This chapter explores the history and modern-day ramifications of the so-called “Casino War” at Akwesasne. In the mid-1980s, some free-wheeling Mohawks who’d made a mint trading tobacco started opening up casinos without the consent of any government, tribal or federal. Their opponents (who came to be known as “the Antis”) protested that casinos would not only increase drug-trafficking, prostitution, corruption, and overall lawlessness at Akwesasne but also weaken Mohawk identity by bringing so many outsiders into their community. The casino-owners and their supporters (who branded themselves “the Warriors”) countered that the tribe would grow so rich from gambling, they could fund cultural institutions like language schools and museums that would help preserve their identity. Both sides considered their line of thought “traditional” and the truest way to sovereignty. From the late 1980s through spring of 1990, they battled with increasing ferocity that included street barricades and checkpoints, car chases, fire bombings, the forced evacuation of over half the Nation, and—before New York state troopers finally marched in—bloodshed. After re-establishing control, the tribal government shuttered all of the casinos and in 1999 opened the “official” one today known as the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. A quarter century later, however, tensions still linger.
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