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Coeur d’Alene Tribe impacts region’s economy

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- The tribe that received the French name "Heart of
the Awl" for its sharp trading practices is once again on the cutting edge
of north Idaho's economy.

The city of Coeur d'Alene will soon have a new chamber of commerce
building, thanks in large part to a $100,000 gift presented by the tribe at
a dinner it hosted for elected representatives and community leaders Dec.
6. The donation is the single largest the chamber has received for the new
facility, which is expected to cost $1 million.

"The tribe understands that the chamber of commerce serves as a nerve
center of commercial activity with the city of Coeur d'Alene, and the tribe
would like to be a full participant in the economic vitality of the
region," spokesman Quanah Spencer said.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is already a major player in the area's economy.
Its casino and Circling Raven Golf course, located 25 miles south of the
city, draw about 500,000 visitors a year and require the services of nearly
800 vendors, according to Bob Bostwick, the casino's director of
communications.

"Everyone who works for those vendors has a job that is supported by what
we do," he said. "We spend $60,000 a day to stay open."

With a workforce of some 1,300, the tribe is on the list of the area's top
employers, providing nearly 800 jobs in Kootenai County. That makes it the
sixth-largest employer, according to Kathryn Tacke, regional economist for
the state's commerce and labor department. It is also the largest employer
by far in neighboring Benewah County, where tribal headquarters are
located, along with a medical and wellness center which serves Indian and
non-Indian clients from five counties.

The present site of the city of Coeur d'Alene was once an important village
at a crossroads where people fished and congregated to prepare for hunting
expeditions, according to Raymond Brinkman, head of the Coeur d'Alene's
Language Department. Tribal elder and historian Felix Aripa has called it
the "Washington, D.C. of the Coeur d'Alene people." That changed after the
reservation was established and families were removed to allotted farms
south of the city. Nevertheless, it remains a key shopping, business and
education destination for tribal members.

A major piece of art depicting the Coeur d'Alene's heritage is planned for
the new facility. "We will put that project out to bid for artists
interested in doing that project," Spencer said.

The recent donation is part of an initiative to help local communities get
the resources they need, he said. The tribe has donated more than $615,000
to county governments for infrastructure and services during the past
several years. That does not include more than $1 million distributed this
year -- as part of the tribe's gaming compact with the state -- to the
region's public schools, colleges and libraries.