Monthly Archives: February 2020

Winds of Change

Policy changes are not always communicated in writing but in actions. There are occasions when “exceptions” are made for policy guidelines to be “disregarded”. This creates toxicity in workplaces when rules are not consistent in areas of social control. As an example a “alcohol and drug” policy can be used to prevent representatives from having a “beer” at lunchtime but if the work position demands a “higher degree” of sociability then a manager or person in a leadership position can drink. These types of contradictions are not conducive of a fair and equitable workplace.

Not to mention the violation of policy but the representative sounded terrible. As an example a speech was made to a group of golfers at a tournament in my community. The director of slots made a speech and it sounded like they had a mouthful of cotton and his eyes were barely open. Directors are in a position of responsibility and lead the team. He was not leading to well that day. When this behavior is allowed to persist a policy designed to promote social responsibility is ineffective and not necessary.

I remember when I began working for my community and was released from a position of importance because I came to the workplace “drunk” and looking for help at 4 am in the morning. The driver was an employee and ended up getting fired too.

The winds of change did not stop the highest paid positions in the community from violating policy. Why have the rule if the leadership is allowed to violate the rule and the team can not. Inconsistencies are so evident today that entire policies like “alcohol and drug” testing get in the way of being productive. It is merely a political tool to socially control the masses and not needed.

Social change happens when the top of the heap is just as accountable as the person on the bottom.

Tribal Member benefits have expired.

The Tribal Chairman hired me to collect rent for ten housing units on the reservation. A project funded by the State of Michigan. This was before the advent of the IGRA or the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Which allowed tribal governments to operate class III gaming or slot machines. I would eventually be hired full time because the Chairman appreciated the effort I was making in organizing housing. We worked together well in the formative years. I admired the person who would become my life’s adversary. This negative relationship is a direct result of my involvement with Indian Gaming on the Hannahville Indian Reservation.

When I was a young man, I aspired to be a leader in the community to make sure tribal members were getting the benefits of our newfound wealth as the tribal government. Those days the tribal government consisted of a small school, health center, community center and an administration center, where I worked. Our office was a used trailer home with no running water and poor insulation. We soon bought two double wide trailers and connected them making room for fledgling social service programs for tribal member. Today it is much different as our tribe owns several golf courses, a resort casino, a convenience store and much more. I contributed to this success, but it came at a high personal cost.

My inspiration to lead began in 1992 was often fueled by inactivity of other in the administration. We all largely decided what we would be doing for the organization and there was no real plan. I became Chairman of the Casino and Housing board after we plugged in the slot machines and moved our gaming operation to the main highway for more business. The process was very chaotic as we were not business managers and people were literally walking out of the casino with buckets of change from slot machine drops. I decided to correct the problem and led the Casino board to construct the procedures to monitor the daily slot drop and make sure it was deposited in the bank. We increased profits over the course of 15 months by 200% in the gaming operation, by instituting internal controls with deposits being made daily. Our lending credibility increased, and we began to expand and grow but family politics and personal attacks on my own credibility would ensue.

Early one morning the Chairman’s brother, who was assistant manager in the casino, came to my office and the Chairman demanded I talk to his brother about a very sensitive topic. I obliged the chairman and went to my office where I was made to listen to some very accusatory allegations, he was making toward me. I became upset and left work that day. That would not be the last of my problems as I would be accused of a major crime two more times for the same accusation his brother was making originally. This resulted in a State case and a Federal investigation both of which I was found not guilty of doing. The arresting officer from the State cried and apologized to me after I took my polygraph tests. That was the only person who ever showed me one bit of remorse. I cried to because I was only trying to help make sure our casino was run properly and that no one went home with company resources. Tribal member or not. If there were suspicion of stealing, we investigated the matter even if it involved the Chairman of his family. He did not appreciate these efforts and soon became a full-blown adversary as he would fight plans to subject all departments to a budgetary spending. It was a difficult time, but I survived and now am in a position where the only jobs I can acquire are low-level positions. When I finally won a decent job in the slot department in 2015 the department manager made up a lie and fired me within 6 months. My brother would die this year and my own government would not pay me for the day he died. These are not easily forgotten and now I am struggling again.

Recently I applied for 5 jobs in the community, in the last 4 months and was denied all jobs because I do not meet the tribe’s qualifications.  I recently completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. I graduated cum laude. I am now completing my master’s degree in general administration, but these credentials are not good enough to get me a job as a conventions manager who essentially books appointments, bill clients and looks for more business. But I am not qualified.

It really hurts because I invested my entire young life here thinking I would make a difference, and I think I did but the fruits of my labor will never produce results for me personally. I must move on from my tribe and family because I cannot live in poverty because the organization has not promoted accountability or higher standards to its people.

Crackers and Cheese

      When I started kindergarten in Groveland, Florida. I never liked to eat the cold cheese for an odd reason and did not like to join in during snack time. My crackers would be eaten, and my cheese given away before everyone was done. I did not spend much time in the class and left around snack time to attend a speech therapy session with a counselor for a good part of my day. One of many counselors I would have in my lifetime. My speech impediment was not severe, but it was a problem as I was falling behind in speech development.

      During my time with the lady, who I do not remember, we would walk along paved paths and would practice speech with her. My largest speech problem was pronouncing the consonant “s”, my speech was slurred very bad and people had a hard time communicating with me. The lady was very calm and nice. I remember I could not wait to see her during the week as problems were beginning to develop at home for all three of us. It was nice to be able to feel some comfort with someone and I soon overcame my issue. It must have been quickly because I do not remember it being that long. I know I was sad when I realized I no longer needed to see her but wanted to see her for the emotional comfort. It was back to crackers and cheese with the rest of the class. My speech problem had been resolved and I moved on to first grade.

