restricted access Masking Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin: Uncovering Cultural Representation at Casino Rama
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| 135 Masking Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Uncovering Cultural Representation at Casino Rama Darrel Manitowabi Arrive at the casino [Rama]. It looks amazing, like an Aztec temple rising out of the darkness. I am amazed. So are the other people in the shuttlebus. One white woman to my right marvels aloud at the aboriginal paintings decoratively placed on the side of the building, “Pretty native, eh?” How quintessentially Canadian. —Drew Hayden Taylor, Further Adventures of a Blue-Eyed Ojibway: Funny, You Don’t Look Like One Two L ocated in the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in south-central Ontario, CasinoRamawastheonlyAboriginalcommercialcasinointheprovinceuntil 2011.1 Offfijicially opened in 1996, the casino is rich in Chippewa/Anishinaabe cultural representations in order to stress the Indigenous context of the casino. As the quotation above by Canadian Anishinaabe humorist Drew Hayden Taylor indicates, for the visitor of the casino, these representations explicitly mark the casino as being rooted in Indigenous Anishinaabe cultural representations. To the critical scholar, it would appear as a commoditized indigeneity of what Robert Berkhofer Jr. referred to as the “Whiteman’s Indian,” in reference to stereotypical Indigenous imagery.2 136 | Darrel Manitowabi On the other hand, there exists a competing articulation of indigeneity within the community. In 2002, the community established the Culture and Research Department to promote culture and identity in the community.The departmental expression of culture is a nonmaterial, interconnected social experience best described by the Anishinaabe term “bimaadiziwin.”The following is a comparative examinationof commercialcasinorepresentationswithcommunityexpressionsof culture via bimaadiziwin. This chapter is based on twenty-four months of anthropological fijieldwork conducted at the Chippewas of Rama First Nation from 2002 to 2004 and six months of additional part-time research on Casino Rama in 2011. Thismethodologyinvolvedsemistructuredinterviews,participantobservation,and detailed observation of Anishinaabe self-representations at Casino Rama. In the following, I suggest bimaadiziwin is an accurate expression of Anishinaabe culture while the casino images serve marketing interests that conform to non-Indigenous expectations of indigeneity. To accomplish this, I provide a background of Casino Rama, review the literature on Indigenous casino cultural representations, and provide a background of the Chippewas of Rama Culture Department. Background Though the Indigenous peoples of North America have a long history of gambling that dates to pre-Columbian times, commercial Indigenous casinos in North America are a relatively recent phenomenon.3 Their contemporary emergence dates back to U.S. tribal bingo operations in the 1970s leading to the passage of the IndianGamingandRegulatoryAct(IGRA)in1988andthesubsequentproliferation of tribal casinos.4 In Canada, the development was similar: bingo operations in the 1980s led to casinos in the 1990s.5 In Ontario, casinos were conceived as economic engines to address socioeconomic disparities, and the U.S. experience served as a model. The Chiefs of Ontario, a provincial body representing all 133 First Nations in Ontario, initiated discussions regarding the establishment of one casino in the province to benefijit all First Nations in Ontario via revenue distribution and casino employment opportunities. At the time, the then New Democratic provincial government was also exploring provincial casinos to address a recession. Upon learning of the Chiefs of Ontario’s intentions, the province entered discussions with the group. The New Democratic government strongly supported Indigenous self-determination and, in turn, agreed to support a one-casino concept. This Cultural Representation at Casino Rama | 137 supportwasstrategicinordertoensurethatprovincialcasinosandtheFirstNations casino would not compete with one another. In 1993, the province and Chiefs of OntarioreachedanagreementthatoneFirstNationscasinowouldbeestablishedin the province and all First Nations would share its revenue.Thereafter the Chiefs of Ontario invited all First Nations to submit their proposals to host the casino. Of the fourteen submitted, the Chippewas of Rama were selected as the host community becauseof location,theirexperiencewithtourism,andcommunitysupport.Casino Rama opened on July 31, 1996.6 The literature on casinos tends to focus almost exclusively on the topics of Indigenous-state relations, sovereignty, social and economic impacts, gambling problems, and Indigenous empowerment.7 There is a limited literature on the issue of self-representation of Indigenous culture at casinos, and this is primarily limited to a handful of studies based in the United States; there are no Canadian-based studies. In the following I summarize this literature and indicate how my study contributes to the literature on Indigenous casino representations.8 The literary scholar Mary Lawlor, who examined tribal self-representations in museums,powwows,andcasinos,undertookthefijirststudyonthisissue.Specifijicto her casino studies, Lawlor compared self-representations at casinos and museums belonging to the Mashantucket Pequot and Acoma Pueblo.9 At Mashantucket, the Pequot only...


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