Pamela Wade discovers how gaming has helped native American cultures survive.
The ideal waitress is friendly and efficient - and Jana is that and more - so we can't really complain about her parlous grasp of geography. She does have the grace to be abashed about having no clue where New Zealand is, and we aren't offended: she is, endearingly, equally ignorant about Australia.
We're a long way from Auckland, after all, in Washington State on an Indian reservation in the restaurant of a flash new casino resort.
For those of us brought up on TV Westerns, Indians and casinos seem an unlikely combination; but the route from teepee to Texas Hold'em is both straightforward and fortuitous.
Gaming is a tribal tradition: back in pre-colonial days, it centred on guessing games with shells, bones and sticks to the accompaniment of drumming and spectators shouting wagers; so bingo, brought by the settlers, was readily adopted.
Since Indian tribes are recognised in the US constitution as "domestic, dependent nations", their self-governing sovereignty means they aren't bound by state regulations limiting the size of prizes. The freedom to build high-stakes casinos and reap the huge profits they bring has been vital to the tribes' self-sufficiency.
Tulalip Resort and Casino is a perfect example: it was built by three tribes that were pushed off their land in 1855 onto a peninsula on Puget Sound, north of Seattle. No longer able to follow annual fishing and hunting routes, the children were forced into English-speaking boarding schools and family ties were broken.
For a time, their culture looked doomed; but thanks to legs eleven, pokies and playing cards - and some shrewd commercial sense - a cluster of spanking new buildings alongside the I-5 highway has turned their fate around.
While I appreciate all the hotel's luxurious trappings, gambling leaves me cold - though I find a tour of the 9000ha reservation fascinating. There's a new museum showcasing native art, customs and history.
The local language, Lushootseed, is so distinctive that it has its own font, incorporating a bewildering collection of symbols. There are schools, shops, a fish-hatchery, forestry - and in the traditional longhouse on the shore, tribal ceremonies celebrate the salmon.
Jana offers a taste of wild king salmon "to signal our friendship". It's so superior to farmed fish that we forgive her all over again.
Pamela Wade went to Tulalip as a guest of Washington State Tourism.By Pamela Wade