The Last of the Indian Wars

The fight may be about houses in the Everglades, but the battle is about Miccosukee independence by paula park

The Miccosukees' relationship with the bingo hall's original investors, Tamiami Partners Ltd., exploded in 1991 after its first year of operation. In 1992 the tribal court ousted the white partners. The partners sued, and the case is still wending its way through the federal courts.

For all the hostility between Tamiami Partners and the Indians, however, the relationship between Cypress and his white employees seems to be a love fest. Lorion repeatedly quotes the chairman's terse maxims. Stephen Terry merely chuckles after losing nearly a full day's work to a meeting with Cypress. Even the virulent Dexter Lehtinen seems subdued and self-effacing in the chairman's presence -- though he's hardly domineering or imperious. However his acolytes may regard him, it cannot be denied that Cypress has led the tribe to an unprecedented level of prosperity. But even Cypress acknowledges that the profits generated by bingo -- seven million dollars per year by one estimate -- may be short-lived.

Even if bingo's popularity fades, Cypress promises a long life for the tribe. One day, he predicts, the Miccosukees will operate Everglades National Park, or at least control the acreage the park has provided them. "The tribe is going to be here," he says emphatically. "They were here before the park. Do they think that when they created the park, they were supposed to rule over Indians? I don't think so.

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