Our roundup reflects only a fraction of the successes achieved across Indian Country in 2019.
The end of a year invites the opportunity to commemorate successes and to acknowledge progress. And 2019 has yielded many noteworthy successes for Tribes and Native entrepreneurs.
In “The Greatest Success Stories of 2019,” we highlight legal victories that uphold Tribal sovereignty, we celebrate milestones in Tribal healthcare and education, we recognize progress in energy development on Tribal lands, we honor powerful partnerships between Tribes and National Football League franchises, we recount the numerous Tribal casinos that debuted sportsbooks this year, and we shine a light on Nooksack artist and entrepreneur Louie Gong, who sold his Seattle-based business Eighth Generation to the Snoqualmie Tribe.
Our highlight list reflects only a fraction of the success achieved across Indian Country in 2019. Fortunately NativeBusinessMag.com and the Native Business App record every significant stride in business in Indian Country, and we often take stock of the little wins along the way.
Before we turn the page to a new decade, let’s herald how far Indian Country has come in 2019….
Three of the Greatest Legal Victories of 2019
Native Business recently highlighted three noteworthy legal victories of 2019 that uphold Tribal sovereignty and set a precedent for the future.
- In a highly anticipated and long-awaited ruling handed down on July 3rd, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed that two companies owned by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians are indeed legitimate arms of the Tribe. As such, they are entitled to Tribal sovereign immunity. “The decision provides welcome clarity to the standards used to evaluate Tribal economic instrumentalities,” said LVD Chairman James Williams, Jr.
- On March 19, 2019, a six-year stand-off between a Yakama member-owned gas station and the Washington Department of Licensing came to an end. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold a Washington State court ruling. Cougar Den is exempt from paying tax on fuel it transports on public highways in Washington State under the Yakama Treaty of 1855.
- Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation on March 28, 2019, that ratifies the historic compact he signed in February with Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark Fox to change how the state and Tribe share tax revenue from new oil and gas activity on trust and fee lands. Under the ratified compact, the former 50-50 tax revenue split changed, so that the Tribe now receives 80 percent of the production and extraction tax revenue from new wells on Tribal trust lands, and the state receives 20 percent of the revenue. On fee land, 80 percent of the revenue goes to the state, and 20 percent to the Tribe.
Read the full article 3 of the Greatest Legal Victories of 2019.
Go Big & Go Home: Cherokee Nation Is Leading the Way in World-Class Healthcare
The Cherokee Nation is blazing new trails forward in healthcare with two leading-edge “firsts” for Indian Country and the United States.
“Our mission is excellence in healthcare and to do that you need the right infrastructure and people in place. These two historic, groundbreaking events — the opening of our largest-in-the-country healthcare facility for Native Americans and the first medical school in Indian Country — both speak to those two elements of excellence in healthcare,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. told Native Business.
On November 14, Cherokee Nation opened the doors to its 469,000-square-foot outpatient health facility, which counts 30 departments under one roof.
The Nation achieved yet another breakthrough for Tribal healthcare in 2019 with the May 20 groundbreaking on the very first medical school in Indian Country. The college at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, created through a partnership with Oklahoma State University (OSU), is scheduled to open with up to 50 students in 2020. It’s anticipated to serve 200 students when it becomes fully operational.
“A challenge I think the entire country faces, though particularly Indian Country, is recruiting and retaining the best and brightest healthcare professionals, most notably doctors,” Chief Hoskin told Native Business. “This is going to mean a pipeline of doctors — that is presently insufficient — will increase. In the years ahead and in the generation ahead, we will be in a better position to staff these facilities with doctors.”
Read the full article Go Big & Go Home: Cherokee Nation Is Leading the Way in World-Class Healthcare.
Golden Opportunity: Tribes Turn to the Sun to Create a New Energy Economy
Dozens of new solar projects are sprouting up on Native lands across the U.S. as Tribes seek new ways to grow and diversify their economies in sustainable ways that advance sovereignty and power their governments and businesses.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that there are around 61 gigawatts of solar potential on Tribal lands representing approximately $70 billion in investment.
Native Business spotlights several of the most ambitious solar initiatives taking root in Indian Country:
- While oil and gas has been the backbone of the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s economy, the Tribe announced in 2019 that it is moving forward with a $220 million solar initiative through a partnership with the City of Albuquerque and utility provider, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM).
- The Moapa Band of Paiutes paved the pathway for Tribal utility-scale solar with a 250 MW installation that supplies power directly to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The Tribe has even secured a prominent customer: NV Energy Inc., the utility owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
- The current Navajo Nation Administration is following through on its “Navajo Háyoołkááł (Sunrise) Proclamation,” a commitment to pursue and prioritize renewable energy development for the long-term benefit of the Navajo people.
