ONEIDA NATION HOMELANDS, N.Y. - In May 1997, New York state Gov. George
Pataki ended a crisis with the Iroquois Confederacy and state-recognized
tribes on Long Island by repealing tax regulations for their reservations.
"We respect your sovereignty," he declared. Not coincidentally, the ensuing
eight years have seen unprecedented economic growth on most of those
Although no one seems to have done a comprehensive economic survey of New
York's Indian lands, several nations have commissioned local studies. These
show thousands of jobs have directly resulted from the tribal exercise of
sovereignty. Thousands more have arisen from indirect impacts. And most of
the jobs have gone to non-Indians.
In March 2004, the Seneca Nation of Indians issued a study by the American
Economics Group focusing on its private-sector tobacco distribution and
convenience store businesses. The AEG reported that in 2003 these
businesses directly employed 1,091 people. A secondary set of businesses -
wholesale suppliers, manufacturing and transportation - gave work to an
additional 1,081 people.
According to the report, Senecas owned 55 companies selling tobacco
products, many through the Internet. A recent state-federal crackdown on
credit card companies devastated this sector, but the Senecas are making up
the difference with two new casinos. The ongoing construction of casino
buildings and hotels will be adding thousands of additional jobs.
The Oneida Indian Nation recently commissioned a study by the Upstate
Institute at Colgate University on its overall job creation. The study
projected that by mid-2005, nation employment would have doubled since the
'97 crisis. In 1996, after three years of running the Turning Stone Resort
and Casino, the nation employed 2,343. The current $340 million expansion
was expected to push the job roll to at least 5,000.
The Upstate Institute reported that gaming accounted for about 80 percent
of the jobs, but that government and non-gaming enterprises had hired 800.
Indirect effects added another 1,642 jobs.
The St. Regis Mohawks along the St. Lawrence River don't have a formal
study, but they estimate that the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino has added nearly
525 jobs since 1997 with an additional 320 at the Mohawk Bingo Palace. The
number of state and federal programs administered by the tribe has nearly
tripled, employing several hundred more. According to spokesman Brendan
White, the number of people directly employed by the tribe or its gaming
facilities has increased to more than 1,000. "Over half of them are
non-Natives from surrounding communities."
White added that in the last 10 years, the number of individual businesses
registered with the tribe has grown from 30 to 98, employing hundreds more.
"Pataki's understanding of tribal sovereignty has enabled our community to
become an economic anchor for northern New York and keep the region viable
for businesses," White said.