Economic Future of Indian Lands

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ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is hosting a conference that examines issues of economic development on Indian lands. Carl Artman, director of the College of Law’s Tribal Economic Development Program, and Diane Enos, president of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, discuss some of the issues that impact tribal land management and strategic development.

Ted Simons: ASU Sandra day O'Connor college of lava is hosting a conference this week to examine economic development on Indian lands. Here with a preview is Carl Artman, direct effort college of law's tribal economic development program and Diane Enos, president of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Thank you so much for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Diane Enos: Thank you.

Carl Artman: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Carl, let's start with you and the goal of this conference. Talk to us about that.

Carl Artman: Sure. Tribes and the communities that surround tribes face a plethora of issues when it comes to economic development. We see these unfolding every day here in Arizona, Phoenix, valley wide. Certainly when it comes to economic development, you can look to the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and Scottsdale and see where that success is. You can look to heel what river in Chandler and see where that success is. If you look to north and see what's going on with the Grand Canyon that might be an example of where there might be some issues that need to be ironed out and certainly with Tohono O'Odham, what's happening over at Glendale, this issue is arising as what the impact of taking that land into trust? How is the best way to develop that land economically and who gets to have a say in that? So what this conference hopes to look at are the range of those issues. Going back historically, setting a historic base for it, a cultural base and legal base for it and looking at those, the current issues. The perspective from tribal leaders, the tribal leaders have to make decisions about how they are going to use the land in economically, in the economically best fashion. They are making decisions that impact seven generations worth of tribal members but they have to make those decisions at the speed of business. The city leaders have to learn to work with the tribes. So we are going to try to look at it from both sides.

Ted Simons: Diane, what do you see as far as your position with the tribe and where the land actually is and the importance of that land dealing with all the issues Carl is talking about here?

Diane Enos: One of the things that we really have to remember, and Carl hit on it a little bit is that we have a little bit of land. We don't have the land that we had prior to the coming of the Europeans. So what we do with that land is really critical because we have to look ahead many generations to the future people of our communities. So what we do now has to be for our self interest. We can't just throw up a bunch of strip malls, for instance, and expect that to have a decent return in the future. We have got to look ahead at least 100 years.

Ted Simons: When you deal with folks in the tribe and everyone's got a different idea -- I am sure some folks think a strip mall is a pretty good idea. How do you work that out? What kind of consensus has to be built? And what are you hearing from the tribe, from members there saying, I would rather do this than rather than that?

Diane Enos: Well, you know, in government you always get question. And that's good. I mean, that's powerful. But we have a council of nine members and we cannot move forward on any venture unless the council, by vote, agrees to do so. We just did a significant development at Salt River which is a talking stick -- excuse me Salt River fields at talking stick along with -- salt, I'm getting mixed up. Talking stick resort. Those are half a billion dollars of investments by our community. And in order to do those we had to evaluate the worth and the return but not only that, the long range effect. So question that and, of course, we got criticized by some people. But now that we are starting to see the success of those ventures people are saying, hey, OK.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the historical and cultural and legal factors when you are looking at tribal land and trying to get economic development going. Touch on all, start with historical. As Diane mentioned, the land is there, the land has changed over time. But the land that's there right now, how does history play into how that land is developed?

Carl Artman: Well, let's build off of what President Enos just discussed. The Salt River field at stalking stick and the talking stick resort, when the tribe decided to build on those lands, it wasn't just a decision, the fact of a decision we are going to build on this land or that land. That was a decision that had to be strategically made in working with what's called the allotees, the individual landowners that hold that land in individual trust or individual Federal protection. And in many respects, those allotees, because of the history, where history put them, that was actually a law that was passed in the 19th century, that gave them that land, and then that law was reversed in the early 20th century, that flummoxed, if you will, the whole land and legal and cultural system on the tribes. But these individuals, the allotees still hold the land and in many respects they negotiate with their own tribal government as to how that land will be developed. And in addition to that, the tribe had to work along with Scottsdale and the state of Arizona. And Maricopa County.

Diane Enos: Don't forget about the BIA.

Carl Artman: And the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Here you have four different governments, a set of allotees all looking at this land and when they are looking at it from the tribe's perspective, they are north looking at it as just 10 acres or 20 acres, they are looking at the land that their grandparents and great-great grandparents grew up on. There's a history and personal meaning to that land.

