Arnold Schwarzenegger takes on a new role as ‘the Governator’ for the state of California. For the first time in Californian history, the public has exercised a recall provision in the law that allows the people to remove a Governor in his first year in office. Arnold Schwarzenegger had the popular vote of the state and a record number of voters poured out into the polls to give this high profile action hero his next big role. Definitely, the governorship will be a pay drop for Arnold, and it will be a role that he has no experience playing before. Although, another action star from the movie Predator, Jesse Ventura, has a governorship in the state of Minnesota. Perhaps this signifies that Hollywood action movies are the new breeding grounds for future political leaders in America. This reminds us of another movie action hero that became Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. He was best known for acting in westerns – the action movies of the 1950s to 1970s. Ronald Reagan eventually moved on to become one of the most popular Presidents in U.S. history. Is this where Hollywood is taking us? Well, I believe back in Demolition Man, a movie where Sylvester Stallone was awoken after 36 years in forced hibernation, he passes the Schwarzenegger Library named after former President Schwarzenegger. Well, currently there is a law that prevents Arnold from even running for the Presidency as he is not a ‘natural born’ citizen of the United States. However, there is talk about amending this provision to allow foreign born citizens to run for this office.
What does this rise to power have to do with Indians? Well, Arnold Schwarznegger’s co-chairman of his campaign is none other than former Governor Pete Wilson who did not have the best of relations with the Indian tribes in California. Although, early on in his campaign, Arnold started by trying to get the backing of the Indian tribes, this quickly changed. His radio and televisions ads, detailed a plan to change the economy in California. Front and center on this list was that Indians had to pay more from their gaming revenues into the state. He turned to the example of the Pequot tribe in New England to point out that 25 % of the revenues from their slot machines go to the State of Connecticut to help with the budget. In California, tribal gaming revenues are around $5 billion annually and Arnold says, it is time they paid “their fair share.” Arnold did not mention that Californian Indian tribes contribute an estimated $130 million dollars to the state budget annually already. Tribal leaders tried to meet with Arnold but to no avail. With no other option, the Indian tribes in California poured an estimated $1 I million into the campaign to stop the recall election and supporting other candidates that were not specifically targeting Indians like Arnold’s camp was.
Only about half of the 100 or so federally recognized Indian tribes in California are actually in the gaming business. The history of the treatment of Californian Indians is one of the bleakest in American history. By the time, settlers and prospectors reached California, they knew that Indian rights to land were evolving in the U.S. so they preferred an open policy of extermination. Early Indian policy in California was simply to kill as many Indians as possible so that they would have less issues to deal with in the future. It led to some of the worst massacres in history and a dark period for Native Americans. Those who survived, survived with little land, rights or prospects for the future.
Indian gaming turned this around for the tribes in California, regardless of what a questionably researched article said last year about Indian gaming. With revenues from gaming tribes obtained a form of economic sovereignty, meaning, they could now afford to build better communities with infrastructure, education systems, health care facilities and provide employment for reservations and rancherias that had employment rates of 80 percent and higher. The tribes under the Indian Gaming Act had to negotiate pacts with the Californian state government to operate gaming casinos in the state of California. This brings us to the $130 million that the gaming tribes in California contribute annually to the state budget.
The debt in California is around the $20 billion in deficit. Is this because of the Californian Indian tribes? No, but will anyone turn their attention to events that have contributed to this situation? The high-tech industry that California is known for has brought burdens in the form of water shortages and the state has incurred high costs to find needed replacement sources. Lakes and water systems have been toxified in the production of components and the quest for profits. Another recent contribution to the debt has been the recent power shortages that Californians faced. We watched in disbelief as the story unfolded that large companies had manipulated the situation to drive electricity prices in California through the ceiling. Yet, we do not hear talk about making these type of actors, who have negatively affected the California economy, more accountable.
In the end, it had all the fanfare of a Hollywood movie, with scripted lines and movie star status, Arnold would invoke phrases from the Terminator, like “I’ll be back.” Or catchy phrases like bring me a broom, I will clean up the House [of Representatives.] And, of course, the need to identify a villain that Arnold can save the people of California from, in this case, it’s the Indians. It will not be the producers or directors of his rise, it will not be the real cause of the horrific debt that California faces. It is much better if it is an easily identifiable group [racially], who are small enough to have as little resistance as possible, and can be taught a lesson for his term in office. It is a great script that I am sure will have a sequel, well, perhaps not a great script if you are the Indians who have already faced a dark history.