Arizona Blackjack Dealer Shares Trail of Tears, Native American Story
Jan 20, 2011
Ex Blackjack Dealer
Until recently, Ron Cooper was a blackjack croupier in an Arizona casino, but he decided to give up the comforts of a home and convenience of a vehicle to walk the Trail of Tears.
When the man who once dealt blackjack card games started his journey from Charleston, Tennessee, he was not anticipating friendly greetings. Instead, he intended to communicate to others that Native Americans have this horrific story of genocide to tell. During the forced removal of the “Indian” tribes from their indigenous homelands, many died upon what has been dubbed the “Trail of Tears”.
Kristal, Cooper’s wife, laughed as he haltingly attempted to rationalize his desire to contribute his experience to a national dialog. Normally, Cooper has been a “shy and modest” man, but this is hardly evidenced when people inquire why he is walking about 850 miles along the northern trail.
Kristal follows Cooper in their red sport utility vehicle which tows a camper-trailer. Ultimately, she parks somewhere ahead of him to provide refuge, but until he arrives she will occasionally use their pickup to monitor his advancement.
Since beginning the walk, concerned people have approached him to check his mental and physical health, offer housing and other assistance, and even transportation which he graciously refuses. Conceivably, once word gets out that the walker was a blackjack dealer, they may also start asking him to teach them blackjack rules and how to count cards.
Cooper hopes to remind people how his people fought and died for American land decades ago. He asserts “It’s my story, too…. but we all came out of it.” He regrets that Native Americans “don’t have a symbol like Martin Luther King Jr.”
When Ron Cooper completes his walk to Oklahoma, which he believes should happen sometime in May, he intends to work outdoors, instead of resuming his previous counter-point to blackjack strategy. In the long term, he plans to author a book about his adventure and relay stories of the people he met during his walk.