Native American Incomes On The Rise!
Although tribes with gambling operations had generally higher incomes and lower unemployment, gaming did not enter as the significant factor in economic gains that researchers had expected it would.
The study comparing data from 1990 and 2000 showed income and education increased, housing improved and poverty and unemployment decreased. Arizona tribes shared in the gains which paved the path to independence, local Native leaders said.
“Once tribes establish control of their own destiny, they have a real say in their own future,” said Jacob Moore, special assistant on congressional and legislative affairs for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
“Today we have young people who believe they can become doctors or engineers which 10 years ago, they might not have considered.”
“Gaming brought money to reservations, but gains were seen even in non-gaming tribes,” asserted Joseph Kalt, an economics professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-author of the report. “That was the most remarkable thing we found.” Kalt attributes the successes to tribal self-governance, which grew substantially in the 1990s. Also, there was game revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes in many states.
Gary Bohnee, head of PR for the Gila River Community, which has three casinos, stated that gaming money and self- governance are both important. The resources from gaming has allowed us to create departments and put professional people in place. The community now runs its own police department, health care system roads and other programs.
Between 1990 and 200: Per capita income adjusted for inflation on reservations grew more than 30 percent; Indian family poverty rates dropped 7 percentage in non-gaming areas and 10 percent in gaming areas; Unemployment rates dropped 2.5 percent in non-gaming areas and 5 percent in gaming areas; Housing overcrowding decreased and the percentage people living of homes with plumbing increased; Proportion of reservation adults with only a ninth grade education declined substantially and the proportion of those with a college degree rose substantially.
Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians said only a small number of tribes count gambling as a major source of revenue. She and Kalt believe the improvements are best explained by increased tribal self-government.
The report cautions in spite of the decrease in the poverty level for Indians, there are still substantial gaps in incomes between Native Americans and the rest of the U.S. population.
This story has been edited for content and length from articles by Judy Nichols, The Arizona Republic and Jay Lindsay, AP.
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