The Latest Skirmish in the Tuscarora War By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports July 26, 2018 at 6:02 pm On Monday, July 23, 2018 officers of the Robeson County Sheriff’s office, Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Homeland Security, North Carolina and Virginia National Guard raided three casino locations in North Carolina. They arrested 26 people and confiscated weapons, cash and over 200 slot machines. All of those arrested were members of the Tuscarora Indian Nation of North Carolina. The tribe, while recognized in New York, is not federally recognized and therefore cannot legally operate gaming under the provisions of the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in North Carolina. It is a bit strange that the tribe is not recognized, given its history. In 1713, 900 members of the tribe were killed in the Tuscarora War. It appears that three hundred years has not improved the tribe’s standing with its European neighbors. Indian gaming has been a significant boost to Native American economies in the last thirty years. For the majority of tribes with casinos, gaming has improved their living standards and access basic government services dramatically. However, operating a casino hinges on federal recognition, a process whereby the federal government and Congress recognize a tribe’s existence and its legal sovereignty. Recognition allows a tribe to form a government and deal on a government-to-government level with both state and federal governments and agencies. It also allows a recognized tribe to conduct certain economic activities, one of which is gaming. To a non-Indian, the process and the concept of Indian sovereignty is strange and difficult to grasp. Americans are used to thinking of people as individuals, not as groups or tribes. Even corporations are considered to be individuals for some legal purposes. So, any group of people unwilling to be separated and recognized as individuals apart from the group appears to some as deviant and defiant.To a tribal member and to the tribes themselves, the opposite is true. It bridges on social deviance to put the individual above the tribe. Tribes only survive by maintaining their identity and unity. Separated, the individuals are absorbed into the mainstream and the group disappears from history. To hold onto that identity and culture is essential for any tribe, but it runs contrary to the national narrative. “This is a country of immigrants,” we proudly proclaim. It is famously called a melting pot. It absorbs immigrants from all over the world and mixes them into this nation’s culture, blurring past identities. The issue of immigration is a bit more convoluted at the moment and has become very polarizing, but the belief that in time all immigrants become Americans is still a core belief. That is one of the reasons that Indian tribes have faced so much opposition over the last two hundred years. The tribes want to remain true to their own culture and not be swallowed up by the mainstream. The members of the Tuscarora Tribe are caught in that narrative trap. The Tuscarora tribe claims the Carolina as its original homeland. And as with all displaced tribes, a proportion of the membership would like to return to their ancestral land. Such attempts by tribes to return to a historical homeland meet resistance at both the state and federal level. One of men arrested in North Carolina is a tribal leader lobbying for a portion of Greene County, North Carolina to be returned to the tribe. Returning land taken hundreds of years ago is obviously a very complicated issue. To even be eligible for a “reservation” the tribe must first be recognized. That is not a simple or quick process. This year, several tribes in Virginia received federal approval after nearly 200 years of trying. To be granted that status the tribe must first prove it is a tribe and that it has continuity from its earliest contact with the federal government to the present. It also has to prove it really did live in the state to which it is laying claim. It is a process that takes decades, not months or years. There will be no quick solution to the situation in North Carolina, but if nothing else, getting arrested brings the tribe’s case before the nation. Public attention was probably not the reason for opening the three casinos; money was undoubtedly the driving factor. But the tactic of operating illegal gaming until the law is changed is not unknown in Indian country. It was used by tribes all over the country and in the end led to adoption of the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. At the moment the law enforcement agencies seem to have the upper hand. But any group of people that did not give up when they were nearly wiped out and then moved to another location 300 years ago is not likely to give up after a raid or two. This was just a skirmish in a 300-year old war.