Christine Folsom and Ashlei Neufeld
Tribal gaming operations can positively impact communities by increasing the tribe’s ability to provide governmental programs and services while strengthening opportunities for economic development in other areas that may firmly set the tribe on the path to greater autonomy.
According to a 2013 National Indian Gaming Commission chart, 26 out of 449 total gaming operations made in excess of $250 million in revenues.1 Revenues from gaming may also be directed toward philanthropic giving. The National Tribal Judicial Center at The National Judicial College has been fortunate in receiving such gifts that have helped us continue our mission to enhance educational offerings to tribal court judges and personnel, improve justice in Indian Country, and increase understanding and respect between Tribal courts and U.S. courts.
While tribes aim to primarily support their citizens as well as government programs and services that directly benefit them, they also look outward to assist where there is a need. Gaming tribes in Washington assist tribal members and non-members throughout the state, extending a helping hand to build community centers, sustaining educational programs, and providing financial assistance to individuals in need.2 The Choctaw Nation is recognized for donating to domestic and international relief efforts.3 Some tribes, like the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community have donated money to other tribes to help them move forward.4 Arizona’s gaming tribes contributed $14.2 million to the state’s coffers in the last quarter of 2014.5 These are great gifts of goodwill and compassion that highlight the tribes’ generosity and their valuable place in this country.
Tribal courts also benefit greatly when supported by tribal revenues and the certainty of continued funding. The ability to build and sustain a justice system is a hallmark of a thriving sovereign government that is forward-thinking and concerned with protecting the rights of its citizens and fairly treating those who are doing business with the tribe. Gaming can open the doors to other revenue streams like retail operations, tourism, manufacturing, business support services, aerospace, construction and healthcare services to name a few of the endless possibilities. Hand-in-hand with this tremendous opportunity for financial growth and stability comes an obligation for tribal courts to be equipped to handle cases that arise out of these business relationships.
The goal of the NTJC is to create lifelong learners of our colleagues across Indian Country. We endeavor to raise the benchmark of education for tribal judges. We invite you to accept the challenge and attend a course at the NJC where you will develop new skills and increase your confidence at the side of colleagues and expert faculty.
Christine Folsom is the director of the NTJC and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.
Ashlei Neufeld is a program attorney with the NTJC.