Often journalists are the first to write and record history. In what can be deemed as historic battlegrounds, border town journalists and the Farmington Daily Times write the histories that displace economic inequalities onto its victims. The recent article (linked above) by Ryan Boetel is no different.
In a description of Farmington, reminiscent of the Wild West “Circle the wagons! We’re surrounded by Indians!” trope, Boetel writes:
FARMINGTON — Northern Edge to the south.
Flowing Water to the west.
SunRay to the east.
Sky Ute to the north.
San Juan County residents are surrounded by casinos.
Surrounded! Surrounded by Indian casinos, that is.
The “news” story continues to link the encroachment of Indian casinos in San Juan County with the recent criminal indictment of a woman who embezzled $24,000 to support her gambling addiction, an addiction fed by the easy access to casinos.
Although only one casino (SunRay) is a non-Native venture, Boetel is quick to point out that it has lost over $1 million in tax revenue to the other three tribally-run casinos (two Navajo and one Southern Ute). Furthermore, the article is quick to claim that the recent construction of casinos in the last ten years is under review by the city council to determine if they have increased crime and poverty rates. Supposed local “business experts” claim there is a direct link.
So what does the moral turpitude of a border town’s gambling problem have to do with the colonial logics of violence? First of all, what is remarkable about the embezzlement case is that it reflects the white captive narratives of the Wild West. Melissa Mead, Farmington resident and indicted for the theft of $24,000, is held hostage by her gambling addiction and the loose morality and easy access to Indian casinos. Second, the feminine victim to Indian indecency must be rescued if the moral integrity of Farmington is to be saved. Sound familiar? Third, the article makes it appear as though the entire town is being held hostage by the loose morals of Indian gaming, like that of an invading force.
The real issue here is not gambling. It’s the troubling presence of Natives in Farmington that creates the unsavory morality that corrupts its white inhabitants. One needs only turn to the multitude of reports filed on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center and a 2011 briefing to the United States Commission on Civil Rights to discover Farmington’s violence towards Native people. Coupled with the over abundance of bars and liquor stores that specifically target a Native population, a much more sinister picture of the economy that keeps Farmington afloat comes to light.
No journalists from the Daily Times are rushing to interview the Native victims of abuse, violence, and homelessness caused by the unrestricted sale and profit of alcohol. But, nonetheless, if a white resident embezzles $24,000 to support a gambling addiction, Indians are to blame.