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.