Monday, February 21, 2011

Musings: All That Glitters

It was mostly gray, and the ground was squishily saturated following yesterday’s delightful deluge, when Koko and I went out walking this morning. The mountains provided some visual relief, appearing as blue outlines in a hazy sketch of somber pastels, and then there appeared a few streaks of scarlet in the direction of Kealia. Emboldened, they reached out, soon covering half the heavens, and then the dark clamped down, squeezing tight until the sky extruded only gold.

Even the prospect of generating some gold hasn’t made the cash-starved Legislature look fondly upon gaming initiatives this session. But HB1225, which allows bingo to be offered by one licensee at one location chosen by the Hawaiian Homes Commission, with 20 percent of the revenues going to the state, 1 percent to a compulsive gamblers’ fund, 4 percent to administrative costs and the remaining 75 percent to Hawaiian Homeland, passed the Judiciary Committee on Friday and is now headed to Finance.

Rep. Mele Carroll, a Native Hawaiian, has pushed hard for the bill. She sees it as one way to generate money for the perennially — and many would say, deliberately — under-funded DHHL, which receives precious little support from the state in fulfilling its mandate of getting Hawaiians back on their land.

An email outlining the bill's progress made me think of a New Yorker article I read a while back about the Shinnecock Indian Nation, which is trying to open a casino, which required it to first gain federal recognition as a sovereign nation, a process that took 32 years.

The piece was especially interesting because of all the parallels with Hawaii. The Shinnecock reservation is set in upscale Southampton, just east of Manhattan, a place not unlike Kauai’s North Shore if you consider the outrageous cost of renting luxurious oceanfront vacation homes, the huge income disparities between the native people and wealthy newcomers, and the persistence of subsistence living among the artificial trappings of affluence.

The Shinnecocks, like the Hawaiians, own land — extremely valuable land. Yet if they wished to escape the poverty caused in large part by the rise of the dominant culture, they faced a difficult choice: sell their land or embrace gambling. Either option threatened to destroy their lifestyle and culture, which is based on communal, anti-materialistic values.

A Hawaiian friend who has spent quite a bit of time among the First Nations of British Columbia spoke of encountering similar conflicts there. The tribes’ casinos brought in lots of money for education, homes and medical care, he said, yet it also fully immersed their people into the Western money culture, which tends to be diametrically opposed to traditional values and lifestyles.

I’m not sure if Mele Carroll’s bingo bill will turn out to be a solution, or a problem. But something has to be done to infuse more money into the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, which requires beneficiaries to meet a blood quantum. The longer the state starves DHHL, the fewer Hawaiians are able to qualify for homestead awards, which makes it that much easier for non-Hawaiians to gain control of what are unquestionably Hawaiian lands.

In this, too, there are parallels with the Shinnecocks, as tribal elder Harriett Crippen Gumbs noted in The New Yorker’s poignant closing paragraph:

“You’ve got to know the white man wants this reservation,” Crippen Gumbs said, her white hair shooting out from under a baseball cap. “You know what their excuse would be now?” she asked, and leaned in close over her jewelry counter. “’You’ve intermarried too much. You’re no longer Indian.’ Well, who the hell are we?”

Sound familiar?


Anonymous said...

I can't understand why Native Hawaiians can't buckle down like everyone else, study hard in school, get a college education, and find a good job. There are literally dozens of programs available for them already. Lotteries only hurt the poorest who can least afford to waste money on this money losing venture.

Anonymous said...

I am not Hawaiian. It is their choice. But does the "end justify the means?" Is gambling part of the culture? Bingo? Who plays bingo the big money gamblers? How much money is worth the price of diluting the culture?

Education IS very important, but if the parents are not part of the picture, their children's mentors and motivators.... will children do as well in school?

We have a lot of waste in government, unfortunately instead of cutting trips, perks, and nepotism, we have to cut after school programs.

I think we should reshuffle the deck, and come up with a better solution than gambling. Its a pipe dream that appeals to people who least can afford it...not wholesome nor a good example to children.... and a waste time and money.

How will it perpetuate the Hawaiian culture?

What brings people to Kauai and Hawaii is the culture and the environment. That is where we should focus our energy.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Can OHA use some of its revenue to pay for the development of DHHL lands?

Anonymous said...

If the DHHL actual did their job, would there be a DHHL?

Anonymous said...

How is gambling any more diluting of the culture than working construction jobs or as cops? Or driving cars, for that matter?

Anonymous said...

"How is gambling any more diluting of the culture than working construction jobs or as cops? Or driving cars, for that matter?"

Good question. Gambling is an addiction....a disease....that causes a lot of stress in home and in breaks them up and apart. (not very Hawaiian). That is why there is such a thing: Gambler's Anonymous.

The idea of getting "something for nothing" is a paradigm flip in how one lives their life...selfish and foolish.

Families have lost their homes,cars, cashed their children's musical instruments to support their gambling....violence, family abuse, alcoholism run rampant.

Hey...I have seen it all!

Using gambling to raise money to solve the problems that face Hawaiians is ludicrous. It's not Pono....sucking off money from the people who least need to lose it.

Gambling is not wholesome, nor does it support the family structure and Aloha.

Dr. Shibai

Anonymous said...

Hey Doc...Gambling is huge in Hawaii. The coconut trees will be gone before gambling is gone.

Anonymous said...

Gambling is not wholesome, nor does it support the family structure and Aloha.

So what you're really saying is you don't approve of gambling. Otherwise, seems you'd have to also condemn driving and working for paychecks as "diluting the culture."

Anonymous said...

Wow. Did someone render shibai speechless?

Anonymous said...

"Good question. Gambling is an addiction....a disease....that causes a lot of stress in home and in families.."

utter nonsense. You can gamble without being addicted same as you can drink without being an alcoholic or have sex without being Charlie Sheen.

Bifurcation fallacy alert.

Just how does one avoid being poor if all you do is subsistence farm/fish? Same old Joan, glorifying 1750 without bothering to address the reality. Nothing is stopping OHA or the Bishop hoard or any of the other Alii trusts from spending to put Hawaiians on their land except that the royalty new and old have no real interest in anything but themselves. No wonder they're Republicans.

Anonymous said...

gambling is like drugs or abortion - if you don't like it - don't do it - but stop telling others what to do with their bodies, money or mind.