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Native American group protests Arizona casinos, freeway

PHOENIX — The 2013 Indian Gaming Conference brought dozens of protesters to the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday.

The protesters said casinos cause Indian communities to compete with each other, thereby dividing Native Americans.

“These casinos are doing nothing but dividing and conquering us,” said Paloma Allen, who is a member of both the Tohono O’odham and Gila River communities. “It’s Western values being put on an indigenous society.

“The Tohono O’ohdam Community wants to have a casino in Glendale, so they are at odds with the Gila River Community,” Allen said.

She said that the casinos do not make the contributions to Native Americans that they claim, and that Native American values should be taken into consideration when planning development in their communities.

Allen also joined others who were there to voice their opposition to the building of the Loop 202 freeway South Mountain alignment. They said the freeway would be built on what they consider to be sacred land. Allen said Native Americans are trying to preserve the land for the future.

“We’re doing it for our descendants,” Allen said. “I am a mother. It’s for my baby’s baby’s babies. We cannot let that freeway go through the Creator’s home.”

A spokesman for the Indian Gaming Industry refused to comment.