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Source: Grand Forks Herald, January 8, 1999

Dale Wetzel, Associated Press


North Dakotans should look at gambling as a business venture rather than as a moral issue, the chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa said Thursday.

Richard LaFromboise, in separate addresses to the state House and Senate, also appealed for a change in the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, an issue that has dogged the school for years.

A Norwegian can tell a Norwegian joke, and a German can tell a German joke, LaFromboise said. But when we talk about another group of people in a condescending manner, using them as mascots, it's a demeaning movement.

During the first week of the Legislature, a North Dakota Indian tribal chairman gives what is called the State of the Relationship address, which explores how North Dakota's state and tribal governments are getting along.

LaFromboise gave the first such speech during the 1987 Legislature.

He said Thursday there have been successes, listing state-tribal agreements on collecting gasoline and tobacco taxes, and gambling compacts the state's five tribes have signed to regulate reservation casinos.

The Turtle Mountain tribe has been in informal talks about renegotiating its own agreement.

Many North Dakotans erroneously believe Indian casinos have the tribes rolling in wealth, but they cannot compete with a great gambling mecca like Las Vegas, LaFromboise said.

However, the industry has meant about 2,500 jobs and $40 million in payroll on North Dakota reservations, he said.

It's not the answer, or the panacea, to all of our problems in native country right now, but there has been a pretty good jump start, he said.

We do have a conservative view (on gambling) ... We in Indian country also have those conservative views, but we have to take our personal pride and issue out of it and talk about it as a business.

LaFromboise's tone was informal - he brought a speech text, which he ignored - and at times playful.

He joked about teaching former Gov. George Sinner how to play poker, and a verbal stumble during his introduction in the state House, in which LaFromboise was called the chairman of the Turtle Mountain bank.

I liked that a lot, he said.

Honor seems to have gone by the wayside, for personal gain, personal afflictions ... It's ruined some of that spirit, he said. But I don't think it's touched us. I think we can still make it.

Afterward, Grand Forks legislators said they did not believe the Legislature should take up the issue of UND sports nicknames.

I think we'd be stepping into an area we don't belong, said Sen. Raymon Holmberg, R-Grand Forks. That should be up to the university, and the Board of Higher Education.

UND President Ken Baker, who has explored the issue during his tenure, said no change is planned.

We obviously want people to understand what our use (of the nickname) is, he told KNOX Radio of Grand Forks. We want to make sure it's respectful. We want to continue to build our relationship, which I think is pretty darn good.

Richard LaFramboise, is chairman of the Turle Mountain Band of Chippewa. He gaves the Indian Address before the North Dakota House of Representatives Thursday.