Opinion: Rise of the Eastern Cherokee middle class
"Our Cherokee tribe has seen substantive changes in our community as a result of the success of our gaming business. These changes can be seen as bricks and mortar in the form of a water treatment facility, better roads, improved infrastructure for new home construction and improved facilities for tribal programs to serve tribal members. We also have worked to accomplish a facelift for our community to enhance the tourism experience in Cherokee. These are all important changes.

There is one change which is not so obvious, but much more important. It is what I call the rise of a middle-class of Cherokee people. Our economic status prior to the rise of gaming was depressing. The unemployment rate was grim and our community was merely surviving. Full-time employment opportunities and an increase in economic power have given our people disposable income and we are using it to enhance our own appreciation of our community and its art.

Today, many in our community are fortunate to have employment at a wage that gives us a modicum of disposable income. That income has fueled a small industry of local arts targeting tribal members as their clientele. We understand the work it takes to produce Cherokee baskets, pottery and works of art which are world-renowned, and now we can afford to own them. Many of our artists have been recognized throughout the country for their work and now also can sell within our community."

Get the Story:
Gaming business has lifted tribe’s middle class (The Asheville Citizen-Times 12/7)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians - http://www.cherokee-nc.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, site 2 - http://www.nc-cherokee.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, unofficial - http://www.easternband.com

Related Stories:
Opinion: Violence against Native women rising (10/26)
Opinion: Native Americans define their destiny (9/28)
Opinion: Eastern Cherokees get youth moving (8/17)
Opinion: Misconceptions about American Indians (8/3)
Opinion: Cherokee citizenship more than just blood (07/20)
Opinion: Why Native Americans celebrate on July 4 (7/6)
Opinion: Eastern Band honors warrior tradition (5/25)
Opinion: Public prayer not meant to be offensive (4/27)
Opinion: Living in harmony with Mother Earth (4/13)