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Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Gaming Law | Indigenous Studies | Law | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


What began with a poker club on an isolated Indian reservation in the California desert now rivals the commercial casino industry. While Indian casinos have rapidly transformed native and non-native communities across North America, their growth entails indigenous traditions practiced for millennia. For the Cabazon Band, who opened that first poker club and later defended it before the Supreme Court, gambling is linked to their tradition of self-determination. In fact, the Cahuilla nations, which include the Cabazon Band, continue to exert cultural practices that have significantly altered California's development since the arrival of Europeans, even during state-endorsed genocide. After the California Gold Rush, most settlers assumed that all Indian communities would collapse due to perceived inferiority. However, by the early twentieth century the Cahuilla and other native nations began lobbying Congress to once again recognize their right to self-determination. Today, native nation revitalization efforts, especially tribal casinos, prompt more and more non-Indians to engage in economic and cultural activities initiated by natives. Yet, among the public there remains a dearth of knowledge about American Indians tribes; competing settler perspectives of native nations affect the processes of tribal revitalization. In this talk I link historical to contemporary Indian relations in Cahuilla territory, the epicenter of Indian gaming, in order to better understand how native and settler communities define themselves in relation to each other.