Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are Casinos Lifting Native Americans Out of Poverty? Don't Bet On It.

What do you think of when you hear the words Native American? At the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, that question is addressed in their new temporary exhibit. I saw it this week and recommend that you have a look. After all, many of us are members of minority groups and if trends continue, there will be no majority racial group in the United States in the next fifty years. We need to learn how to treat each other respectfully.

The museum polled Native Americans and asked them which stereotypes that others hold about them disturb them the most. These are some things Native Americans would like us to know about them:

1. Native Americans aren’t extinct. There are 5.2 million in the United States and Canada. About 39% live on reservations while the rest live in other areas. About 35,000 live in Chicagoland.
2.Very few contemporary American Indians are portrayed in the movies and TV and when they are, it’s not always accurately.
3. And no, they don’t like stereotypes of American Indians to be used as team mascots. Museum goers were asked to state their opinions about this on sticky notes. I said that if Native Americans are telling us they are insulted by the stereotypical team mascot, it’s sufficient reason to get rid of it. Many other people left similar messages.

 A full section of the exhibit was devoted to gambling casinos on Native American Reservations.

4.Most Native American casinos are not profitable. The casinos on isolated reservations are losing money while those in urban areas may break even. About 50% of Native American children live below the poverty line.
    5.Gambling run by Native Americans is less than 10% of all the legal gambling done in the United States.
      Think about that as we expand legalized gambling as a means to fill deficits in state budgets. As I’ve said before, it hasn’t worked thus far and probably won’t in the future.

      While many contemporary American Indians no longer live their traditional lives, many have become ill by adapting current American unhealthy eating habits. Nevertheless, their recipes remain. Many are based on using the natural foods that they found. In the book A Feast For All Seasons, I found several good sounding ones. Although many ingredients are hard to find, I adapted this one for Fresh Wild Berries Topped with Soapalillie (or whipped cream).

       Fresh Wild Berries Topped with Soapalillie (or whipped cream)

      They use this as a dessert. Cultivated berries can be substituted. Prep time 5 minutes. What can be better on a summer day?

      1 cup strawberries
      1 cup raspberries
      1 cup blackberries
      1 cup blueberries
      1 tsp honey or sugar

      In a large bowl, stir the berries. Refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.

      Spoon into dessert bowls and top with soapalillie or whipped cream.   

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