Sin City

Governor Bill Graves is shocked — shocked — to hear that tribal gambling may soon come to downtown Kansas City, Kansas. Never mind that wicked wagerers can buy a state lottery ticket within forty paces of the trailer-house bingo parlor he’s fighting.

“People buy $100 at a time,” says Paul Abanishe, owner of the African Tropical Market on North Seventh Street. Casino opponents are hypocrites, he says. “They need to leave the Indians alone.”

Downtown Kansas City, Kansas, is dead and spooky — about what you’d expect for a town built around a graveyard.

“After 7 p.m. you don’t see anybody on the streets,” Abanishe says. “A casino, I think, is going to boost all the businesses.”

His neighbor, Jae Yeon Jo, at Gino’s deli, smiles at the thought of hitting a jackpot. “A casino would be OK,” she says.

The Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma has shoehorned a triple-wide and a double-wide into an alleyway alongside the Huron Indian Cemetery and brought hundreds of gambling machines to the site. Everyone thinks Chief Leaford Bearskin may be bluffing — he’d rather get state approval for slot machines at the Woodlands.

In the 1840s, Kansas dirt first covered the corpses of eastern-Canadian Wyandottes, who’d been chased to death in Westport by Iroquois and white folks. Kansas Wyandots have been tenacious defenders of the graves: Lyda Conley and her sister guarded the parcel with shotguns for years during the early 1900s when land sharks, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court fought over it.

Bearskin’s tribe has tried unsuccessfully to make money from the cemetery since 1899, when the tribe’s first attempt to sell the property to land speculators collapsed under protests by Kansas Wyandots.

But the Wyandots are onboard with Bearskin’s bingo-hall plan, though he may be wavering: Last week, Bearskin began removing slot machines from the site, claiming some weren’t legal for the tribe to operate. “Everything is on hold,” he says.

We hope he stays the course. Downtown KCK needs a casino or a strip club or even a Starbucks — anything to resurrect the dead town. And considering that neighboring businesses are run by a Nigerian-American, an Asian-American and a Mexican-American, we see nothing wrong with Oklahoman-Americans setting up shop as well.

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