Native American game pioneer Fred Dakota dies at 84

BARAGA, Mich. (AP) – Fred Dakota, whose 1983 garage-casino on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was a landmark for Native American gambling, has died at the age of 84.

Dakota, a former leader of the Keweenaw Bay Indian community, died Monday at his Baraga home, according to Reid Funeral Service. The cause was not disclosed.

Tribal offices were closed on Friday, the day of the funeral, along with Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. The locations of the Ojibwa casinos in Baraga and Marquette were closed for much of the afternoon.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to stand alongside one of the greatest leaders of the Indian country,” said Tribal President Warren “Chris“ Swartz Jr .. “Fred has made an impact not only on KBIC, but also on many tribal communities with his leadership capacities. “

With just one blackjack table, Dakota opened a casino in a two-stall garage in Baraga County on New Years Eve 1983. A glass of whiskey cost 70 cents; the best stuff cost 20 cents more.

“We gave the government vast tracts of land in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota when we signed this treaty in 1854,” Dakota told the New York Times in 1984. “And what did we get in return ? We got the government to agree not to kill us. Well, now it’s time for us to have something more. Gambling will make a lot of Indians rich.

The casino-garage led to the construction of a larger casino, but federal court decisions shut it down. Dakota said he couldn’t afford more calls.

In 1987, the United States Supreme Court used a California case to ease restrictions on gambling on tribal lands, a turning point for Native American casinos. Federal law a year later allowed states to negotiate agreements with tribes.

In 1997, a jury found Dakota guilty of accepting $ 127,000 in bribes from a New Jersey slot machine dealer and evading taxes on the money. He claimed that the money was an advance for a telephone lottery game. Dakota was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

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