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Kevin Costner's gold rush.

Rapid City, South Dakota

Have you been wondering where Kevin Costner may invest his slice of that theater ticket you bought to see Dances with Wolves? The Lakota Sioux, who helped Costner make the movie, are generally not happy about his proposal to build an eighty-five-acre, $95 million resort and casino in their sacred Black Hills.

An editorial in Indian Country Today compared Costner's "gold rush" with the invasions of the Paha Sapa ("hills that are black") during the 1870s by General George Armstrong Custer, who violated treaties and triggered a rush in the hills for what Lakota holy man Black Elk called "the yellow metal that drives white men crazy."

"A 'bigger is better' attitude doesn't always serve the area, especially the sacred Black Hills," Indian Country Today editorialized. "Mining has already torn into the Hills; the mega-tourist traffic needed to maintain such a multi-million dollar operation would further erode the area. Will this be the new gold rush into the Hills?"

Lisa Prue, a Sioux who studies in Omaha, recalls that as Dances with Wolves was being filmed, Kevin Costner was made a member of the Sioux Nation. "He was made a brother to everyone," she says, but that was before the resort and casino plan. Now Prue and other Sioux feel betrayed. "You don't do this to your family," says Prue. "Has he seen how people live at Pine Ridge? He seems like just another white man with a forked tongue."

The same sense of betrayal was reflected in an Indian Country Today cartoon titled "Dancing with Dollars," in which Costner, dreaming of riches, dances with a wolf wearing a bewildered expression and asking, "Who is this Wasi'cu?" "Wasi'cu" is Lakota for "takes the fat" and, by extension, "white man."

Tim Giago, editor of Indian Country Today, proposed that "perhaps the cash-rich Costners [Kevin and his brother and business partner, Dan] would consider using a small portion of their fortune, earned at the expense of the Lakota/Dakota people, to help the Indian tribes build gambling casinos on Indian lands. This can be one small way they can show their gratitude for the use of our language and history in creating a movie that made them wealthy."

The Black Hills were guaranteed to the Lakota by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Organized Native American opposition to the extra-legal expropriation of the area began at Custer's last Stand in June 1876. The area was never ceded by treaty, but the Lakota claim to it was not recognized in the United States court system until the 1970s. The United States subsequently offered a monetary settlement, and the Lakota people are currently debating whether to accept the money or continue to press the land claim.

The Lakota have been fighting encroachment in the hills for much of this century. Many opposed the carving of four presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore, and the tourist invasion that followed. In more recent years, Native American activists have maintained a protest encampment in the Black Hills to oppose uranium mining. They also oppose other tourist-luring gambling establishments in small Black Hills towns such as Deadwood.

Indian Country Today pointed out that the 1990 census listed Shannon County, which includes much of the Pine Ridge Reservation, as the poorest in the United States. Giago is among Lakota Sioux who propose that native people in the area open their own casinos, and capitalize on the tourist trade themselves.

Nothing that the Costners played a role in lobbying the state legislature to raise the betting limit from $25 to $100 during the next two years, Giago proposed that the Lakota oppose the resort and "cut it off at the pass."

In late March, engineering work on the proposed resort site on the north side of Deadwood stopped after the Costners learned of a petition challenge to it by JoDean Joy, an opponent of gambling. Joy has until June 21 to gather 12,836 signatures on a petition that would put the repeal of a $100 bet limit on a future election ballot, guaranteeing at least a year and a half of uncertainty for Costner's resort and casino.

Costner told the Gannett News Service that such a delay would kill the project. "I hate to have dragged so many people into this only to tell them that we might not be able to do it," Costner said. "Investors don't get rich by making really dumb moves."
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Title Annotation:plans a casino in the South Dakota Black Hills
Author:Johansen, Bruce E.
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Urban Peace and Justice Summit.
Next Article:The uses of the Holocaust.

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