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Don Marks: Gaming easily fits in with traditions of First Nations


Filed Under: Opinion
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Don Marks discusses how gaming has been a part of traditional life for First Nations for generations:
Gaming improved the socio-economic conditions for many indigenous people stateside. This created enthusiasm for a similar solution in Manitoba and a deal was struck to develop four native-run casinos in this province. Casinos in Brokenhead Ojibwa Nation and Opaskwayak Cree Nation are up and running, Spirit Sands in western Manitoba is set to open this summer and there is one more to go.

Most of the attention has been fixed on the socio-economic benefits provided by Indian casinos, but we shouldn't lose track of the related social and cultural effects gaming has had on First Nations on both sides of the border. There is plenty to learn from taking a closer look at the ways in which gaming was employed in the past and the way it is used today.

Gaming has always played a major role in the life of North American First Nations, not only for recreation and a way to pass on skills such as manual dexterity and counting, but often as a major way to build community and even resolve intertribal conflicts.

For example, entire tribes could avoid going to war by staging an elaborate intertribal competition called the Bone Game instead. This wasn't some pseudo-serious sports competition with a trophy and T-shirts for a prize; the stakes could be one tribe's winter wheat supply against another tribe's entire herd of horses. But when the choice is between choosing teams to compete at hiding bones versus riding into battle with loss of life and limb, you can see just how vital a role gaming could play.

Get the Story:
Don Marks: First Nations need the modern white buffalo (The Winnipeg Free Press 5/28)

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