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| 1 Raised Stakes Writing on/and the New Game of Chance Becca Gercken B oth Indian and non-Indian readers of contemporary Native American literature recognize gaming as shorthand for identity politics; gaming foregrounds questions of identity (both individual and communal), authenticity ,history,andsovereigntyinacompactyetcomplicatedspace.The concrete reality of the Indian casino both mirrors and perpetuates the intangible vagaries of contemporary Indian life. In the wake of the American Indian civil rights movement, Indian identity politics, as reflected in literature and fijilm, were often predicated on notions of cultural participation. These identity politics were dramatically altered by gaming, which for many tribes prompted more rigid guidelines for enrollment based on blood quantum, and this change is reflected in Native American literature, which itself compels readers to question the role gaming plays in today’s Indian Country. This chapter examines how the tensions surrounding gaming play out in relation to identity, authenticity, and sovereignty through a study of representations of Indian gaming in post-1988 Native American literature. In the postgaming literary world, we repeatedly see characters standing on opposing sides of the gaming divide: Is gaming traditional? Is it preserving traditions? Is it dismantling traditions? Who should count as a “real” Indian, and when and how do per caps play into that decision?1 I consider Jim Northrup’s The 2 | Becca Gercken Rez Road Follies and Anishinaabe Syndicated, Louis Owens’s Dark River, Stephen Graham Jones’s Ledfeather, Gerald Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus, and Louise Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace to see what they reveal about the always contested, often shifting paradigm of Indian identity in the wake of the 1988 Indian Gaming RegulatoryAct.Northrup,Owens,Jones,Vizenor,andErdricheachrevealaprofound ambivalence toward gaming. Their texts, which vary widely in their engagement with and assessment of gaming, teach us about gaming’s peril and its protection, its limitationsanditspossibilities.Northrupofffersoccasionalcommentaryongaming, revealing his preoccupation with identity and sovereignty through his focus on the political and economic ramifijications of gaming, while Owens and Jones limit their commentary to brief but pivotal scenes that provide expository commentary on identity and authenticity. Vizenor, in contrast, makes gaming—and all of its sovereign implications—the center of his novel and offfers a scathing political critique of gaming that reimagines America’s history through its lens. LikeVizenor, Erdrich builds her novel around gaming, which has masked itself as opportunity. There has been some research in literary studies in representations of gaming, particularly for books like The Heirs of Columbus and The Bingo Palace, for which gaming is the central topic, but much of the critical conversation is focused on sovereigntyoreconomics.Thosescholarswhodoaddresstheculturalramifijications of gaming focus on the history of games and chance in relation to the present, in particular how they are—or are not—transformed in contemporary texts. Consider, for example, Paul Pasquaretta’s assertion that “in modern times, the gambling story is important both as a feature of traditional culture and myth and as a theory of present conditions and possibility.”2 While he makes the connection to contemporary concerns, Pasquaretta’s focus is on traditional stories as they are represented in new fijiction. Similarly, Norma Barry’s analysis of Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus argues thatVizenor’s “combining of the wiindigoo and gambler fijigures in a new variation on traditional myths and rituals reflects the evolution of traditional texts and traditional ceremonies.”3 In the context of gaming as industry, Eileen M. Luna-Firebaugh and Mary Jo Tippeconnic Fox remind us that “gaming has ancient and Indigenous roots in the Americas; it is associated [with] rituals of play and storytelling that connect the peoples to their communal origins and destiny.”4 My analysis here is not meant to be an exhaustive study of gaming as it is represented in post-1988 Native American literature or of the scholarship of said literature, but rather a reading of selected texts that demonstrate that contemporary Native American literature can help us understand the efffects Writing on/and the New Game of Chance | 3 gaming has, both positive and negative, on Indigenous communities. Whether gamingiscentraltoatext—TheHeirsof Columbus,TheBingoPalace—orpresented fleetingly—Dark River, Ledfeather—or is somewhere in-between—The Rez Road Follies, Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez—the increasing appearance of gaming in literature reveals that it is becoming a permanent, if troubling presence through which Indians and non-Indians alike understand and interpret contemporary Indian life. ■ ■ ■ Readerscantracktheprogressionof JimNorthrup’sattitudetowardgamingthrough RezRoadFolliesandAnishinaabeSyndicated,thelatteracollectionof hisnationally syndicated “Fond du Lac Follies” column. In “Gambling...


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