Diane Enos: And their descendants will live on.

Carl Artman: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Let's get over now to the legal aspect you are dealing with the Federal government, dealing with local government, dealing with state government. Talk to us about those challenges.

Diane Enos: Everybody has an opinion. You said it. Right at the very beginning. What we have developed with the city of Scottsdale, Mayor Lane was over in the community last week and we talk about the this very thing -- was synergy. We had to consider our development, of course, for the interests of our community but also, what are we going to do that's going to benefit and -- excuse me, the development in Scottsdale, we have some things they don't have and they can't V they can't have gaming in Scottsdale. But a lot of the tourists that come to the city of Scottsdale can come to our facilities and game there. They can come also to stay at our resorts. Now we have the Salt River fields, they can come watch a brand new spanking new -- superior - I mean super -- I can't -- add enough superlative spring training center for the diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. What we have done with the success of the Salt River fields has really benefited the surrounding cities. Scottsdale I think understand that.

Ted Simons: Carl, you also mentioned cultural factors that play into this as well. Diane, let's get back to you on this one. Obviously some folks I am sure members, allotees, lots of folks there look at your culture and say, let's not go too far this direction. Let's go here or vice versa. How does that ply into things?

Diane Enos: We all agree on some very basic principles. We have to take care of our families. We have to take care of our children. We have to plan for the future generations that are coming. That's a very, very core cultural principle. So if you do those things and how you go about doing development, with those in mind, I think everybody understands that at some point.

Ted Simons: Is that something you see across tribes, I should say, is that the cultural aspect along with I guess historical, does play a pretty big part.

Carl Artman: A very important part. When many people say what's going to be the success of economic development, what sort of milestones are we going to put out there, tribes, some of the milestones they look at are how will this impact the culture? How will it change the culture for better or worse? What's it going to look like in seven or 10 generations from now?

Ted Simons: The idea -- You mentioned complementing surrounding areas. There are some critics who see the casinos and hotels and what's happening in Glendale, that particular effort as not necessarily complementary. How do you respond to that?

Diane Enos: Well, the voters when they passed prop 202 agreed that there was a certain balance what that had to be reached with the state players, with the cities, with all the citizens of Arizona, and the tribes. You've got some tribes that are in rural areas with the state. They have no market. They have no, very, very limited opportunities for economic development under the terms of the compact. They transfer some of their machines to have, to those tribes that have bigger populations and they get a return for their machines. And it helps them not like it does us, build police departments up, build public buildings up, so we are very basic things like educational components, health care, a bunch of things that most governments take for granted that we don't have the same taxing capabilities to do.

Ted Simons: To be able to do those sorts of things on any tribal land at a time when the recession is just hammering away at everywhere around the country, talk to us about the challenges there.

Carl Artman: Well, there's a lot of challenges. First of all it be the financing. But if you have a good project, if it's going to have a good return on financial level, the financing will probably be easy. One of the biggest challenges you have when dealing with land and one of the things we are going to be talking about is how can you use the tribal land to leverage that development, to leverage that financing? If it's held in trust by the United States government, you can't use that land as leverage. You can't finance on that or you can only finance on a very limited fashion. And so a lot of tribes are asking, is that the best way to go? Do we need to seek Federal trust protection to develop on our land? Or should we be looking to other ways? Shall we seek to change the law to allow a different sort of economic paradigm on our reservations?

Ted Simons: Very quickly, that trust land issue, talk to us about that.

Diane Enos: You have to have good credit. Even if you have trust land to work with and have those limitations, I'll call them limitations, but you have to have good credit. And again, I want to go back to the question about gaming. When the voters approved prop 202 they enabled tribes like the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community to start establishing a good record. But we had a diverse economy since, gosh in the '70s, with start the diversifying way back then. And I think that what we have to remember is that we are businesses just like anybody else. While we have this trust status land and some of the issues that go, that are associated with it, I think it forces us to be better business people, to be more on point and to be more trustworthy.

Ted Simons: All right. We'll stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us.

Carl Artman: Thank you Ted.

Carl Artman:Director,College of Law's Tribal Economic Development Program;Diane Enos:President, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community;

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