It’s a Travesty” (April 9) does a disservice to your readers by carelessly mischaracterizing my recent legislation to reform casino gaming on tribal land.

Let me be clear: The Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act makes no changes to the right of tribes to open new casinos on existing in trust land, on contiguous land, or on land near where tribes currently live. Tribes still have every opportunity to pursue casino-related economic development miles away from their homeland, provided they consult their new neighbors.

As a former Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, increasing federal funding for health, education, and law enforcement programs in Indian Country was a top priority. Under my leadership, funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs increased $400 million between 2008-2010, while the budget for the Indian Health Service increased by $700 million during the same period.

Our bill respects tribal sovereignty while addressing the rights and concerns of communities that may not welcome new casinos. I look forward to working together to achieve fair and meaningful reform in casino licensing.

Dianne Feinstein
U.S. Senator, California

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davidyeagley's picture
I have published a number of articles on this topic of "fee-to-trust" land expansion process, for the purpose of building more casinos. In my opinion, politicians, lobbyists, and syndicate powers are using Indians, with no regard. Everytime a new casino is put up in an objectionable place, a new horde of white Americans are united further against Indians. I say we must be very careful how these matters are managed. Casinos have irreparably significant effects on their environs, socio-economically, etc. Personally, I don't think Indians can afford to be careless about the creation of new casinos on land bought only for that purpose.
sierra's picture
It's a sorry state when indigenous ppls have been relegated to relying on revenue that comes from gambling. In Oklahoma, with some 60+ casinos, do the funds trickle down to more than a quarter on each dollar to indigneous ppls? Because that's the way it seems to go for governement bureaucracy when such officials point to how much they allocated and when. If Mrs. Feinstein was sincere and did not merely give lip service to respecting tribal sovereignty, she might not have concluded it with the focus on the rights of Euro-Americans instead of the rights and aspirations of the First Peoples. It would be a welcome change, if there was a statesman out there who was not locked in a Euro mindset; who wasn't a corporate puppet, nor merely a cog in the machine, but who had a CLUE about indigenous self-determination. Maybe then, that last paragraph might have read smthng like: "Our bill respects tribal sovereignty by reddressing and not suppressing the rights and aspirations of indigenous communities, while consulting Euro-American citizens. Acknowledging that the former may hope to achieve meaningful community development that goes well beyond the stroke of a pen, as is legislative reform in casino licensing, I look forward to working together by going past the mere motions of informing tribes of the unilateral changes implemented. Recognizing that future Ndn casinos may very well be rejected by affected citizens, a renewed direction that involves sustainable living and successfully established cultural revitalization practices based on indigenous sovereignty, will be actively sought and implemented for promising and real changes on Turtle Island.
actionj's picture
Surprised she didn't say that she has Indian friends too. Hahaha. Surprised Yeagley didn't say the same as well. Hahaha.
gamma's picture
They say your enemy's enemy is your friend. Let me put my sarcastic hat on for a moment and observe that since people like Dianne Feinstein are true enemies of America, and America is our colonizer, Ms. Feinstein should be our friend! Sarcasm aside, observers in Indian country should note that I have pointedly refrained from addressing her as "Senator" Feinstein; she may be the senator of an illegitimate government but she is not our senator. And illegitimate senators aside, it is equally important to also note that businesses like casinos and payday lending go fundamentally against our waohola, our himdag. I hope Indian country can move to a model where we go back to our traditional values.
sciangu's picture
The Senator’s defense is at best disingenuous. She points out the increase in BIA funding under her time as subcommittee chair as if this all the credential she needs to have standing on larger Indian issues – like land and economic development. The funding of the BIA is another issue, suffice to say that if one were to evaluate in economic terms the value of all of the broken treaties, funding is hardly the point. Her efforts to amend IGRA would forever exclude landless, newly recognized and restored Tribes from gaming. The extra and nearly impossible burdens her bill would impose on Tribes are not needed. The so called “off reservations” gaming she says is the focus of her efforts is a canard. In the nearly 25 year history of IGRA only 2 or 3 Tribes have been successful in the 2 part determination – the provisions in IGRA work and should be left alone. There is so much more to be said about her motivations and background, but that can be left for another to explore. Lastly, the overall weakness in her view is encapsulated in the last word of her defense – licensing. Her bill is not about licensing – something the Tribes do very well. It is about keeping Tribes from reacquiring their land to be used for economic development. Tribes deserve a transparent process that respects Tribal history and rights with respect to getting their land back and to have a fair chance at economic development. IGRA does not need to be amended for any reason and especially not the one the Senator is trying to stand on.