The Injuns are coming (again)

Attention Conservation Notice: This post is about Alabama politics and the use of American Indian imagery to score political points.

Spotted this billboard the other day in East Lake, Birmingham.

The three men on the right are Alabama Governor Bob Riley, John Tyson (current head of the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling) and David Barber (the first head of the task force). An Indian war bonnet adorns the space above the three mug shots. Continue reading “The Injuns are coming (again)”

Cajuns? No, Choctaws.

Long time ago wasn’t no folks on them sand flats.… Them Cajans sprung up right out’n the ground. Some say they come from animals—coons and foxes and suchlike—but that ain’t right. Just sprung up out’n the ground.
— Carl Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama (1934)

Detail from an 1850 painting by Phillip Romer of a Choctaw woman in Mobile, Alabama.

I just discovered that Jackie Matte’s article on the Choctaw Indians of southwest Alabama has been published online, with her permission, by the Access Genealogy website.

The article is “Extinction by Reclassification: The MOWA Choctaws of South Alabama and Their Struggle for Federal Recognition.” The site presents the article attractively and in a paginated style reminiscent of the original printed article.* All of the footnotes are reproduced faithfully.

Matte was president of the Alabama Historical Association in 2006. At the annual meeting in Fairhope she gave a memorable address on the subject of the MOWA Choctaws and their fruitless quest for federal recognition as an authentic Indian tribe. (In 1979 the Alabama Choctaws coined the name “MOWA” from the names of the two counties they inhabit, Mobile and Washington.)

Because their identity as Indians was politically and commercially inconvenient, they were long ago labeled “Cajans” (sic). Continue reading “Cajuns? No, Choctaws.”

Injun trouble in Alabama

Gambling proprietors in Alabama have been trying to pass off their slot machines (prohibited under state law) as a form of bingo (legal in some counties). Gov. Bob Riley is trying to stop them with a special task force and mostly successful lawsuits. Warnings of impending raids have recently forced the shutdown of several giant bingo farms that siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars a year from customers.

The gambling industry is fighting back with a barrage of TV ads lampooning the governor and calling for a statewide referendum to legalize gambling. Naturally, this would be done on terms favorable to the big establishments, protecting them from competition.

One of the industry’s favorite tactics is to portray Riley as a pawn of the Mississippi Choctaws, whose casinos lure customers from Alabama. The ads imply, without actually saying so, that Riley is trying to kill off Alabama bingo farms because they would compete with established Choctaw casinos. The inference is that Riley must have taken bribes from the Indians. Continue reading “Injun trouble in Alabama”