It has been a couple of weeks since the Fourth of July laser light show and I have been reflecting on what occurred. I surveyed the many comments on social media, as well as Marshall Smith’s article, “Laser Show on Tahquitz: Issues are Prior Consultation, Permits and Tradition” in the edition following the event. There seemed to be plenty of knee-jerk comments about the issue from all sides, but there were a few telling comments I think are important to remember.
The most disturbing aspects in the article came from Fojtik when he dismissed “the tribal argument” pointing out that “the lighting (lasers) would somehow be sacrilegious while people climb on it [Tahquitz] and the [Native American] casinos make money from people with gambling addictions.”
There are two points I must make here. First, the Cahuilla do not and have never consented to climbers on Tahquitz. To my knowledge, we have never been consulted on the matter.
Secondly, what do casinos have to do with your laser light show? To my knowledge, the Cahuilla have no slot machines up on Tahquitz. Why would Fojtik bring up casinos in this matter? This, my friends is implicit racism. A subtle suggestion that “the Indians” can’t really believe anything is sacred because some tribes have gaming enterprises. (So did our current president, by the way.)
This perspective is both hurtful and telling. Before tribal gaming, America complained about poverty on the reservation. Now that a few tribes have experienced success through gaming, the narrative has switched to complaints of unfair advantage, paying our “fair share” through taxation and the like. For myself, it is a “damned if you do …” cycle that perpetuates stereotypical thinking and separates our community into us vs. them.
In retrospect, your light show was the perfect Fourth of July monument to the history of this country. It represented this country’s abuse of power, colonialism and lack of inclusion that has separated the people of this land from the high ideals stated in the U.S. Constitution.
In spite of all of this, I’m confident Indian people will continue to enlist and fight for this country, help our neighbors in times of need and donate to local charities. That’s who we are. In spite of history. In spite of the lack of equality. In spite of your light show.
Nehsoon Achama. (My heart is good.)