The Red Top Grocery Store

      My sister, bother and I were kept busy when our adoption process began and our cousin on my mothers side would become our Dad. The three of us began working with the Wilsey family very early in our adoption. As I remember we were constantly being yelled at for bad behavior (I was five) and keeping the my younger brother and sister and I seemed to be important. I really did not realize the amount of real world work I was learning at a very young age. By the time, I was six years old I was stocking, rotating inventory and cleaning shelves in a grocery store my Dad operated. He butchered his own meat as this was the trade he had done back in Chicago where he said he worked for Kroger meats. He seemed to be very proud of his butchery skills and used to tell me how valuable of a trade it had been for him while I would watch him push chopped up red chunks of meat to be placed in a hand meat grinder to produce hamburger patties. I would often go to help and operate the handle that made the blades turn inside while Dad push the meat through the opening on the top. I did not go to often because I would get very queasy and would want to leave. I think it may have drawn flashbacks in my young mind because I distinctly remember skinned dear hanging on logs. It was a brief memory of living on the reservation. I often wonder if that is why I felt queasy.

      We continued to work in this grocery store for about a year and my dad related to many Mexican and Black people who were mainly poor. They would come dressed very poorly and would smell like they did not wash often but they were nice people and my Dad seemed to be very kind to them and would talk with them as if they knew each other for a long time. Watching him talk with others made it easier for me later in life as he was teaching me a skill of knowing how to relate to people who may look desperate and sometimes scary to others. It is an invaluable skill to have in the “streets” because people can sense who you are.

Becoming an entrepreneur was in my blood, in a sense, as my Dad would show teach me skills and provide me with knowledge to be self-sufficient. I hope to pass this ability on to others.

Avoiding Politics is not easy

The children are laughing before school, that is rare and a delight to my ears. It reminds that life and its hardships are not that important, relevant to a child’s laugh.

This morning I write in hopes that I can wake up more appreciative for my state, although it be a personal challenge for me. You see I live on an Indian Reservation where nepotism, cronyism and favoritism have given rise to qualifications for jobs we or “Indian People” performed for many years but now have qualifications put on these jobs so they are out of reach for many tribal members who live in poverty and continue a trend common in “Indian Country”. This is not the intent of the federal law Indian Gaming regulatory act of 1988 (IGRA) or tribal law known as Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO). IGRA provided the economic means to support TERO and other tribal law providing for the welfare of tribal members and Indian people on or near the reservation.

The federal governments policy on Indian Affairs has never been consistent and now tribal governments are following a similar pattern. The end result of these inconsistencies is that the social influence and social demands fall upon tribal members. The deficiency in tribal government and the businesses the government owns are evident in employment. Employment is created for tribal members through gaming activity and those proceeds are to be used for 5 specific needs, all intended to improve the quality of life for impoverished and poor tribal members within the tribal governments reach. This is not working in some tribal members favor, especially mine.

My problem is I can advocate for myself and I would rather interpret ideas and theories for myself. I prefer not to lean on everyone else’s understanding for everything. I know the intent of tribal gaming as I have been involved in the industry since 1988. The early years were especially tough because local business did not like the idea of tribal members benefiting from casino business, but pig farming was just fine. We had to prove our economic worth with pubic relations and promotion of the extended benefits to neighboring communities.

Now these same communities have many people working in the tribal government who interpret and impose tribal, federal and state laws and write policy and rules at their leisure. They benefit from tribal gaming and set the rules for tribal members to follow. One of these are recommending job qualifications.

About 75% of all tribal government and business managers are not tribal members. This presents an agency problem for tribal members in employment areas as the tribal government attempts to retain family control. Managers and directors, who often fear for their jobs, write qualifications that do not uphold TERO and the tribal committee who approves the job descriptions never reviews or strikes these additional and unnecessary requirements for a job because most are personal friends with managers and directors in the workforce.

Where does a tribal member go to resolve this issue ? The Executive management are also in charge of the court system where civil law is supposed to be debated and memorialized. One can not expect equality and fair application of procedure and law with this type of structure.

Tribal members have no protection of rights and often are criminalized for seeking an improved quality of life. Tribal Chiefs continue to admire beads and trinkets over the success of its own people.

My struggle continue.

Stay Positive

Staying positive when your on the bottom of the pile, so to speak, is very challenging but has its own rewards.

You find out you can survive

You find out that being poor is not about money

You find out if society values peoples welfare over profit and fame

You find out that you are resourceful

Being able to maintain a positive is a gift money can not buy but has its own set of rewards. Life changes, expect the negative but search for the positive.

Tribal Government Interview Process

I am from an Indian Reservation where our government(s) have been allowed to run casinos to benefit tribal members, like myself. It is a nice benefit, if the tribal governments are actually providing the benefits to tribal members, such as employment to tribal members.

This has not been the case for me, for nearly 20 years, even though we have tribal preference standards, according to tribal law.

Today I interviewed for a job that was being conducted by the former “School superintendent” who was very recently terminated from Hannahville Indian School located on my reservation. The rumor was he was not managing properly. It is really frustrating to see a person fired and rehired into a position of management and trust with rumors floating around the community. To compound matters he secured a contracted employment position with the school in an employment position I could have secured due to tribal preference law.

As it ends up I end up end up having to interview with him today for a laborer job so he can continue program management in our school.

So much for tribal preference and improving the quality of life for poor people living on an Indian Reservation.

Hundreds of year of oppressive behavior from the Federal Government was not enough for our past tribal members, now we Tribal members have to experience similar treatment from our own tribal government, who are consequently comprised of more people who are not tribal members or Indian people.

So much for the INTENT of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.