Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community: Everyone Is Family


Members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), like other Dakota, believe firmly in their interconnectedness with the wider world. Their motto, “Mitakuye Owasin,” or “We are all related,” is often invoked at official functions.

Thus, the world is their family, and in fiscal 2011 they demonstrated that bond by donating nearly $29 million from gaming and other enterprises to its extended members. About $16 million that went to 20 nations constituted economic development and other grants, the SMSC said in a press release summarizing its annual donation report. This brings the community’s total giving to more than $229 million over 16 years.

“As Dakota people, we have a long tradition of sharing with others, so it is important for us to give back to the larger community,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks in the statement of the tribe, which is bordered by Prior Lake and Shakopee, Minnesota. “Before Indian gaming, many of us lived in poverty and struggled to survive. Times were hard. Now we are able to help others.”

Tribes in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and North Dakota received grants for infrastructure, energy assistance, a casino, health facilities, telecommunications, a grocery store, and community and administrative centers, the SMSC said. Forty American Indian organizations received a total of $2.8 million for everything from housing to mental health programs. Education programs received $1.4 million, and $1.2 million went to 65 charitable organizations.

The enterprises that have generated this support include the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Little Six Casino and other businesses on the tribe’s reservation, which is just south of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Though the tribe has occasionally found itself at odds with the surrounding towns, that is set to change with the formation of the Intergovernmental Working Group, designed to work more closely in tandem on major issues affecting Prior Lake, the Shakopee Tribe and Scott County, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The effort is in line with the tribe’s agenda and belief system.

“We are firm in our commitment to help others; this is ingrained in us as Dakota people from a young age,” Crooks said in the donation report. “It is our tradition, our cultural responsibility, to help those who have not been as fortunate as we have been.”