them a little and they’ll be happy forever.” Last year the tribe distributed $8,000 of casino profit to every man, woman and child listed on the tribal rolls; casino money has also funded the construction of a day care center, a health clinic, a senior citizen center, a new tourist center, and new tribal government offices. The money distributed to the children is put in a trust, and, Sierra says, “If they don’t close our casino the kids will be fixed for life the best education they want, the best lives they want.” Sierra is employed by the Texas Film Commission as a location scout. He’s worked for a number of movies, including Last Man Standing and Courage Under Fire, and likes Chuck Norris much better than Bruce Willis. He’s not directly involved in the casino operation, but the casino seems to have encouraged entrepreneurial ambitions among the Tigua: Sierra is the original proponent of the tribe’s plan to buy a 68,000-acre ranch in Valentine, which would double as a tribal hunting preserve and a dude ranch for European tourists. The Tigua’s current governor is Vince Munoz, who took the job in December 1996, following a bitter struggle for the position that ended in the ejection of several former officers from the tribal rolls. If Sierra is the elder statesman, Munoz is the corporate officer. “I’m responsible for all the tribal programs, the federal programs, and I’m also responsible for all the business aspects of the tribe,” he says. “Basically, it’s like a C.E.O. position, and I oversee everything.” Munoz, one of ten siblings, grew up two blocks from the tribal government building. A smiling, heavy-set man, he wears thick gold rings and expensive-looking shirts, and his office looks like a C.E.O.’s, with a big shiny desk and executive swivel chair. He even has his own public relations consultant, a man named Marc Schwartz, who sits in on my interview with Mutioz and offers occasional comments. “He [Munoz] was the one who started the actual casino. He was the gaming commissioner that started it,” Schwartz tells me. “I don’t like to give myself credit sometimes,” laughs Munoz. “Actually the whole casino started out from a cultural center and a restaurant. Wyngs [the restaurant] being my brainchild at that point in time, back in 1985.” “He started all of those,” says Schwartz. “He’s kind of the business well, let’s put it this way, the marketing guru of the tribe.” In 1992, after viewing presentations from over forty companies and visiting other Indian gambling facilities around the country, the Tigua struck a deal with 7 Circle Resorts to manage its casino. The next year the tribe opened a bingo hall, adding poker tables and a blackjack-style game in 1994, and slot machines in 1996. The casino now employs 900 people, 110 of whom are tribe members. \(Munoz estimates that of the 500 Tigua who live in Ysleta, there are about 250 adults of working age. Because of the casino and other businesses which depend on the casino, such as cleaning services and gift shops, unemployment within the tribe is A Vince Munoz Karen Olsson Munoz won’t disclose the casino’s annual revenue, but it’s probably about $600 million. \(The tribe recently renewed its offer to return a certain percentage of revenue to state and local government, an offer it originally made in 1993, when Ann Richards refused to negotiate with the Tigua. In newspaper reports of the renewed offer, the 3 percent share going to the state was quoted as being worth $1.8 million, which would put the total revenue at $600 milthe casino, and plans to become El Paso’s Mobil distributor, building twenty more gas stations in the process. Governor Bush’s threats, however, have caused the tribe’s lenders to hesitate over those plans, since the casino is its one substantial piece of collateral. The Tigua lawsuit against Bush is, in large part, an effort to stop him from making statements that threaten their business. 4. THE LAWYERS t t was Tom Diamond who helped the Tigua push for federal recognition in the 1960s, and he has represented the tribe ever since. “It’s almost as if someone had preordained this as my goal in life,” he says of his work with the tribe. Diamond, who trained as an engineer and served in the Army before going to law school, first encountered the Tigua on July 4, 1963. THE TIGUA LAWSUIT AGAINST BUSH IS, IN LARGE PART, AN EFFORT TO STOP HIM FROM MAKING STATEMENTS THAT THREATEN THEIR BUSINESS. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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