More than 200 Native American tribes gambled on casinos over the last decade, and won… gaming has brought them tourists and economic success. Now those tribes are looking to expand and diversify their wealth, and one of the latest examples of new tribal investment is located in Washington, D.C.
By Susan Logue , VoA News
Washington DC – March 15, 2005 – The newest Marriott Residence Inn in the nation’s capital is the result of a partnership between the hotel chain and four American Indian tribes – the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
“This hotel is going to be what sustains our way of life for years to come,” says Deron Marquez, chairman of California’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. “Diversification is the key to our success as tribal people. And I can’t say it any more: Gaming will go away. It will come to an end, either entirely or partially.”
The new hotel is in a prime location – located just five blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and less than three blocks from the new National Museum of the American Indian, . It marks is the first major business venture by American Indians off reservation lands, and the first tribal partnership not associated with gambling. But each of the tribes belonging to the Four Fires economic partnership has profited from gaming.
As Rick Hill, of the Oneida Nation, observes, if they didn’t have successful casinos on their reservations, the tribes would not have had the money to invest with Marriott. “Gaming did bring a new reality and a new energy and a new spirit to our communities,” says the former director of National Indian Gaming Association, “in terms of people being more proud of who and what they are, what they can do, what they can accomplish. It also afforded them opportunities, having the dollars, and the revenues.”
Rick Mr. Hill now heads his own investment company, which brought the four tribes, including his own, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, together for the new partnership, called Four Fires. Mr. Hill All of the tribal partners share a belief that they need to look beyond gaming casinos as a way to provide for their people.
“Philosophically we look at things as seven generations out,” says Rick Hill. “We need to make sure that we plant the proper seeds economically to assure that we have health care, housing, adequate land, business opportunities, more professionals in diversified areas, (and) education.”
The profits the tribes hope to reap from their new hotel in Washington can help provide those things, Mr. Hill says. It will also help serve the many Native Americans who visit Washington, not only to see the new museum, but he says to do business here as they always have.
“For generations our people have been coming to Washington, D.C.,” says Rick Hill. “In the old days they walked here. They rode on horseback here. They went on trains here. Over time, Indians have spent millions and millions of dollars traveling here, and they’d come back home and say, ‘We need an Indian hotel here.'”
The success of the new Marriott Residence Inn in Washington, which began taking guests in January, has created interest among other Indian nations. Rick Hill says several have already approached him about getting involved in similar investment opportunities. Three tribes are already working with Marriott on another project in Sacramento, California.
Credit: This article originally appeared on the Voice of America web site at http://voanews.com and was broadcast on VoA radio