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“Coal” is the New “Casino”

As I posted in April, Native Americans continue to push past stereotypes that peg their economic development efforts as nothing more than roulette wheels on reservation land. In fact, such casinos don’t always find success, as was the case with the Crow Indians’ Res-a-Vegas in south-central Montana. Fortunately, with an emphasis on fortune, the struggling Crow tribe has announced a new vision that will shift its focus on the coal industry in an effort to create alternative energy and revenue.

Tribe members, nearly half of whom are unemployed and garner a per capita income of $7,600, plan to tap a potential multi-billion dollar mineral layer on its reservation, and then build a coal-to-liquids plant. A successful operation would mean an opportunity to transform the lives of tribe members and the infrastructure of the community.

In 2005, federal laws regarding energy development were revised to give, rightfully, Native Americans more control over their natural resources. While some tribes complain that wait times for government approval still linger, the laws will hopefully allow the Crow tribe to move forward more expeditiously.

“There’s a misconception about Indian tribes that they all have big gaming revenues,” says tribal Chairman Carl Venne. “We don’t have that, but we do have vast resources.”

And as far as I’m concerned, let them get every single red cent from their resources. American history is still being written, and it can look a lot kinder to our indigenous people.

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