Coeur d’Alene Tribe makes largest education contribution

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WORLEY, Idaho – Thirteen years ago the Coeur d’Alene Tribe pledged to give five percent of its casino earnings to education and schools on and off the reservation, even though this was not required in the compact with the state.

This year’s donation, made in July, brought the total donated to more than $12 million. This year’s total distribution of $1.8 million was the largest annual donation made thus far.

Representatives from area schools gathered at the Stensgar Pavilion to hear comments from Coeur d’Alene Tribe Chairman Chief James Allan and David LaSarte-Meeks, CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel – and to receive checks. A total of 15 school districts plus Washington State University and North Idaho College received checks, as did the Idaho Meth Project which is aimed at combating methamphetamine addiction.

Allan gave credit to previous tribal councils for their foresight in providing funds for education. “It was something that wasn’t asked for, but something our elders and tribal leaders felt was the right thing to do. They rolled their sleeves up and put part of it away. It was the people of the state of Idaho who said ‘that’s a good idea’. I’m really proud of that.

“Idaho is one of the lowest in education dollars so any little bit helps. We’re happy to look out and give money to these school districts that need it. School districts are having budgets cut and can’t pass bonds. We need to plant that seed. We need to give that money so these kids can carry that ball for us, to be our future. We’re so excited – $1.8 million to local schools, to colleges, to surrounding educational facilities.”

Despite Idaho’s relatively low support for education, Allan said, “I’ll put Idaho kids first. I’ll take Idaho kids against any in the country.”

LaSarte-Meeks said the purpose of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and tribal gaming when it first started was to provide for such things as education, social programs and for rebuilding the economies of tribes. “It’s not like Reno or Atlantic City where it’s a lot of money going to shareholders and private business clubs. All the money we make goes back to the tribe for those community programs and for reinvesting in the future of our community.

“It’s also equally important to the tribe to know we’re also reinvesting in Idaho. We’re investing in the community, in our neighbors. Our future is tied in with our friends and neighbors here in Idaho. That’s what this money is; it’s an investment in the future. It’s investing in our children right now. They are the future of Idaho.”

LaSarte-Meeks paid credit to the employees at the casino saying they realize their hard work pays off not only for the success of the casino, but also in areas such as this donation. “We’re contributing to the larger picture and the larger health of our communities. Our employees come to work every day knowing that. I’m extremely proud to be part of that.”

North Idaho College sits on the lakeshore where the tribe once had a winter encampment and the relationship between the college and the tribe remains strong. John Martin, NIC vice president, was one of several college representatives present.

“The tribe’s been very generous. We’ve had a great working relationship with the tribe for many years and it keeps getting better. We’re very pleased to be included again this year. We’ll be able to use this money to enhance that relationship, to take care of Native American students even more and just improve the general quality of student life on campus.”

Allan said many changes had occurred with expansion of the casino and hotel and tribal leadership, “but one thing that hasn’t changed is the tribe’s commitment to education. That’s a commitment we’re very proud of and we’re always going to stand by it.”