James White

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

In alliance with the Alabama-Coushatta and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribes, state Reps. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and James White (R-Woodville) authored a resolution in March that would authorize gambling on all Native American lands. 

If passed, House Joint Resolution 129 would lead to a November ballot measure proposing a state constitutional amendment allowing gambling on tribal lands. 

Ronnie Thomas, vice chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, said he is optimistic that Texans will pass the amendment. 

Out-of-state gaming organizations have shown opposition, but if the legislation passes and the issue goes on the ballot, there is a high chance that voters will approve the measure, Thomas said. 

In 2001, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe opened a casino on its reservation in Livingston. However, after nine months of earning approximately $1 million in monthly revenue, a federal court ordered that the casino be shut down. Currently, the Kickapoo tribe runs the only functioning casino in the state in Eagle Pass.

UT anthropology professor Shannon Speed said gaming rights for Texas’ Native American tribes vary according to the method the tribes used to retain federal recognition.

“The Kickapoo tribe in Texas managed to gain their recognition [in 1983] by applying for it through the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Speed said. “The Alabama-Coushatta gained recognition through a congressional act, which stated that the tribe could not engage in any activity that the state of Texas did not allow its citizens to engage in. Because operating a casino in Texas is illegal, this has become the basis of the disparity in tribes’ rights to engage in gaming activities.” 

Because Native American tribes represent sovereign nations rather than minority groups, Speed said restricting tribal gaming rights within reservations limits the tribes’ ability to self-determine with regard to their economic structure. 

“If you are pursuing your civil rights as a minority, you are pursuing your rights as a citizen of a nation, but most native tribes are actually looking for their rights as sovereign nations apart from the U.S.,” Speed said. “So if tribes are unable to participate in gaming based on an act from a foreign government, it really encroaches on the tribes’ sovereignty.”

Speed, who is a member of the Kickapoo tribe, said legal gaming has the potential to create huge financial and cultural opportunities for the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, as the casino in Eagle Pass did for the Kickapoo tribe.

“[The Kickapoo] began gaming in the late 1980s, and now the Kickapoo Foundation is actually the second-largest employer in the state of Oklahoma after Wal-Mart,” Speed said. “The tribe has been able to effectively redistribute the funds from gaming to tribal members through social services like free medical care, housing loans, fellowships for education, awards for the arts and more.”

Rep. Thompson said the Legislature should pass the resolution to let Texans decide on equal rights for Texas’ tribes.

“[Rep. White and I] ask the Legislature to let the people decide,” Thompson said. “We believe the voters will decide to let them do the same thing the Kickapoo are doing in Eagle Pass. Let the people decide.”

Photo Credit: Shaun Lane | Daily Texan Staff

In the wake of a booming population and increasingly cosmopolitan downtown district, the city of Austin faces an identity crisis. The polished oak dance floors, neon beer signs and the idiosyncratic twang of country music that once filled countless bars on Sixth Street and beyond have given way to a sleeker generation of pubs and dance venues.

Surrounded on both sides by razed properties and chain-link fences, The Broken Spoke sits in stark isolation from the upscale malls that now populate South Lamar Boulevard. After entering through the rickety red front door, a small sign reads, “The Last of the True Texas Dance Halls,” suggesting condolences for deceased comrades.

A relic of Austin’s once more bucolic past, this mom and pop country bar has been through its fair share of turbulence since it first opened in 1964. Higher prices for drinking, dining and dancing are a clear indication that neighboring competitors haven’t gone easy on the family-owned operation. Simply pushing past the restaurant to the low-ceilinged dance floor will cost customers $20. But proprietors James and Anetta White have no ulterior motives or ill intentions of sucking wallets dry.

On this particular Saturday night, Terri White, a daughter of the owners, makes her way across the room with staggered, sliding steps. In an attempt to break the ice, White intersperses raunchy jokes with confident instructions to the dancers.

“For the ladies, respond to his movements. Men like to think they’re in control, so for the time being, let them have it!” she explains. The microphone manages to pick up her subtle exhales as she glides across the dance floor. “Lead off with the left, guys! Quick quick. Slow, heel click. Slow, heel click!”

Terri wraps up her instructions with one last piece of wisdom: “Imagine that your toes are permanently glued to the floor!”

As the band takes the stage, an older couple exchanges a knowing look, joining together at the center of the floor to wait for the music. Before long, gleeful guitar riffs and laughter fill the smoky room. Boots sojourn to the counter and back, thudding and clicking. Bystanders converse and sip their beers while nodding to the rhythm of the music.

After a few songs, the band pauses and gentle applause ripples through the crowd as an elderly man makes his way onto the floor. In a black, sequin studded shirt and white hat, he mouths several thank you’s to the nearest guests and waves. At age 73, James White carries himself extremely well. His brow creases upward and he sighs with noticeable relief. Although he says nothing, Mr. White’s expression betrays the sincerity of his emotions.

He is grateful not just for the frequenters and the celebrities that visit each week, but also for the students, the foreigners, the hipsters and all the other types of patrons that take a fateful leap into the world of two-stepping for the first time.

Efforts to mitigate the onslaught of commercial development and preserve the strumming of Honky Tonk have also come from bars such as White Horse, Midnight Rodeo and Hole in the Wall. For reasonable prices, these local spots offer dance instruction and an authentic Austin atmosphere.

Stingy tourists and fickle students might turn up their noses at the prospect of throwing down money to don boots and channel their inner country, but the reality is that Austin is selling out the capricious, good-natured tradition that sets it apart from anywhere else in the world.

The Texas two-step only knows one home.

Wearing burnt orange and staring at paintings of cattle are aspects of being a student here at UT, but the final step to becoming a true Texas Longhorn means experiencing and upholding this traditional dance.

