Tribes fight new war: Now, it’s media bias

September 24, 2002 5:45 AM
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The Indians are still fighting against the government.

"Native Americans need to tell their own stories, because the newspapers won’t," said Frances Snyder of The Tribal Council during a session at last week’s Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

"What’s wrong with Indians having land and making money through gaming," Snyder said. "Respected newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle always bash the tribes. The media definitely needs an education."

Snyder said that the false perceptions the media has about the Indians carries over to gaming, where the tribes have made many in-roads in recent years, particularly in neighboring California.

"We want to show people that we care about people," Snyder said. "Reporters feel they have no access to Indian tribal leaders, and to some degree that’s true. We have to do a better job of telling our story. We are not the tumors as the Chronicle suggests when talking about the beauty of Indian lands."

Snyder said that the tribes "foot the bills for Indian-based casinos and not the taxpayers as perceived in the media."

"Native Americans are not used to being in the spotlight," said Snyder. "They let the tribe attorney speak for them and they get us in trouble. The attorneys come on too strong and the media turns on them."

The movement toward fair reporting of the tribes began four years ago when Victor Rocha developed Pechanga.net. Rocha, on the panel for the G2E session, created the site when he noticed that the media would "run stories based on loaded questions."

"The press really needed to be educated," Rocha said. "I read newspaper stories from all over the country that are Indian-related and I put them on Pechanga.net. I want to show that the majority of Indians are not rich, that they care about this country and want to make gaming a great industry."

Rocha said many Americans expect to see Indians still dressed in loincloths and thrown in front of casinos.

"We have an aversion to Sansabelt slacks," he said. "Sooner or later people will see that we run casinos professionally. My job is to keep putting out the correct version, not the perception."