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What native American tribes have to do with casinos?

Published on November 1, 2014, 3:18 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Shakopee mdewakanton sioux community (Logo)
Shakopee mdewakanton sioux community (coat of arms)

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota tribe in Minnesota is one of the wealthiest tribal nations in the United States, thanks to its two thriving casinos. Court records indicate that each adult in the tribe earns $84,000 monthly, adding up to a handsome personal income over a million dollars per year. In 2012, the Shakopee tribe donated millions of dollars toward the welfare of other Native American tribes as well as six local governments. Life for the Dakota tribe was not always this prosperous, however; theirs is a rags to riches story.

Dakota Tribal History

The Shakopee tribe's bumpy road to success began 200 years ago. In spite of their current wealth, tribal members for the past two centuries saw more than their share of heartache, poverty, and despair. The story begins in 1805, when European settlers and U.S. soldiers barged in on the Native Americans and tried to take over their territory.

1800s: U.S. Soldiers Interfere

Prior to 1805, the Dakota were living peacefully and self-sufficiently in the territory of Minnesota. In 1805, U.S. soldiers descended upon the tribe in attempt to take over the land. For the next 50 years, the natives tried to cooperate, albeit unhappily, with the settlers who wanted to reform their land and their way of life.

1862: Peaceful Dakotas Finally Fight Back

In 1862, the natives could take it no more. They resorted to physical battle with the Americans in attempt to defend their land and their way of life. The U.S. government responded to the violence bybanishing tribal members from Minnesota. Most fled to Nebraska and South Dakota, but a few stayed on.

Taoyateduta (Little Crow) and Wamditanka (Big Eagle), both chiefs of the Mdewakanton Dakota Sioux
Taoyateduta (Little Crow) and Wamditanka (Big Eagle), both chiefs of the Mdewakanton Dakota Sioux

1890s: More Struggles for Those Who Stayed

In the 1890s, the U.S. government acknowledged the strong Dakota presence in Minnesota. Some land was reallocated to the tribe, but the living was still hard. For the next 100 years, the Dakota of Minnesota lived in poverty, struggling to get their needs met.

1969: Shakopee Federally Recognized as a Tribe

In 1969, the Shakopee were finally recognized by the U.S. federal government as a tribe. Federal support and funding gave them the seed money to develop economic and social infrastructures. This marked the beginning of improvement, although many individuals still struggled at this time.

1980s-1990s: Casinos Open, Prosperity Knocks

In the 1980s, prosperity finally knocked on the Shakopee's door. The tribe opened the Little Six Bingo Palace, their first endeavor in the gambling industry. In 1992, Mystic Lake Casino opened its doors, solidly paving the tribe's way to security and wealth. In 2007, the original Little Six Bingo Place was transformed into the Little Six Casino, an offshoot of Mystic Lake Casino. The success of these facilities cemented the Shakopee reservation's reputation as a thriving casino Mecca in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area.

2013: A Tribe of Millionaires

As of 2013, all adult members of the small Minnesota tribe are millionaires, their fortunes assured for years to come. The Shakopee story is a terrific example of how gambling facilities can stimulate economic growth and promote financial wellness in a previously impoverished area.

The Generosity of the Shakopee

In spite of its tumultuous past, much of which was caused by the interference of others, the Shakopee remains a compassionate and charitable tribe. Since 1996, they have loaned over $500 million to other tribes in need. In 2012, over $15 million in grants was donated to fellow tribesmen. In addition, the tribe gave $900,000 to help fund six local, non-tribal governments. This benevolence demonstrates the deeply instilled Shakopee value of sharing resources with others.

Mystic Lake Casino

Mystic Lake Casino is the Shakopee's largest gambling facility. It stands beside Mystic Lake, a man-made body of water in Prior Lake, Minn. Although the facility opened in 1992, it did not begin serving alcohol until 2012. Nevertheless, the casino has enjoyed great success, as evidence by the extreme prosperity of the Shakopee.

Mystic Lake Hotel is adjoined to the casino and offers 17 floors of accommodations. Gamblers enjoy round-the-clock slots and blackjack and a 500-person bingo hall. Guests who need a break from gambling can take in a show at Mystic Lake's 2,100-seat venue, relax at the hotel spa, or work out in the fitness center. Eight restaurants of different styles and price ranges are available for patrons' dining pleasure. The hotel maintains a reputation for clean rooms and excellent service.

Mystic Lake Performances

Mystic Lake offers frequent music and comedy concerts that appeal to audiences of all ages. Upcoming features at the Mystic Lake Casino Showroom include legendary musicians Engelbert Humperdinck and B.B. King, classic rock bands Foreigner and Yes, comedienne Lisa Lampanelli, and comic singer "Weird Al" Yankovic. Free concerts are given every Saturday night on the Promenade Stage as well.

Little Six Casino

Little Six Casino, once titled Little Six Bingo Palace, is named after the Indian chief who led the Dakota uprising in 1862. This casino offers slots and blackjack just like its sister facility, Mystic Lake. Only one restaurant operates at Little Six, and patrons seeking entertainment are referred to the Mystic Lake Casino concert schedule.

Other Tribal Gaming in Minnesota

Native American tribes operate a total of 18 casinos in Minnesota. These casinos are managed by the Dakota, Ojibwe, and Chippewa tribes. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) estimates that tribal gambling has created over 40,000 jobs in the state, stimulating the economy and significantly reducing federal and state welfare expenditures read more about other native American casinos.

Indians of Minnesota
Indians of Minnesota

Most Reservations Still Struggling

Despite the high degree of wealth on the Dakota reservation, the Minnesota Gaming Association indicates that most Indian reservations in the U.S. suffer unacceptable rates of poverty. More improvements are needed before the "past 200 years can be offset," according to the association.

Internet Gambling: A Threat to Tribal Casinos

The recent growth of corporate casinos and Internet gambling in the U.S. is a cause for concern for natives on reservations with casinos.

Today, about 10 percent of all gambling revenue in the U.S. comes from Native American tribes. With the expansion of corporate gambling, especially cyber gambling, that percentage could shrink. For now, however, the Shakopee continue to thrive, and their financial generosity continues to be a benefit to others.


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