James White always says, “We ain’t fancy, but we’re damn sure country.” With places as welcoming and homely as the Broken Spoke, who needs fancy anyway?

Printed on Monday, October 1, 2012 as: Two-Steppin' with Texans: The Broken Spoke brings back Texas spirit with Southern dance

On the Lege

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a six-part series examining bills that could impact the lives of students. If the Legislature passes either of two bills this session, the University will lose its ability to raise tuition in the face of rising costs and a shrinking budget. Two bills from the Texas House of Representatives, authored by Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, and James White, R-Hillister, would freeze tuition at whatever rate universities charge for the 2010-11 school year. Both of the bills will freeze tuition, but Isaac’s would freeze it for two years longer than White’s bill. UT’s current average rate of tuition for the 2010-11 school year is $4,778.25 for Texas residents taking 12 or more hours. These bills will prevent universities from taking in more money from students to make up for money lost from budget cuts, said Tim Head, White’s chief of staff. When legislators impose budget limitations on public institutions that are lower than what the institution may need, the institution often charges higher tuition, Head said. “The Legislature intends for the institution to limit its growth, but instead they just charge their students more money,” he said. White’s bill, if passed, would stop tuition hikes based on the 2010-2011 tuition rates for the next two academic years and would apply to all students enrolled in public universities, he said. “The idea is to keep them from passing higher tuition prices to students,” he said. “In Texas schools, tuition has skyrocketed over the last several years.” Isaac’s bill would freeze rates for the next four academic years until 2014-2015. The bill is intended to help ensure students will be able to pay for and stay in school in a time when grants are often being cut in the state’s estimated $27 billion budget deficit, Isaac said. “As the cost of higher education continues to rise, it is becoming more and more difficult for students to afford to attend college,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be able to finance my college education through a combination of working hard and receiving various forms of financial aid. Had I not received that help, it would have been much more difficult for me to graduate.” A well-educated workforce is crucial to the future success of the state, and the bill will help more people have the financial ability to attend college, Isaac said. “I know that it will place a lot of pressure on universities to maintain their quality of education without depending on money from increased tuition, but it’s the same pressure that families and businesses across Texas are currently feeling,” he said. A bill like Isaac’s could cost the University $230 million in potential revenue, assuming UT would have raised tuition 3.95 percent every year the bill applies to, said Mary Knight, associate vice president of UT’s budget office. The bill would compound the budget reductions which are already estimated to be between $80 million and $100 million for the 2012-2013 biennium, she said. “Although the University is making plans for needed budget reductions and affordability continues to be a top priority, it is important to be able to have some flexibility with tuition and other potential revenue sources,” she said. The College Republicans opted not to endorse White’s bill because of the difficult position it would put the University in, group vice president Justin May said. Since the bill would prevent universities from raising tuition to take in more money, it would also require them to cut more academic programs and would negatively affect long-term projects such as construction, he said. “The frustrating thing is that if the state is going to cap tuition, they should either account for inflation in their plan or they should be able to provide funding for higher education,” he said. If the state government can’t make up for the loss created by budget cuts, then students lose some of the quality of the education at public institutions of higher education, he said. White’s bill wouldn’t provide that kind of supplementation, he said. “Constitutionally, our state does have a commitment to higher education,” May said. “If we’re going to regulate universities, we can’t just do it halfway. We need to make sure that Texas students get the best education so that they can be competitive, not just in the state but nationally and internationally.” Undeclared freshman Marisol Canales said she thinks the school has the money to get by without raising tuition or cutting courses because of the high amount of construction on campus. 6 “They’re giving us, the students, these choices between raising tuition or cutting courses, which they’re not even asking us about,” she said. “[The administration] is adding more buildings instead of focusing on what really matters, which is the education that we’re here for.”

To encourage black community members across Texas to become more politically and economically involved, black educators, activists, business leaders and elected officials shared their personal stories at the African American Legislative Summit in Austin.

The summit ends today and features panels on business development, education, representation in media and politics and legislative issues concerning African-American communities in Texas. About 3,000 attendees are expected for both days, according to Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, the chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on African-American issues in Texas and organized the 11th annual summit.

Daniel Clayton, legislative aide to caucus member Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said the purpose of these panels is to provide people with the opportunity to educate themselves and to become familiar with the legislative process.
Clayton said the summit ensures that lawmakers are available to hear their constituents.

“I think people recognize the magnitude of issues we are facing, [including] the budget shortfalls,” Turner said.
Turner said people are concerned future generations will have to bear the burden of budget shortfalls. He said these shortfalls would affect children, senior citizens, low-income people and especially students.

“It’s time to mobilize at all levels,” Turner said. “We need to see more activism come out of the students.”

A roundtable panel on Monday gave people the opportunity to hear personal stories from public officials, business titans, as well as policy professionals. Black elected officials encouraged their constituents to run for office and become more politically involved to get their voices heard.

“If you look at the world right now, the change is coming from the youth,” said Rep. James White, R-Hillster.
Old policies and laws need to be replaced by fresh ideas, White said. Many jobs that are going to be lost because of budget shortfalls are jobs that needed to be replaced with new opportunities, he said.

Lancaster City Council member Nina Morris said she wants to encourage young people to run for public office. She said she ran at a very young age and became one of the first black females to be elected to public office in her city.
“I just want you all to know that [this] is your time,” Morris said. “There is no better time.”

“I am here to learn and see what the direction of the state of Texas is particularly for the African-American communities,” said Shirley James, who attended the summit.

She said although black communities are growing in economic sector, the business developments are still lagging behind.

“There is this disparity, and we need to close that gap,” James said.