Time to outlaw gaming on Hopi

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of the following letter requested the Observer to publish it. It is a copy of the one he sent to Hopi Tribal Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr., dated May 21.)

As you are well aware, the gaming referendum was again voted down by a majority of the Hopi people who voted on May 19. According to the Hopi Tribal Election Office, 784 voted in favor and 1,05l voted in opposition to gaming.

I am not surprised by the results because, by Hopi standards, the first referendum happened “just yesterday,” and to have another gaming referendum makes this [Hopi Tribal] Council action senseless. It is clear that gaming issue has posed a risk to our culture and has not changed from the majority of the people who voted. I predict that it will remain unchanged for future years.

An informal survey should have been conducted first to obtain some assurance that gaming is the people’s choice. The council action for a referendum would then have been justified since it would have been acting on an indication of a need of the Hopi people.

Instead, the council decided and acted for the people based on its own personal need that gaming would generate immediate revenues for tribal treasury. As a result, a costly sum of Hopi money was spent needlessly.

There may be positive benefits from gaming revenues as presented by the task team. I am sure there are negative trade offs which were absent from the presentations. It is clear from the results of the election that Hopi people are not willing to sacrifice cultural and family values at this time.

An operating budget in the amount of $306,340 was authorized from the Land Settlement Fund. [An amount of] $251,000 was paid for consulting services and the task team’s expenses, and the remainder for conducting the referendum. In my opinion, the expenditure of Hopi money, including the council salaries spent on the gaming issue was not a wise use of Hopi money.

This unilateral action by the council was very costly. Not only was there a monetary cost, but also, the issue of gaming created much disharmony among the Hopi family members and people because of the strong differences of opinion asserted on the issue.

These disagreements impacted every Hopi individual, including Hopi school children since they use cash bingo for fund-raisers for their class functions. The attitude due to assertive behavior among family members is perhaps the most costly effect that will take a long time to heal.

Based on the results of the Hopi people’s decision to turn down gaming initiative, I recommend that the council take a strong, meaningful action through an appropriate resolution and outlaw gaming on Hopi. You are the local governing authority, empowered through the provisions of the Hopi Tribal Constitution to stop all the illegal activities on Hopi. It is your duty to stop all the illegal cash bingo operations that are operating openly throughout Hopiland.

It was your decision to serve on the council, for which you have taken an oath to uphold all the Hopi laws. Action to stop all the illegal activities is very sensitive and tough, but you are charged with the responsibility for which you are compensated a high salary. The Hopi people are holding you accountable to do your job.

Our trustee, the Hopi Agency Superintendent and the law enforcement services and the Department of the Interior, all have a line authority to take an active role to stop illegal bingo operations on Hopi. There has been no attempt to deal with the issue.

Lack of action to minimize all the illegal activities on Hopi puts us, the Hopi membership, in a helpless position. Doing nothing to deal with these issues will make Hopi hopeless and less honorable people. You are gainfully employed because the Hopi people are here. We expect you to work for the people and not for the federal government, which is faceless.

A referendum on gaming should never surface again. The May 19 decision defeated the gaming initiative for the second time. Accordingly, the option of “doing nothing” should be the choice for Hopi Tribal Council on the 900 allocated slot machines authorized by the Federal Regulatory Gaming Act and Arizona law. No other tribe in Arizona should benefit from this Hopi allocation. Hopi should not be contributing to the social problems of other Indian groups that gaming creates.

We are proud of our Hopi uniqueness. Let us add another unique value by being the only tribe in Arizona to outlaw gaming.

Thank you. I am very fortunate to have the freedom to comment on the issues that are facing the Hopi people.

Kwakha

Alph H. Secakuku, Member

The Hopi Tribe

Second Mesa, Ariz.

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