In 1980, when the Cabazon Band first opened a small poker club on their Indian reservation in the isolated desert of California, they knew local authorities would challenge them. Cabazon persisted and ultimately won, defeating the State of California in a landmark case before the Supreme Court. By fighting for their right to operate a poker club, Cabazon opened up the possibility for native nations across the United States to open casinos on their own reservations, spurring the growth of what is now a $30 billion industry.
Cahuilla Nation Activism and the Tribal Casino Movement tells the bigger story of how the Cahuilla nations—including the Cabazon—have used self-reliance and determination to maintain their culture and independence against threats past and present. From California’s first governor’s “war of extermination” against native peoples through today’s legal and political challenges, Gordon shows that successful responses have depended on the Cahuilla’s ability to challenge non-natives’ assumptions and misconceptions.