Tribal Casino Labor Relations and Settler Colonialism


  • Theodor P. Gordon College of St. Benedict and St. John's University



Labor relations, Tribal sovereignty


Sovereignty provides the legal basis for tribal casinos in the United States.  However, since the industry’s rapid growth (valued at $34 billion for 2019), courts are now revisiting decades-old precedents in federal Indian law to reinterpret policies in ways that add new constraints to tribal sovereignty.  Because tribal casinos often employ large numbers of non-Native Americans, tribal casino labor relations have become a new arena for contests over the boundaries of tribal sovereignty.  This article investigates recent tribal casino labor relations court rulings (e.g. Little River, Soaring Eagle, and Pauma) through the lens of settler colonialism in order to understand new revisions to legal precedents.  It argues that settler colonialism continues to underlie federal policies and that the growth of tribal casinos reveal that the federal government may intervene to undercut tribal sovereignty.

Author Biography

Theodor P. Gordon, College of St. Benedict and St. John's University

Dr. Theodor P. Gordon is a visiting assistant professor at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in St. Joseph, Minnesota, where he serves as director of the Initiative for Native Nation Revitalization.   His research has received funding from the McKnight Foundation, the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming, and the Council for Independent Colleges.  His publications include Cahuilla Nation Activism and the Tribal Casino Movement (University of Nevada Press, 2018). He earned his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside.




How to Cite

Gordon, T. (2021). Tribal Casino Labor Relations and Settler Colonialism. Critical Gambling Studies, 2(2), 151–158.



Original Research Articles