"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Casinos as a population engine

For a number of Indian tribes around the country, casinos have been a major economic boon. (Thinking here about the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes at the Fort Hall reservation, where a casino has been a centerpiece for an economic boon that includes a major meeting and tourist center just for which ground has just been broken.)

Less obvious: The casinos have been drawing tribal members who have moved to other locations, back to the reservation.

The Seattle Times, parsing 2010 census figures, has a useful piece on this today. The numbers of tribal members in Washington (that is, members of tribes whose reservations are located in Washington) are not massively large – 61,582, scattered among 29 tribes. (The Yakama and Colville reservations account for about a third; the Stillaguamish, with 200 people, are the smallest.) But it makes some difference as a matter of clout whether the people are scattered or in a close physical location; concentration generates influence.

Now, the Times reports, the Suquamish Tribe, which had slight population and few resources of any sort 40 years ago, employs 1,200 people – even more than the tribe’s population. It notes, “At Suquamish, the count of Indian people living on the reservation is up 47 percent over the 2000 census. So many have returned home to Suquamish, or chosen to stay there, that tribal housing is in chronic short supply.”

In the case of many well-managed tribes, the casinos have been only the engine of a larger economic redevelopment. And the spinoff effects of that may be only starting to come into view.

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