Adapting — The Native American Way

Native Americans are an adapting people. This was true before Europeans came to this continent and it is true today. Centuries ago, inherent in the less permanent/more nomadic lifestyle of many Native American tribes was the ability to adapt to nature. In this way, energies were efficiently focused on moving to where resources shifted e.g., either away from inclement weather and/or toward more plentiful sources of food.

Native American Solutions to Native American Struggles

Today, faced with a myriad of difficulties in their community, Native Americans have had successes in efforts to adapt. For example, in Minneapolis, during Gordon Thayer’s leadership, the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC) in conjunction with the American Indian Chemical Task Force, built Anishinabe Wakiagun (”The People’s Home”) that provides housing to about 450 chronic Native American alcoholics. While not a treatment program, the stable life provided to the residents has greatly reduced the number of visits to the Detoxification Center, from an average of 18 days per year per person to less than three per year. — Indians In Minnesota, 2006, p. 253

In addition, Native Americans have instituted culturally sensitive addiction treatment centers. Such Native-led treatment programs, like Overcomers Ministries’ First Nations Recovery Center, experience success rates of 71 percent, compared to success rates of 54 percent among non-Native programs. —Ibid. pp. 250-251

Also, while government funded health care for Native Americans has failed to keep up with the needs, Native Americans tribes have begun to provide healthcare to their community in more culturally sensitive ways. In this way, tribe-influenced health care delivery has shown results in treating diabetes and related programs to improve nutrition and exercise.—Ibid. p. 267

Progress In Indian Country

Native Americans in Minnesota have made progress in recent years despite their historical “underdog” status within the dominant culture. For example, Tribal Gaming and Tourism have increased the standard of living for many Minnesota Tribes and at the same time have decreased welfare costs among Native Americans. Currently, eleven Minnesota tribes operate 18 casinos within Minnesota.
(From the 2006 City Business ‘Book of Lists’)

Tribal Gaming and Tourism
In Minnesota, tribal gaming and tourism rank second only to the Mall of America in generating tourist dollars. In 2000, almost 21 million customers visited tribal gaming and tourism businesses. Of these customers, 17%, (over 3.5 million) were from other states and spent almost $190 million on gas, food, lodging and other purchases both on and off the reservation.

A Top State Employer
In 2006, all Minnesota casinos combined were the 12th largest employer in Minnesota (12,900 employees), just below the 3M Company*. In comparison, in 1989, just before the large gaming expansion, 750 people were employed in Indian gaming.**

As of 2005/2006, 27% of casino employees are Indian; 73% are non-Indian.**
(*From the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce)
(** Indians in Minnesota—2006)

Economic Benefits of Indian Gaming

The average full-time tribal casino job cost about $40,000 including about $22,000 in take-home pay and $8,500 in employment taxes.
(Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce, Web site, 2009)

Tribal Gaming Donations and Government Assistance

Tribes with casinos contribute about $1.5 million per year to support off-reservation programs for Indians including health care, chemical dependency treatment, job training and placement, and emergency assistance.*

In addition to tribal donations to off-reservation Indian programs, tribal gaming has decreased the burden on state and county public assistance programs by providing employment for rural communities.

For example, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) payments have gone down almost 18% in counties with casinos**, and statewide there was a 58% decrease in Indians receiving general assistance.***
(*Minnesota Gaming Association, Web site, July 2004)
(**Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce, Web site, 2009)
(*** Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, Marquette Advisors, 2002)