Chumash Money


I generally vote "no" on 90% of California's ballot initiatives, but I almost always make an exception (until this year, anyway) of giving Indian tribes more and more gambling rights. The historically oppressed poor get rich, my commute to sin gets halved, and Kenny Rogers is forced to whore for grim gaming warehouses that spit out slips of paper instead of coins. Everybody wins!

Do they ever. This endless L.A. Times article (which is one in an "occasional series") does its level worst to find a dark lining in a silver cloud, but can't avoid some astonishing facts about the Chumash tribe in Santa Barbara County's lovely Santa Ynez Valley (recently portrayed in the schlup tragicomedy Sideways). Excerpt:

For much of the past two centuries, the Chumash of Santa Ynez lived in anonymity and abject poverty. As recently as the 1960s, reservation homes lacked running water, electricity and phone service. A decade ago, some Chumash still relied on welfare and donated clothing.

Then came the casino.

Since 2000, when California voters granted Native American tribes the exclusive right to offer Las Vegas-style gambling, each of the 153 members of the Santa Ynez band has received more than $1 million in casino income.

The torrent of money has caused a jarring transformation in the life of the Chumash. It has provided financial security and a bounty of material goods. It has enabled the Chumash to revive their language and instruct their children in the tribe's ancient traditions.

You really should hear the Kenny Rogers jingle, though. "Barona Valley ranch / it's a brand new deal!"