Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country - Third Edition

V Preface My Foreword to the 2d edition of this work ten years ago noted significant changes since the first publication in 1996. This 3d edition marks another ten-year period of equally significant changes in the picture of American Indian tribal economies. Some of these changes reflect national trends, and in others tribes have been trend-setters for their reservations and even for their regional economies. Three sectors continue to be mainstays of tribal economies: gaming, tourism, and natural resources. Income and earnings from these three sectors are the primary sources of investment in and development of tribal economies. These three sectors also provide tribal governments with the greatest amount of employment for their people. While the federal government laments a crumbling national infrastructure, many tribes have invested in theirs, building community centers, housing, medical facilities, elder care residences, and modern recreational centers. In 2006 the majority of Indian students were attending public schools on or near their reservations, but today many tribes have taken over their school systems and fund their own cultural and language preservation programs. Many of these tribal facilities have been designed by American Indian architects and built by Indian-owned construction companies. Tribes have done more with their own resources to build modern economies in two generations than was accomplished in a century of federal control of their resources and their funds. Investments in Regional and National Economies The Seneca Nation has invested more than $1 billion in the economy of western New York, in the process salvaging a failed urban renewal project in downtown Buffalo and restoring riverfront “brownfield” properties to attractive and productive use. Having purchased a private game ranch from bankruptcy, the Jicarilla Apache Nation today owns and operates a world- class, big game enterprise, drawing visitors from around the world to the Chama Lodge in the mountains of northern New Mexico. After operating a Hard Rock hotel and casino on their reservation for years, the Seminole Tribe of Florida acquired the brand with the purchase of some 65 Hard Rock cafes and hotels throughout the country in one of the largest hotel acquisitions in the country in 2006. The Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado has financed commercial properties in downtown Denver and invested in offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Practicing sustained forestry techniques, the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin harvests some 30 million board-feet of timber annually while increasing the volume of standing timber and preserving environmental and wildlife values. Changes in Gaming Industry Another trend noted in my introduction to the 2005 edition of this work was the then-uninterrupted, straight-line, almost exponential growth of gaming operations and revenues on Indian lands. That, too, has changed dramatically over the last ten years. Overall revenues from gaming on Indian lands have, with the single exception of 2009, continued to rise although the rate of growth has slowed dramatically. Whether due to market saturation, a general decline in disposable income following the recent Great Recession, or other reasons, Indian gaming revenue has continued to rise, albeit at a much slower rate, and totaled some $28.3 billion in 2013. Revenues from gaming operations continue to provide the basis of expansion, diversification, and growth of many tribal economies. Even the Osage Nation, which has produced oil and gas from its 1.4 million-acre mineral reserve in Oklahoma for more than 100 years, insisted for this 3d edition of Tiller’s Guide that its economy now rests primarily on gaming revenues, and not oil and gas income. The state of New York has experienced the sharpest, post-recession decline in gaming revenue growth for tribes, but even there the Seneca Nation of western New York plans to continue “growing the pie” by expanding the number of venues and diversifying the level and range of entertainment options by expanding the market in the face of the prospect of three new non-Indian mega-casino resorts in upstate New York. The most dramatic change in the gaming sector in coming years is likely to be the rise of online gaming that will increasingly be available as more and more states open their markets to this form of gaming which has been largely illegal in the U.S. since passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006. As of this publication, no state with Indian gaming has acted to authorize or legalize online gaming. Tribes, however, seem to be increasingly interested in expanding their gaming opportunities to this market which appears to represent a different demographic than the visitors to their casinos and resorts. To date, only Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey permit online gaming within their borders. Consequently, no tribe can presently enter into a compact for casino-style online gaming with its own state. California is considering legislation to authorize online gaming, and several tribes in that state have expressed support for the initiative, although they differ widely on support for the various legislative proposals pending in the spring of 2015. Although the established gaming industry generally vigorously opposed online gaming for years as a threat to their investments in “brick and mortar” facilities, the point is not lost on gaming tribes that of the first three states to legalize online gaming two of them are Nevada and New Jersey. Online gaming appears to be on the horizon, and gaming tribes are preparing to be early participants. Tourism The development of tourism on Indian reservations began many decades ago and today it has grown even larger in part due to the availability of gaming revenues. Gaming and tourism go almost hand in hand on many reservations and in Indian communities. Gaming facilities are deliberately located close to recreational areas for fishing, boating, hiking, golf courses, museums, cultural centers, and other entertainment facilities. Gaming centers are also built around retail services that support tourism such as travel centers, convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, resorts, and gift shops. Tribal tourism has thrived for many tribes with large reservations that are close to national parks and recreation areas, such as those in New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, and Washing- ton.The Hualapai Tribe, for example has enhanced its tourism program to by developing a Sky-Walk over majestic views into the Grand Canyon, and by offering river rafting on theColo- rado River through the reservation.Tourism has been a major source of livelihood for many Navajo families for generations. Tourism is a principal driver of the economies of New Mexico By Veronica E. Velarde Tiller