Indian reservations can receive important economic boosts when gaming is permitted, according to the director of the Native American Institute in the Center for Urban Affairs at Michigan State University.
George L. Cornell said Wednesday the money from gaming would help increase the quality of life and put Indians to work."Gaming has really been a shot in the arm for our communities (in Michigan)," he said. The money gained helps support tribal organizations and services.
Speaking as part of Indian Awareness Week at the University of Utah, Cornell said the economic development of tribal economies is a pressing issue. A large portion of the Indian population lives below the poverty level because most reservations are underdeveloped, he said.
"We can't rely on others to provide the economy for Indian reservations," Cornell said, directing his comments to other Indians. "Why don't we just do it ourselves?"
Cornell said there are "golden opportunities" on reservations to create new types of businesses. Unlike many other businesses, Indians can do business with an "environmental conscience."
The Chippewa Tribe member told the audience that it is the responsibility of the Indian people to correct the stereotypes and misconceptions about Indians. "You can't rely on others to change the misconceptions for you."
One of the misconceptions Cornell said he has heard often is that Indians are a drain on the economy. He said a research study was conducted in Michigan that proved just the opposite.
The study researched two tribal economies, including the budgets and spending patterns. Of the nearly $11 million in federal funds allocated for the Indians in one county, $8 million was spent there. Such spending patterns supported 1,200 non-Indian jobs in addition to 460 Indian jobs, he said.
"People there began to pay attention," Cornell said.
Cornell also emphasized the importance of education. One of the biggest problems Indians face in Michigan is that many are not graduating from high school. Job opportunities for the uneducated are diminishing, he said. "The only salvation in society is education."