Friday, February 22, 2008

Founding Father Knows Best

Today, on Washington’s birthday, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a law he once signed, called the Nonintercourse Act. No, this law didn’t have anything to do with cold showers or salt peter rationing. But it did have to do with protecting Indians from being taken advantage of in real estate deals.

This is how the Nonintercourse Act reads:

That no sale of lands made by Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state, whether having the right of preemption to such lands or not, unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.

So, basically, this means that land sales involving Indians are void unless first approved by the Federal government. And in a nutshell, the Nonintercourse Act is why we're here today fighting a casino.

Washington was grateful for the support the Indians had given him in the Revolutionary War. They'd served in his armies and even turned the tide in an important battle with the British Navy. And George, in return, wanted tribes protected against unscrupulous land deals, and felt that the Federal Government was the one to do it.

But then… Washington hadn’t had a lot of experience with the Federal Government at that point. No one had. The newly minted United States of America was a brave new world.

In the years to come, the Federal Government would prove an undependable guardian of Indian tribes, from stripping them of their lands in the 19th century, to granting them unprecedented privileges when it came to gaming in the 20th.

And so, it occurs to me that old George would have been rolling in his Mount Vernon tomb for the last 200 years if he’d had any idea at how Native American history would actually play out.

Because, though he sought to protect Indians – Washington would never have envisioned them or anyone else exploiting their sovereign status to saturate the nation with casinos.

George had some pretty strong feelings about gambling. Not only did he outlaw it in his armies, he wrote this formidable admonition to his nephew in 1783.

The last thing I shall mention, is first of importance and that is, to avoid gaming. This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil, equally injurious to the morals and health of its votaries. It is the child of avarice, the brother of inequity, and father of mischief. It has been the ruin of many worthy families; the loss of many a man's honor; and the cause of suicide. To all those who enter the list, it is equally fascinating; the successful gamester pushes his good fortune till it is overtaken by a reverse; the losing gamester, in hopes of retrieving past misfortunes, goes on from bad to worse; till grown desperate, he pushes at everything; and loses his all. In a word, few gain by this abominable practice (the profit, if any, being diffused) while thousands are injured.

Jeez – George sounds just like CasinoFacts! Same stuff, different era.

And so, today, I’d like us all to take a moment to reflect on the vision our founding fathers must once have had for the Great Experiment which became this great nation.

Would their blueprints have included glass towers of greed springing up out of cornfields and forests, in neighborhoods, near schools, in small towns and big cities and everywhere in between?

Would they have recommended gambling revenue as a foundation on which to build a strong fiscal structure?

And would they have considered the outright promotion and legitimization of "this abomidable practice" by elected officials as evidence of a sound democracy?

But there's no need to wonder. Just take a dollar bill out of your wallet and look at the face staring up at you.

The buck stops there.


Anonymous said...

Lawyer's started this mess in the 1960's and it's never been put under a microscope. Anyone who oppossed the rights of indians, even made up tribes like the pequots, were threatened with massive lawsuits. The lawyer's are all weasels and care not for "indians", but for themselves. Why can't the Nonintercourse Act be challenged by how Washington felt about gambling. Put this "gaming right" to rest. Challenge tribes to prove that they're impovershed, east coast tribes were intergrated into society long ago, they are not as poor(not even close) as many other races and such.

carverchick said...

wow Gladys....I don't even have words to describe how important and so on the mark this blog is -- you are awesome. Thank you for printing the words of our Founding Father and our First President - a man of honor, and of whose words we shouldn't take lightly...standing and applauding!

Carl said...

Washington wrote some amazing stuff. Happy Birthday to him. The laws get twisted by lawyers all the time. Oh, was it mentioned Adam Bond is a lawyer who specializes in indian casino contracts? We already knew that, that is why Middleboro is in the mess it is in now. Now we have to fix it.

Anonymous said...

cdp, please don't pick on the newly self-proclaimed 'Mr. Middleboro Nice Guy' who has just launched his recent 'Amateur Hour' on radio after paying for air time.
For any who doubted that Mr. Bond could talk to himself for an hour and successfully say nothing, you were wrong.
And for any who thought Glenn Marshall was inarticulate, you didn't hear Shawn Hendricks! Great representative!

Raymond Tolosko said...

excellent of your best

Anonymous said...

Watch out for Bond, I hear the tribe gave him a nickname, "snake in grass". It was approved by the investors and the spokesman, so you know it's for real. His reaching out is a tool for the weak. Mr. nice guy,my...An hour of propaganda central.Implant.

Anonymous said...


Excellent research and blog! I wonder why there hasn't been a challenge based on this previously.

Gladys Kravitz said...

I'm not sure why, either. But I think it's worth challenging, and at least bringing up in a letter to the DOI.

What has gotten lost with Indian Gaming in later years is the INTENT of the law. To provide protection against unscrupulous land deals, and making it possible for tribes to make a living out of the land they have. They can do anything with this land - they don't need to resort to casino gambling. Every other business owner in the State of Massachusetts must make do w/o a casino and still pay a myriad of taxes. This benefit alone is an advantage of monumnental proportions.

The intent of Indian Gambing laws, as I read them, was to allow tribes to remain as sovereign nations, and to make a manageble living with the land they owned. And because much of the land that some Indians ended up with wasn't suited for the traditional methods making a living - such as hunting and argiculture - and further compounded by the fact that much of it was remote, the law provided for gaming to provide a means of survival.

As you can see from George's writing's, I suspect he would be sorely disappointed that the intent of a law created to help Indians only helped spread what he considered an "abominable practice" even into states where gambling is illegal - until the point where even state and local leadership has become (wrongly) convinced that they have to recourse but to capitulate.

And of course the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has land on Cape Cod. Wish I did. I can't imagine it's worthless. To presume this tribe has no recourse for survival except to open a casino in Middleboro is an enormous stretch of intent.

But then, isn't this what happens... a law is created to do good things for some people, many unexpected bad things result for other people, the law gets stretched, twisted and turned beyond it's limits, and the result is outrage, revolt and, ultimately change.

But then, I should probably turn this post into another blog. Now where did I leave that crate of tea???

Anonymous said...

If you've travelled through the southwest and engaged the Native Americans in conversation or just viewed their poverty, the intent of the gaming act as an excuse to correct what was done during the last century is clear.
Not so the Mashpee!
Glenn Marshall himself condemned the Native Americans until he saw his gravy train.
You raised good points, Gladys. And we all need to consider not just the history, but who benefits from this Middleboro project. It's not going to be the tribe.

carverchick said...

Gladys...I believe your tea has been thrown into the Nemasket River....

Anonymous said...

Bond on the radio every week for an hour? I thought he was an attorney in private practice? If his program is "live" every Thursday, how does he square that with his clients and their needs? Oh, I get it. He doesn't.
I guess he will use his new forum to sell us on casinos.

Just like he does with his BOS duties.

Raymond Tolosko said...


This isn't intended at your blog (which is excellent). But I'm confused at the attention Mr. Bond is getting. This fight is about a casino, which Mr. Bond has made perfectly clear that he wants. We all need to move on from our local BOND and broaden our focus regionally and statewide.

Our agenda should be getting people to write letters to the BIA and DOI. Bond is distracting everyone intentionally so that we will not focus on what is truly important right now....those letters.

carverchick said...


Trust me....we are writing our letters. We are talking to our friends and our neighbors and they are writing letters also. We never lose focus on that!