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NPR: New leader of Seneca Nation seeks to diversify tribal economy

"Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he's "actively" considering legalizing gambling in the state to raise revenue. That would create competition for casinos owned by New York's native nations. Casino and tobacco sales have turned the Seneca nation, south of Buffalo, from an impoverished territory to the fifth-largest employer in the region. But the nation's new president, Robert Odawi Porter, wants the Senecas to go beyond smoke shops and slot machines. Porter, a Harvard-educated lawyer and academic, wants to recast one of the darkest moments of the Seneca people into an economic boon.

In Allegany, one of the Senecas' two territories in southwestern New York state, there's an area where a paved road turns to dirt and disappears into the woods. The road is blocked off with concrete slabs. A quarter mile down is an abandoned bridge.

"Old Red House Bridge — that went through the community of Red House," says Leslie Logan, spokeswoman for the Seneca nation. "Nobody lives down there. It's a bridge that goes to nowhere essentially."

Sixty years ago, the road meandered past thriving communities, with Seneca homes along the Allegheny River, hunting and fishing grounds, cemeteries, churches, schools."

Get the Story:
Seneca Nation's New Chief Seeks To 'Change Course' (NPR 8/18)

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