Recent news coverage on the Prairie Island Indian Community offers a great example of how mainstream thinking rushes to equate Native Americans with casinos while downplaying the history of injustice towards Native Americans and their ongoing plight.
Prairie Island recently announced it bought 112 acres of land near St. Paul, in West Lakeland Township. News coverage highlighted speculation that Prairie Island might build a casino there. It’s only lower down in the stories that readers learn that Prairie Island has a tiny and threatened land base. The community is buying new land because it might need to move to safer ground.
People have strong opinions about gambling. The casino rumors provide an emotional trigger for many readers. Getting less priority in the stories (again) is the Native American perspective. Prairie Island residents are worried about flooding and the stockpile of nuclear waste stored right next door. Those issues would be scary issues for anybody.
If the nuclear waste were stored in prominent neighborhoods of St. Cloud, Duluth, or Minneapolis, and people were increasingly nervous and angry about the lack of a long-term solution, that would be the headline. Because a small number of Native people are affected, and because they have no political power, their plight appears to be less newsworthy than a hypothetical casino.