Monteau: Keeping money in Indian Country
"Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl Artman, Mashantucket Chairman Michael Thomas, Seminole Chairman Mitchell Cypress and other United South and Eastern Tribes recently announced a new economic development initiative that would link land rich, cash poor tribes with wealthy gaming tribes. The purpose is to stimulate purchasing by the wealthy tribes from these partner tribes.

The National Tribal Development Association, which developed the ''Join the Circle'' tribal economic development and diversification model several years ago, is extremely pleased that someone has been listening and another piece of the model is coming together. NTDA is an association of 49 tribes and is dedicated to creating and stimulating intertribal trade and commerce. The NTDA model is based on a partnership between wealthy tribes, non-gaming or ''marginal'' gaming tribes, private investors, current gaming vendors and service providers and, in some cases, elements of the federal government. It would establish collective marketing capability for existing tribal and Indian businesses, and more importantly, create and enhance incentives to bring distribution points, manufacturing, assembly, fabrication and importation points to Indian country.

It is estimated that the Indian gaming industry and tribal governments associated with Indian gaming spend some $15 billion a year on goods and services. Less than 1 percent of this spending is estimated to go to Indian, tribal or Native majority-owned companies and firms. The bulk of this $15 billion goes to non-Indian casino supply vendors, gaming device companies, Class II systems companies, architectural and engineering companies, et cetera. I'm sure the list goes on and on. Everybody is making money, except Indian, tribal and Native-owned companies, that is.

Some challenge the $15 billion figure I use and, actually, neither I nor anyone else knows what the true figure is. I would love someone to prove the figure wrong either by a true polling of the tribes, or by scientific or investigatory methods. However, even if it turned out to be a lesser figure, the same principles would apply.

The National Indian Gaming Association has a self-imposed goal of having its member tribes enforce Indian preference in hiring and contracting so that at least 10 percent of what they purchase in goods and services comes from Indian country sources or Indian and Native majority-owned companies. Too bad the non-Indian vendors, companies and firms have not been willing to do the same thing. Tribes should demand that these companies not only hire Indians but they should be sub-contracting with Indian and Native companies. They should be partnering with tribes or Native and Indian-owned companies to produce, assemble, distribute and deliver the goods and services our tribes and our Indian gaming industry consumes. Without the full cooperation and participation of these non-Indian companies and firms, even NIGA's ''modest'' goal of 10 percent will not be reached. "

Get the Story:
Harold Monteau: Prosperity through collective marketing, not exploitation (indian Country Today 2/22)

Relevant Links:
National Tribal Development Association - http://www.ntda.info