Indian Gaming Helping to Transform Lives Through Education

A graduation ceremony at the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. 

One of the benefits that tribal governmental gaming has brought to Indian country is the ability to support our young people as they pursue educational opportunities that would have been financially out of reach for most in the preceding generations. Gaming has allowed tribes to help students pay for tuition, books, room and board and other costs related to their education. Tribes are now able to provide the same assistance that many states have been providing for years to their state citizens.

Recently, I attended a beautiful educational event at the Susanville Rancheria in California. Teachers from surrounding area districts, parents, tribal leaders and students celebrated the tremendous strides their community is making in educational accomplishments.

While the audience was made up of a diverse age group, the very young ones were so impressive and excited. I could see their eagerness to receive praise and to be recognized for the hard work that they put in throughout this school year. It is a great honor to be a part of such a meaningful and heartfelt event. The acknowledgment that these children received from their tribal government and school officials means so much to them and instills the value of education for generations to come.

It is so important for tribal governments to continue to keep the children focused on their education. It is one of the ongoing challenges of tribal governance that is a welcomed opportunity. With this new opportunity we need to strive to improve achievement rates and education readiness gaps that prepare our future professionals for a life without poverty and with the ability to provide for themselves and their families.

When we look back on the last 30 years of Indian gaming, we see an era in the first 20 years when consultants and management companies were sometimes necessary to assist in the successful launch of Indian gaming. Through the years this has changed, and now, thanks to the many resources and dedicated educational professionals in Indian country, we see increases in the number of native professionals and experts in the Indian gaming industry. It is for achievements like this that we need to keep the excitement and importance of education in front of our children from birth through the cycle of life.

Indian gaming provides numerous possibilities for all levels of employment. Indian people can consider careers in all aspects of Indian gaming operations and tribal administration. We still work with outside professionals but for the most part Indian country’s tribal membership are now the experts, and while we continue to work hard with the communities around us, our goal has to be in continuing to educate our young because they are our future professionals. The Indian gaming world offers positions with good, living wages and comparable benefit packages. Our students must be prepared for the additional rigors that are required when working in this industry. They include extensive background checks, historical credit management and educational accomplishments that embody sound ethical practices and personal integrity as it is imperative that Indian gaming continue to operate with fairness and honesty for the benefit of tribal governance.

I will always remember those children’s faces from the Susanville Rancheria. The excitement, the energy and the brilliant young smiles of those kids as they received their certificates of recognition will be forever in my heart. These kids are our future leaders in Indian country. They will be chairpersons, managers, police officers, policy analysts, teachers, scientists, engineers and the like. They will lead our nations and continue to build on the governance framework and processes that our current leadership has put in place. They will continue to protect our unique political standing as sovereign governments and our unique cultural traditions and practices.