News From Indian Country newspaper ran an article about the amazing success that three tribes in particular have created in central Washington.
The paper reported that “American Indian tribes from throughout the Puget Sound area . . . find ample reasons to celebrate in South Sound, which is home to three growing tribes: the Squaxin Island Tribe of Mason County, . . . and two Thurston County tribes, the Nisqually and the Chehalis.”
The article states that all three tribes have transformed themselves from poverty conditions by emphasizing long-term economic development goals – propelled by casino operations and other business interests. The tribes are now among the largest employers of tribal citizens and non-citizens in the two counties.
And more growth is on the way. The paper lists these examples:
–The Squaxin Island Tribe will open the Salish Cliffs 18-hole golf course.
–The Nisqually Tribe is to begin work on a $20 million, 300-bed correctional facility limited to low-risk offenders that will create 90 to 100 jobs. It is being financed with grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and a 40-year loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tribe will receive revenue from other jurisdictions in the region for housing their inmates, Tribal Planning Director Joe Cushman said.
–The Chehalis Confederated Tribes have started expansion work on the Eagles Landing Hotel and plans to add 90 rooms.
Thurston County Economic Development Council Executive Director Michael Cade said that no matter how you view the tribal operations, the three tribes play a significant role in the area’s economy.
The paper notes that the economic development these tribes are experiencing is a far cry from where they started.
Squaxin Island Tribal Administrator Don Whitener remembers his tribe’s humble beginnings, when the tribe’s annual budget was no more than $350. Whitener, born in Shelton in 1941, grew up in Kamilche – the tribe’s base of operations – in a house with no running water and an outhouse, he said.
Today, based on earnings from its Island Enterprises division, a collection of businesses that includes the Kamilche Trading Post, Skookum Creek Tobacco and Salish Seafoods, the tribe can provide a monthly stipend to tribal elders, and tribal citizens receive three payments a year based on earnings from the casino.