It's 3 a.m. and while most of Indian country is sleeping, warrior and high-tech sleuth Victor Rocha is brewing his fresh morning edition of California Indian Gaming News.
Working up to 16 hours a day -- seven days a week -- without salary, Rocha is a man with a mission.
With 25,000 to 30,000 online page hits a day, Rocha's website shows that just about everyone from the Department of Justice, to tribal members, reads the digest online.
"The funny thing is I can't type. I peck out everything," Rocha says.
"I don't type and I don't write, but I started an on-line Indian newspaper because that's what needs to be done."
"My goal is to make this the 'Yahoo for Native America,' a place to go to exchange culture and ideas."
Rocha made music and lived in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania before returning home to California.
Now, the Pechanga tribal member finds himself e-square in the middle of the most powerful issues in Indian country.
"This information is so valuable, this is the weapon -- it not guns or rocks, it's information."
"It empowers us," he says.
Rocha began his news digest as a way to keep his cousin Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and other tribal leaders informed. It came about as California voters prepared to go to the polls to vote on the Indian gaming initiative, Proposition 5. Opposition was mounting from Las Vegas casinos.
Rocha discovered a wealth of articles online and started sending those to everyone he knew. So many, that his bombarded friends said: "Thanks, but please, 'No more articles.'"
That's when he decided to bring it all together on a web page: www.pechanga.net
Now, celebrating over one year online, Pechanga Net has a moderated e-mail list as well.
"I call it my 'Indian brain trust.'"
Recently, during a five-day period, the news digest received 300,000 page hits in five days.
Greeting everyone with hugs at the National Congress of American Indians in Palm Springs, Rocha received praise from readers like Duane Champagne, director of UCLA's American Indians Studies Center.
Champagne is a reader, and so is Jim Zion, attorney for the Navajo Supreme Court in Window Rock, Arizona, who joins Champagne in compliments for Rocha's comprehensive news site.
Hot link subjects include Indian gaming, rising suicides among the Innus, the Koch oil trial, and the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. There have also been links to articles about the anniversary of the occupation of Alcatraz, and traditional Navajo lifeways by Betty Reid.
While Rocha's site is packed with links to articles, he says he is selective and doesn't post articles that aid the opposition.
"I don't put it all up - it's not what you put up, it's what you don't put up."
Rocha says gaming is simply a means to an end. It is the way that tribes are paying for health care, roads, elderly centers, roads and police and fire departments.
"Indian gaming is my priority right now. This is the issue that effects me, my family and my tribe."
Rocha, working so far without pay for his online news service, is now transforming his personal mission into a commercial site with advertising.
"The love is coming from Indian country, and the money is coming from the gaming companies."
It's a time-consuming project for the recording engineer, who searches and pecks through the maze of the web to find news articles.
"There's no magic button. I sit there and I find it. It's like being a detective."
"I tell everyone, 'I'll sleep in March.'"
March is when California voters approved on a Constitutional amendment allowing slot-style gaming in the state. Although Prop 5 was approved by voters in the November 1998 election, a state Supreme Court ruled slots unconstitutional based on a little-known amendment prohibiting Las Vegas and Atlantic City-style gaming.
"We are a much bigger part of this picture than we've been led to believe," Rocha says.
Rocha says he is now the guy on the hill -- watching for the Calvary.
"How can you fight for your people, if you don't know what's coming?"
Rocha says he's a quote machine as well.
His site motto: "Hot links served fresh."
And for others in need of a few great one-liners, Rocha says he knows a good online site for that as well.
The news digest offers philosophy, along with the morning online brew.
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