- In May, the Spokane Tribe of Indians brought together Tribal leaders and project partners to celebrate the Children of the Sun Solar Initiative (COSSI) — boasting 650 kilowatts of solar capacity, and eventually, battery storage.
- The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) named its new array Ántukš-Tińqapapt, meaning “sun trap.” Ántukš (on-took-sh) comes from the Umatilla Language and Tińqapapt (tin-cop-popped) is Cayuse.
Read the full article Golden Opportunity: Tribes Turn to the Sun to Create a New Energy Economy.
Multiple Tribal Casinos Nationwide Partnered With NFL Teams in 2019
Since the Cowboys and WinStar World Casino blazed the trail forward with a partnership in 2018, many more Tribally owned casinos and NFL teams have followed suit, inking mutually beneficial partnerships.
Among the most notable two-way agreements of 2019 include: Green Bay Packers + Oneida Casino, Las Vegas Raiders + San Manuel Casino, San Francisco 49ers + Cache Creek Casino Resort, Arizona Cardinals + Gila River Hotels & Casinos, Buffalo Bills + Seneca Resorts & Casinos, Carolina Panthers + Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos, Seattle Seahawks + Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers + Pechanga Resort Casino.
Read the full article Multiple Tribal Casinos Nationwide Partnered With NFL Teams in 2019.
Tribal Casinos Enter the Lucrative Sports Betting Market
Several Tribal casinos across the nation debuted sportsbooks in 2019. While the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians lead the way, becoming the first Tribal casino to offer sports betting outside of Nevada, at its Pearl River Resort Casino on August 30, 2018, numerous Tribes have followed in its wake.
Among the Tribal casinos that launched sportsbooks in 2019 are:
- The Pueblo of Pojoaque-owned Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort in Santa Fe launched Thunder Race Book in March.
- The Mescalero Apache Tribe tapped the U.S. arm of William Hill to launch The Sportsbook at the Inn in July 2019, ahead of the NFL season.
- The Oneida Indian Nation launched three sportsbooks this year through a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. After debuting The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Turning Stone Resort Casino and Point Place Casino in New York on August 1, the Tribe opened its third sportsbook and the largest sportsbook in the state at nearly 9,000-square feet: The Lounge with Caesars Sports at Yellow Brick Road Casino.
- On August 27th, Chinook Winds Casino Sports Wagering Lounge became Oregon’s first sportsbook.
- Route 66 Casino Hotel, owned by the Pueblo of Laguna and Laguna Development Corporation, started full-service sports betting at The Book in September.
- On October 1st, Saracen Casino Annex, a smaller version of the Quapaw Nation’s forthcoming $350 million Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, started taking wagers.
- In November, the Sports Book at Isleta Resort & Casino opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- The Unibet Sportsbook at Mohegan Sun Pocono soft-launched in September, becoming the 11th Pennsylvania retail sportsbook to open. In December, the casino launched online sports betting across Pennsylvania, accessible on mobile apps found at pa.unibet.com and on mohegansunpocono.com.
- Sports betting debuted at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino on December 13th, when Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. put down $40 for the Buffalo Bills to beat the Steelers. The Seneca Nation introduced sports wagering at its Niagara Falls and Salamanca casinos in New York on Friday, December 27th.
Read the full article Tribal Casinos Enter the Lucrative Sports Betting Market.
Eighth Generation Sells to Snoqualmie Tribe in Unprecedented Business Move
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe’s purchase of Eighth Generation will elevate the business from “an iconic Native American brand to an iconic American brand,” said Louie Gong, the acclaimed Nooksack artist and entrepreneur who founded Seattle-based Eighth Generation.
The Tribe finalized the acquisition on November 8, and announced the purchase at an event with Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee and Tribal representatives at Eighth Generation’s flagship store in Pike Place Market on Monday, November 25, the week of Thanksgiving. The price tag was not disclosed — though Gong acknowledged that the deal is unprecedented for a Native art entrepreneur.
With the change in ownership, Gong remains committed to Eighth Generation for the long haul. “I have a multi-year commitment to act as CEO of Eighth Generation,” he told Native Business.
The purchase not only creates opportunity for Eighth Generation to expand its distribution, market penetration and visibility, it also empowers the Snoqualmie Tribe’s commitment to protect its culture and promote Indigenous artists. “This is another values-driven investment for the Snoqualmie Tribe,” said the Tribe’s Chairman Robert de los Angeles.
Read the full article Eighth Generation Sells to Snoqualmie Tribe in Unprecedented Business Move.