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Holiday time brought increase in giving

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. - Some American Indian nations have difficulty meeting daily needs and fall into financial difficulties that often occur at the worst times of the year.

Pine Ridge is one of those tribes. More than 300 people were laid off from government jobs before the holidays because of a major shortfall in funds. But with the help of others who found success in gaming there was hope this holiday season.

The National Indian Gaming Association raised $30,000 for The Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge. The check was handed to President John Yellow Bird Steele by Ernie Stevens Jr., president of NIGA.

"In the spirit of giving, which is a tradition among all of our Native communities, NIGA and Pine Ridge have organized this drive so that needy families will not go without during this holiday season," said Stevens. "Help is needed especially at Pine Ridge."

Contributions to the drive were from SODAK Gaming, Inc., the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Mohegan Tribe and Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. An additional $15,000 was also raised which will provide Christmas checks to recently laid-off tribal employees at Pine Ridge.

"It is a myth that Indian gaming is thriving throughout Indian country," said Stevens. "Indian gaming is only one of the economic development tools that Indian communities have been able to use to bring themselves out of centuries of poverty; the reality is that tribes still have a very long way to go to catch up with the American dream - certainly, Pine Ridge is a good example of this."

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Pine Ridge owns a casino, Prairie Wind, which is located outside the reaches of any metropolitan area.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota also took part in holiday giving. The Shakopee operate the very successful Mystic Lake Casino Hotel just minutes south of the Twin Cities.

SMSC holiday donations amounted to $141,800 for 29 service agencies in the Twin Cities, Minnesota tribes and South Dakota organizations and tribes.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to help others, especially during the holidays," said SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks.

Employees of the tribe's business ventures also raised money and collected clothing for tribes in the Great Plains area. The contributions were for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Employees contributed 3,000 pounds of food and $6,500 in addition to the tribal contributions.