Betting Big On A Native Dream: Coming Home To A ‘We’ Culture

Given the extreme economic disenfranchisement of Native American tribes, being an Indian in modern times has given rise to Indian casinos. Chairman Greg Sarris of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria found himself staring down the barrel of massive community resistance. Was it possible to create a casino that would uphold traditional values and benefit the land and local community? You wouldn’t want to bet against him.

About the guest:

Gregory Michael Sarris (born February 12, 1952) is a college professor, author, producer, screenwriter, and a member and current Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He was chosen in 2005 to fill the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies atSonoma State University. The Chair was endowed by his tribe.

He was formerly the Fletcher Jones Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and a full professor at UCLA for ten years.

Sarris was born in 1952 in Santa Rosa, California. According to Sarris, his birth father was not named on the birth certificate, but friends of his birth mother believed Emilio Hilario was his birth father. Hilario’s paternal grandfather was Filipino and his maternal grandparents were Tom and Emily Smith. Tom was Kashaya Pomo and Miwok. Mary Bernadette “Bunny” Hartman, of Irish and GermanJewish descent, was his mother. He was adopted by a local couple, George and Mary Sarris.

Sarris attended local schools through Santa Rosa Junior College, and received a B.A. in 1978 from UCLA, where he also played football. He worked in Hollywood as a model and actor before going to graduate school. He earned a Ph.D. in modern thought and literature at Stanford University in 1988, and returned to UCLA to teach in 1989.

He co-produced an HBO movie, Grand Avenue with Robert Redford in 1996.

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