Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive July 2016 Show 1631 Native American Impact

Native American Impact

Oklahoma tribal nations are community partners helping to grow a strong economy through workforce, business and quality of life.
Native American Impact

Native American Impact

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association

The Chickasaw Nation

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The American Indian Center

Show Details

Show 1631: Native American Impact
Air Date: July 31, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, America’s history with its native people is often a difficult one, but it is a history where the final chapter is far from being written. Today, we’re going to explore what it means to be a native state, and we begin with the new found economic success of Oklahoma’s Indian nations.

Austin Moore: In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved the Tribal Gaming Compact and launched an arms race in casino construction. Today, 30 tribes in Oklahoma operate 124 gaming centers – none bigger than the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar Casino and Resort in Thackerville.

Bill Lance: Gaming is our pillar business. I mean, it really is. When we focus on a lot of energy and effort on gaming, and we do a great job at gaming. We provide a great, entertaining venue for our customers.

Austin: Bill Lance is the secretary of commerce for the Chickasaw Nation. This one tribe operates dozens of businesses around the state, including lodging, retail and medical facilities. And that is what you find across these tribal nations. Casinos are a big, shiny focal point of the native economy, but they support a broader system – one with tourism, gourmet foods, banking, construction and the everyday needs of life. All of this comes together for an annual native impact on Oklahoma’s economy north of $10 billion.

Lance: A lot of what we have learned in management, technology and etc., is transferable to a lot of other businesses. So it’s really opened up a lot of opportunities because of the expertise that we have in accounting, management, technology -- I could go on and on.

Austin: Expertise forged in a rapidly growing industry. A recent report sponsored by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association showed Oklahoma gaming garnered $4.2 billion in 2014, supporting more than 23,000 jobs. Nationally, tribal gaming revenues increased by 1.5 percent, but in parts of Oklahoma, the number was 7.5 percent. And nearly four out of every 10 visits to an Oklahoma casino started out of state.

Lance: That money flows into our state and benefits a lot of locally owned companies, and it really benefits all of Oklahoma. I mean, we are really focused on helping the state of Oklahoma, and we really have a preference on using Oklahoma-based companies.

Austin: A sentiment you hear echoed in southeast Oklahoma’s Choctaw tribe. Executive Director for Business Development T.R. Kanuch.

T.R. Kanuch: We really want to be community partners so not only does that financial returns, but it is something we call vision returns. So how can we put people to work? How can we better their quality of life?

Austin: Jobs – that’s where it all begins. So Kanuch focuses on impactful recruiting.

Kanuch: There’s plenty of $8 to $9 an hour jobs out there, but people can’t survive on that. We know we need to be in that higher, upper echelon. So anything we’re recruiting we’re looking for at least one and a half times minimum wage. So that’s that $11 to $12, maybe even $15 an hour job as a base starting point with some progression above that.

Austin: But companies need a ready workforce.

Kanuch: Is it welders, is it industrial workers, construction workers? Anything we can do to relocate and have a workforce that’s prepared to take those jobs is something that we want to do. Partnering with the institutions, OSU-Okmulgee, some of those organizations, uh, Kiamichi Vo-Tech, but then also our own career development organization really partners with all of our tribal members. If you have a skill set you want to go obtain, they’re willing to help you fund that. So whether it’s a CPA license all the way down to hairdressing, they’re going to be involved all throughout the process to get you certified.

Austin: Once again, the Chickasaw Nation’s Bill Lance.

Lance: We really want to partner with our employees and try to give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have unless really, that they worked for us. How do we help them achieve their goals that benefit us in the long-term? I mean, if we, if we’ve got a person that’s going back to school and like I mentioned, they want to be a school teacher, we’re gonna have a happier employee. They’re gonna work harder because they enjoy the direction in their life that they’re going. All that’s going to benefit the Chickasaw Nation.

Rob: Now, if you would like to learn more about the special relationship Oklahoma has with its Indian nations, I have several more stories streaming on our website, including my conversation with elder statesman and Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

Bill Anoatubby: We have our own tribal identity and we hang onto that identity. It’s part of us, but we’re also part of Oklahoma.

Rob: And a little later in our show, we have the story of the Oklahoman who’s broken down racial stereotypes, one laugh at a time.

[Excerpt from Seinfeld TV Show: You mean like an Indian giver? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that term. (Laughter)].

Rob: But when we return, a program that helps native and non-native businesses alike benefit from Oklahoma’s Indian heritage.