Friday, August 31, 2007

A Means To An End?

If you listen to the discussions around the tribe as opposed to the media version, you will find that this is what we all want. I've heard folks in the tribe express dreams of developing and operating everything from restaurants, hair salons, to e-commerce ventures, alternative fuel ventures, and various other micro-enterprises and cottage industries. My personal interest is in a black box theatre, connected to a media production company. I even have a full business plan written out for both, complete with a five-year plan. However, all of these goals and dreams require venture capital. Many of the tribal members are not in the economic circumstances to receive business loans. Hence many of these dreams and goals might remain dreams and goals.

Now, if you consider the cooperative economic development models enacted by some immigrant groups, particularly those of Asian extraction, you see the blueprints of a way to make things happen. For example, I remember in Boston, ten families pooled their resources to obtain a place to live and eventually purchase a store front or eatery. When that business produced, the profits went toward obtaining more living quarters and starting more businesses, until all ten families had their piece of the pie. Of course, this model pre-dates the latter day Asian immigrants, and can be seen in the history of the early 20th century West Indian American communities in New York City, all the way back to the formation of the Free African Society in Philadelphia in the 1770’s by Absalom Jones.

If you follow the current trend of American business, you can see that the days of free enterprise are quickly fading in the wake of massive corporate mergers, hostile take-overs and small businesses going belly-up to franchise competition. It’s as if people form businesses these days for the express purpose of having them taken over by somebody bigger. So the question remains, how does a group raise capital in today’s economic system that will allow them economic self-sufficiency? Well, consider pre-Castro Cuba or your present day, independent countries of the Caribbean. The economy of these countries depends on the large-scale development and investments of corporations and conglomerates who come into these countries, build their businesses around the tourist trade and in exchange offer all kinds of opportunities for employment and well as infrastructural improvements (roads, buildings, law enforcement, etc.). The leaders of these nations are forced to make decisions that, in theory, should benefit the needs of their country... sadly, often tainted by greed and corruption, leading to revolution.

Following this same principle, a sovereign entity and it’s leadership in this territory is also forced to find a way to provide for the social and economic needs of their community. In the 1980s, gaming became the means for sovereign native nations and tribes to gain capital. What may seem to be a focus on a casino is our effort to cultivate resources and choices for very real and immediate needs. Many of our tribal members are have-nots living among the haves. A casino is not a way of life but is a boost/ jump-start with which we can offer education, occupational training, healthcare, provisions for our elders, housing, business opportunities. We can no longer give them the old way of life with the woods, clear waters, aquatic and wildlife rapidly disappearing, but we can give them a chance to succeed. As I look at the resources that have come to the Mashantucket Pequots, for example, where each member of the tribe receives an annual share in the profits totaling $150,000 - $250,000 (did I mention, each?); I could have my theatre space, and a little left over to start that pharmaceutical venture that one of my readers kindly suggested.

Now, let’s say that Governor Patrick decides against allowing a casino. We still have 5553 acres in Middleboro with-which we could build a resort, convention center and/or even a theme park, with land over to address the housing issues faced by many tribal members. While not bringing in the revenue that a casino would, it still would provide an economic development base of the tribe. More to come...

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