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?”