Indian tribes look beyond casinos for income


For this, the group formed in 2011 Skasge, a solar energy company in its infancy that provides electricity for the casino and certain facilities on their reservation, approximately 20 miles southwest of the casino. The goal is to perfect their solar technology and then start selling electricity to the grid. The following year, they added a 242-room hotel tower and a 17,000-square-foot event and conference center to add non-gaming reasons to attract visitors.

In 2014, the Nottawaseppi Band formed the Waseyabek Development Company, which will be the parent company of the group’s future efforts, and this year they hired Jennifer Turner, a consultant who has helped tribes in northwestern Arizona. and Saginaw to diversify, as temporary general manager on a one-year contract. Along the way, the group also reclaimed plots of land available from bankruptcy auctions in the south-central Michigan region, including the site south of Athens across from the historic marker, about five miles away. south-east of the reserve.

“If we were to put all our eggs in an area like Detroit and the auto industry, when the economy hides a cold, Michigan gets pneumonia,” said Nottawaseppi Tribe President Homer A. Mandoka. “You can’t diversify your economy if you don’t have funds or don’t have access to funds. And really, we weren’t able to do all of that, and most of the tribes aren’t, until one day you are granted that you can actually open a casino.

Therein lies the paradox. Ten years ago, the 120-acre Nottawaseppi reserve was dusty and unpaved, with half a dozen dilapidated houses – “three weren’t even habitable but they were inhabited,” Mr Mandoka said – and none interior plumbing. Now, because of the casino payments, it’s a village of about two dozen new houses on cul-de-sacs and it has cool, smooth streets, a cluster of government buildings that includes a Head Start Center and a large new powwow atrium. (Most members live off the reservation.)

Yet as grateful as tribes like the Potawatomi are for the casinos, they know it is a fickle business, subject to the health of the economy at large, the declining interest of young Americans and inclinations. federal and state policy makers. Due to the historical mistrust between Native Americans and the peoples who displaced them, they feel they need to be mindful of the prospect that their “rights” to open casinos could be taken away or reduced.

“I think they are worried less about declining profits and more about changes in law, policy or policy that could impact Indian gaming,” Ms. Rand said. “The tribes have known from the start that this is something that could change overnight. “

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