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Monday, April 15, 2024

Native Tribes Herd’The New Buffalo’Into 2005

By Bobbie Hart O’NeillSpecial to CSMS NEWSAfter being stuck on the sidelines for decades, Arizona’s tribes have become major players in the state’s economy.  Native American communities are becoming formidable competitors for tourist dollars and development projects. Their growing clout comes from doing what any other sound investor with money would do: Take advantage of their location and diversify, putting casino gambling profits – THE NEW BUFFALO – into other enterprises, and they are balancing on the bison’s back. The Gila Indian Community recently landed Rawhide, the Old West Restaurant and cow town attraction that’s leaving Scottsdale.The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, which has been the high-profile sponsorship of the Fiesta Bowl Parade, has a hotel, conference center and RV park under construction. They created a buzz around the community late last May when they evicted the “Out of Africa Wildlife Park” that had been on the reservation for 16 years to make way for the RV park.The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community has some large undisclosed projects in the works for the coming year. The Ak-Chin Indian Community is considering how to capitalize on the explosive growth in the neighboring town of Maricopa. I remember Maricopa from the 1950’s as a dusty cotton town – a place you passed through on the way back to Phoenix from Tucson.Tribal influence is also growing through charitable, as well as political, donations. Under the voter-approved terms of the tribes gaming compact, a share of casino profits must be contributed to local services that benefit the general public.The Salt River Pima-Maricopa community has given $737,500 to Mesa for public school improvements, and $250,000 to Tempe for archeological projects and Center for Habilitation programs. Gila River contributions have included $1 million to the Heard Museum.The Fort McDowell group recently added their names to the Maricopa Association of Governments, joining long-time Association members the Gila River and Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes.Jacob Moore, spokesperson for Salt River Pima-Maricopa group, was right on the mark when he explained “Previously. Tribes have been seeking a place at the table. From Salt River’s perspective, we’d like to help set the table.”Recently acquired water rights will give the Gila River community and the Tohono O’odham Nation enormous muscle for the future under the Arizona Water Settlement Act President Bush recently signed into law a few weeks ago. Most of the water will be used for restoring farmland left fallow for generations with some of it being leased to the area’s cities.It appears the Great Spirit and El Nino are combining their efforts right now to give Central Arizona and her Native tribes a fresh start for the New Year by filling the nine year drought stricken lakes and existing reservoirs.All of the state’s residents are grateful for the abundant rain and snowfall. If the winter visitors are unhappy with the lack of warm weather and sunshine this season, let them come by next summer when they can fill up on both, very quickly.Bobbie O’ Neill lives in Yuma, Arizona. She is our newest contributor. She is Indian and she heads NATIVE UNITY – A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian. She may be reached at: bobbieo@digitaldune.net

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