Skinwalker Visits Navajo Casino - SMSC 'Newsroom'
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – It is not usually a topic debated on the Navajo Nation Council floor, but be that as it may, rumors of a skinwalker visiting Fire Rock Casino should be discussed, Delegate Ervin Keeswood told Council and members of the Navajo Gaming Enterprise during the opening of winter session.
“Rumors are that you all had a visitor at the casino. As I understand it, it was the night time. A werewolf or witch-walker of some sort actually came into the establishment, to some degree. There were witnesses and somebody fainted – it would be interesting to hear that,” Keeswood told Navajo Gaming Enterprise CEO Robert Winter.
“Maybe I shouldn't be talking about it in the open, but I think the Council should be told about incidents like that because it does create an atmosphere that is not conducive to the patrons,” Keeswood said.
Shortly after the casino opened its doors in November 2008, about 4 o'clock in the morning, one of the employees, who Winter thought was a member of Housekeeping, “believes that she saw a witch or another spirit of some kind,” he said. There was some concern by employees and casino security was called to escort employees to their vehicles.
In a later interview, Winter said the report he got was that “the skinwalker was seen at the front of the casino by the entrance. If there were multiple sightings continually, we'd be concerned. We haven't had a reported incident since.
“It could have been a human being, for all I know, that was not well-dressed,” he said, jokingly, but on a serious note, added, “I don't scoff at these things. I've been blessed five times since I've been here – with good reason. Hopefully that's the last we will see of whatever was there.
“We have had a number of blessings of the casino in the interest of Navajo tradition. The most recent one was when lightning struck one of the lights, ran down the wire and came into the casino. We closed the casino for a half-day and had a Lightning Ceremony that's consistent with Navajo tradition.”
Despite the uninvited guest, Fire Rock thrived its first year and continues to advance in its profits, according to Winter.
Plans are to introduce a Navajo village special slot event that is culturally appropriate, enclose the patio and make it an all-weather area available for conferences, market weddings. and expand food and beverage activities.
“Every Tuesday will be lobster Tuesday,” Winter said. “It's been that way for the last couple weeks. We've had very, very good success with it.” They also have added Sunday brunch for families and recently had more than 400 seats occupied.
“We've had some complaints, including from members of Council, about the availability of the dance floor,” he added. We've remodeled that and there will be ability to do one-two, one-two.”
But the real news, Winter said, is they are working aggressively with the Investment Committee on completing term sheets for other gaming projects, including two small Class II casinos in Tse Daa Kaan (Hogback) and Chinle, each at a cost of about $4 million. Upper Fruitland also is progressing and should move very quickly once they resolve an issue with home sites, which he thought would be settled around the end of January.
Winter also had some good news regarding the Navajo flagship, Twin Arrows, a resort casino proposed near Flagstaff.
“I met with the Department of the Interior. We went to Washington and we applied for an Indian land determination. They have preliminarily told us that our application looks extremely good. It has basically no legal issues to it. If it proceeds as quick as we hope, it could be done in the next 60 to 90 days as a declaration of Indian land.”
Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is willing to fund the utilities for the projects and receive payment for that funding after the facilities are opened, Winter said.
“We have an MOU that we're about to sign with NTUA for the project in Twin Arrows. That hotel will be a green hotel.” The advantage is that Coconino County, where it will be built, is a green county, he said. “We are meeting with the county in about two weeks to go through our proposed project for Twin Arrows and we expect their support as well.”
One of the resort casino's big draws will be a European spa. “Our market study shows that there are significant foreign tourists that come through that area and we need to have that kind of a facility to attract them in an overnight capacity and a vacation capacity,” Winter said.
The one problem he foresees is getting the funding to complete everything as one project, rather than in phases. “It has a synergistic relationship,” he said.
The Gaming Enterprise also has submitted a term sheet to the Investment Committee with respect to the Pinta Road casino. Winter said there needs to be about $3.5 million of work on the interchange, but added, “We have the support of the Arizona Department of Transportation to complete that project.”
Shawn McCabe of the Gaming Enterprise board, said they have already invested roughly $2 million in pre-construction costs at Twin Arrows.
“It was determined that Twin Arrows, notwithstanding the other sites, would be the most profitable area that we could develop, “ he said, but “in order to do that, we need to bring the complete package to market, which would be the hotel, casino, spa, and possibly a signature golf course. Without the entire package, the numbers simply don't work.”
Leupp Delegate Leonard Chee said that in addition to the $2 million the Enterprise has invested, “the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission has already put up some money for the land acquisition. ... With that investment made, it's only logical to me that we invest in the most profitable location.”
Keeswood raised an issue related to financing. “The greatest thing would be to use Navajo money on all the projects. The problem that I'm seeing is we're charging ourselves too much interest. If it's Navajo money, we may want to look at that in a different view. Why do you take money out of one pocket and put it in another pocket and charge yourself interest? It doesn't make any sense to me.”
Winter reminded Council that timing is everything, especially in respect to Twin Arrows. “There's only room for one resort. If you don't build it first, and somebody else does, the ability to build the resort is gone. I don't think there's anybody that wants not to build the resort. It's a question of putting together the resources to do it.”
Shakopee Mdewakanton Website Unveils Newsroom Feature
by Tessa Lehto
Prior Lake, MN – To help members of the media obtain information for stories and other projects about the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a new feature on the Community’s website was recently unveiled. Information and photos of the SMSC are now more readily available in a new section called the “Newsroom.” The section is also designed to be useful for students, researchers, and the general public.
The Newsroom features Frequently Asked Questions with detailed answers to 25 questions commonly asked about the SMSC. Topics covered include history, the reservation, tribal government, tribal sovereignty, land issues, infrastructure, good neighbor, charitable giving, and economic impact. A detailed Tribal History is also available.
Photo galleries with downloadable high resolution photographs of Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, Koda Energy, Playworks, the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, Dakotah Meadows, and the Water Reclamation Facility can also be found within the Newsroom. More information and photo galleries of the Wind Turbine and Koda Energy are also available on the homepage.
Press releases dating back to August 2009 are also in the Newsroom. Older press releases, dating back to January 2004, can be found elsewhere within the website.
Special events will be covered in the Newsroom. The Fortieth Anniversary Celebration of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is in this section, with plans to add future coverage of events such as Young Native Pride, the Annual Wacipi (Pow Wow), the Wellness Conference, and the dance exhibition at the Mall of America.
Contact information for media inquiries and a place to subscribe to receive press releases is also located in the Newsroom. More information will be added in the coming months, so members of the media and the general public are encouraged to visit the site periodically for updates.
The SMSC also recently added a search feature to the website, making it easier to find information. The SMSC website offers an interactive map of the reservation, video clips, news clips, reports, press releases, contact information for the various departments, links to enterprises, and more.
For more information, go to www.shakopeedakota.org.
The Newsroom is located at www.shakopeedakota.org/newsroom.
Press releases prior to August 2009 can be found at:
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