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Here is a round up of business news from around Indian Country.



• The Gila River Indian Community broke ground this month on its new $150 million Santan Mountain casino, which will rise on a 160-acre site south of Chandler, Ariz. The facility, the tribe’s fourth in the Phoenix area, will feature 850 slot machines, plus table games and a BetMGM-branded retail sportsbook and lounge. The tribe expects the build-out to take 18-24 months. Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said the project will help the tribe recover from the economic hardships it has endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report in The Arizona Republic. The tribe also is in the process of building a major $143 million expansion at its Wild Horse Pass casino, a project that will add an 11-story tower with 205 guest rooms, as well as 18,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. 


Higher education

• The American Indian Graduate Center, based in Albuquerque, N.M., is accepting applications for the Miller Indigenous Economic Development Fellowship through Nov. 19. The program was created in recognition of the underrepresentation of Native researchers in economics and economic development. The fellowship is targeted for doctoral candidates in the data collection or analysis phase whose work centers on economics and economic development related to Native communities, according to the center. The fellow must be enrolled in an accredited nonprofit college or university and can use the funds for a range of eligible activities associated with the cost of data collection and analysis. For more information and to apply, visit the American Indian Graduate Center website

• Chauma Kee-Jansen, who is Navajo and an enrolled member of the Assiniboine-Sioux Tribe of Fort Peck Montana, was named executive director of American Indian Services, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based nonprofit scholarship organization. Raised in Kamas, Utah, Kee-Jansen was the recipient of a scholarship from American Indian Services. Kee-Jansen earned an associate degree in science from Utah Valley University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s in public administration from Brigham Young University. She formerly served as the human resources manager of the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake. “I’m excited to take on the challenge of being American Indian Services Executive Director and look forward to moving the mission of the organization forward and help fulfill the vision this organization was created for,” Kee-Jansen said in a statement. 


Economic development

• The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation became the 12th federally recognized American Indian tribe to partner with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to offer its citizens an Enhanced Tribal Card. Members can use the card for cross-border land travel and at seaports of entry when arriving from a contiguous territory, according to a statement from the CBP. The tribe worked closely with the agency to develop the secure, tamper-resistant card, which is modeled after the passport card and enhanced driver’s license. Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all federally recognized tribes can work with the federal agency to develop an Enhanced Tribal Card.


Real estate

• The Nez Perce Tribe has purchased a 358-acre parcel along Highway 95 adjacent to its Clearwater River Casino & Lodge in Lewiston, Idaho, according to a statement. The land is currently used for a mix of agricultural, range and development uses. The tribe has yet to formalize plans for the site, but said a portion of the land will be used to upgrade a highway interchange near the casino, an 18-month project that’s expected to begin in spring, according to a report in the Lewiston Tribune. The tribe also received a $19.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the interchange project. “The completion of this purchase will allow us to continue moving forward in our economic growth and provide opportunities for possible future development that will complement our existing enterprises,” Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penney said in a statement. 

• The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’s sacred Kituwah Mound site on 307 acres in Swain County, North Carolina, was taken into trust for the benefit of the tribe by the U.S. government. The sacred and historic area, known as Kituwah Mound or “Mother Town of the Cherokee,” has at least 15 burials. Archaeologists believe the Cherokee people have used the land for 10,000 years, according to a statement. The tribe lost the property in an 1823 treaty and repurchased it in 1996. “We have persevered for centuries through hardship and fought to perpetuate our lives, language, and culture,” EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement. “Taking this land into trust will ensure this most sacred site will be preserved and honored in perpetuity. This land will never again be taken from our people.” 



• Patricia Hibbeler (Salish/Kootenai) is stepping down as CEO of the Phoenix Indian Center, effective Nov. 3, to return to Montana and take on the role of executive director for tribal member services for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe of the Flathead Reservation. Hibbeler had been with the Phoenix Indian Center since 2004, during which time she helped expand programming and staffing and tripled the nonprofit’s budget. “Through her tireless efforts and passion for our community, we have reached more people and elevated our events to now be recognized among the best in the Valley,” Phoenix Indian Center board president Traci Morris said in a statement. “Patti’s departure is certainly a loss for Phoenix Indian Center, but we are happy that she is able to take on a key leadership role with her home tribe.” The Phoenix Indian Center board has formed an executive leadership search team and plans to find the organization’s next CEO. Joylana Begay-Kroupa will serve as acting CEO throughout the process. 


Health care

• The National Academy of Medicine’s newly elected members included several Native Americans. The election is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Natives joining the academy included: 

    • Erik Brodt (Anishinaabe – Minnesota Chippewa), M.D., associate professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. Brodt was selected for leadership in American Indian/Alaska Native workforce development and pioneering innovative methods to identify, inspire and support American Indian/Alaska Native youth to excel.
    • Joseph Gone (Aaniiih-Gros Ventre), Ph.D., a professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University and faculty director of the Harvard University Native American Program. Gone was selected for being a leading figure among Native American mental health researchers whose work on cultural psychology, historical trauma, Indigenous healing, and contextual factors affecting mental health assessment and treatment has been highly influential and widely recognized.
    • Yvette Roubideaux (Rosebud Sioux), M.D., MPH, director of the Policy Research Center at the  National Congress of American Indians. Roubideaux was elected for pioneering the translation of evidence-based interventions to reduce diabetes and related cardiovascular complications among tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
    • Thomas Sequist (Taos Pueblo), M.D., MPH, chief patient experience and equity officer at Boston, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham and professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School. Sequist was selected for expertise in Native American health, quality of care and health care equity.

Other newly elected members included Alexandra Adams, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity and a professor of sociology and anthropology at Montana State University was also elected to the National Academy of Medicine in recognition of her work partnering with Indigenous communities in the Midwest and Montana and pioneering community-engaged research methods.