Smallpox or New Buffalo?
SMALLPOX OR NEW BUFFALO
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What’s the Right Analogy for Indian Gaming?
By Shalin Hai-Jew
ABSTRACT:
 The
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
social and cultural frame surfaces
issues of traditional beliefs and Native
identity, the projection of authentic tribal
culture, and the importance of tribal unity
historically. This case asks learners to
consider how to maintain these values in an
environment of economic globalization,
which may force the issue of economic
development and Native American selfsufficiency.
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LEARNING OUTCOMES
 Investigate
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
the styling and branding of
Native American casinos and typical
customers
 Explore the social impacts and public
relations issues surrounding Indian gaming
both for the tribe and larger society
 Understand the internal and external public
relations piece (and strategies) in running
casinos (and their various publics)
 Understand the essential cultural vs.
utilitarian stresses in the issues related to
Indian gaming
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LEARNING OUTCOMES (CONT.)
Understand how casinos support and
disseminate Native culture and the arts
 Know the intrinsic human and hedonic needs
satisfied by gaming
 Explore various Native American spiritual beliefs
and gaming

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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TRADITIONAL BELIEFS
Gaming has been a part of Native culture
historically to redistribute wealth and circulate
possessions within a community
 Profit as a motive for gaming is a more modern
concept

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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NATIVE IDENTITY

There’s a wide range of diversity within the
Native American identity and community
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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HISTORICAL NOTE

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
“At the time of first European contact with native
peoples in North America, there were
approximately 1,000 different tribes,
representing a huge array of languages and
numerous sub-dialects. Each of these tribes had
its own religious practices, social structures,
governmental organization, gender division,
dress, customs, and rituals. Today, this number
has declined to approximately 511 culturally
distinct, federally recognized tribes and about an
additional 200 unrecognized tribes. And of these
remaining tribes, the populations of each have
dramatically declined from the time of
colonialization through disease and oppression
over the past 300 years” (Darian-Smith, 2004, p.
18).
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INDIAN IDENTITY: AUTHENTICITY VS.
“PAPER TRIBES”
Various proofs needed by the federal government
before official recognition as a Native tribe is
extended
 Tribes themselves may require blood quantum,
documentation and proofs of lineal descent

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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FUSION? PAN-INDIAN TRIBES / SUPRATRIBALISM

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
Cornell (1988), however, sees a “supra-tribalism”
emerging with the increased mobility of Indian
peoples through the powwow circuit and recent
activist social movements, which may lead to a
sharing of benefits and more unity in Indian
Country (as cited by Fenelon, Nov. 2006, p. 395).
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TRADITIONAL VS. MODERN IDENTITY
MODERN
Tracks individual
sense of identity
 Tracks family claims
 Identity is selfdefined, not for nonIndians to decide

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
TRADITIONAL
 Tracks blood quantum
 Tracks language
 Tracks lineal descent
lines
 Uses proofs
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PROJECTING AND PROTECTING
AUTHENTIC NATIVE AMERICAN
CULTURE
Not using Native American spiritual beliefs for
commercialism
 Fighting mainstream stereotypes by engaging
the larger community
VS.
 Knowledge and culture have economic “exchange
value”

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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SOCIAL CHANGE EFFECTS CONCERNS
Individualism vs. communalism
 Greater economic assimilation of tribes into the
mainstream free market economy
 Materialism over spiritualism
 Competition between Native Americans
 “Hedonic treadmill” effect vs. traditional
gratefulness and humbleness

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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UNITY AMONG TRIBES
Need to protect relationships between Native
Americans
 Keeping the disparity between the “haves” and
the “have-nots” in the Native American
community low
 Encouraging sense of community around an
Indian casino

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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ROLE PLAYING
 Scenario:
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
The scenario is that the tribe
seems to be going forward with building a
tribal casino. The tribe members are very
concerned about how they will be
represented to the larger community and
their casino-visiting guests. They want
policies and practices in place to support
the local tribe’s cultures. They want to
discuss how potential profits may be spent
in a way that is culturally sensitive.
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ROLES AND STANCES
 Have
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
learners choose various roles. Have
them research what an individual or group
in their role may think, and have them argue
a coherent stand. Allow room for changes
and shifts in ideas if particular aims are met.
Have them keep the aims private generally
unless they feel it’s strategically helpful to
share that with the group. See what sort of
final agreement the various individuals may
come to.
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ROLES
Tribal Elders:
 Larger Outside Community:
 Tribal Community Members: A diversity of
voices should be represented here.
 Tribal Museum Curator:
 Language Instructor in the Native Language:
 K-12 Schools on the Tribe:
 A Tribal College:
 The Youth of a Tribe:
 Tribal Environmentalists:

Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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CONCLUSION
Smallpox or New Buffalo?
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