Just 30 years after receiving official tribal recognition from the U.S. government, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has 600-700 workers on the tribal and enterprises payrolls, making it the second-largest employer on the peninsula, after Olympic Medical Center.
Tribal enterprises are diverse:
■ A grant-funded strategy to identify business opportunities drawn “from existing and stimulus-funded broadband infrastructure.”
The tribe thinks strategically: Many of the unfolding enterprises can be developed under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, which allows tribes to secure contracts with the federal government. That is, as the tribe’s strategic plan notes, “one of the comparative advantages the Tribe and its entities have.”
The City of Sequim is looking for a partner to help develop this part of the Olympic Peninsula. They believe the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe might just fit the profile.
As Mayor Ken Hays recently put it, “I and the Sequim City organization share something very important with the S’Klallam Tribe and their leadership — we all believe in looking toward the future and in asking the question, ‘Where do we want to be tomorrow?’”
During a recent joint meeting of the Sequim City Council and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council, Ron Allen, tribal council chairman, echoed Hays’s comment, saying, “We want you to be successful just like we want Port Townsend to be successful.”
The implications for Sequim are clearly spelled out in the tribe’s strategic plan: “Since the Tribal economy is so closely integrated to the regional economy, we will continue to utilize every opportunity for cooperation with local and regional, public and private planning groups ... to further our economic development goals and objectives, as well as those of the region.”
If success breeds success, the city hardly could do better than partnering with the Jamestown tribe. The tribe already is an area economic power: The Jamestown Family Health Clinic, 7 Cedars Casino and The Cedars at Dungeness golf course together employ hundreds and play a central role in Sequim life. But that’s just the beginning: The tribe’s many commercial enterprises now stretch from the peninsula all the way to Atlanta, Ga., where its construction company just has opened a branch.
A recent financial report showed tribal government alone spent $24.5 million in 2010. That’s separate from the revenues and the expenditures of its various enterprises.
As a separate sovereignty, the tribe enjoys a few unique business advantages. For example, the taxes collected on cigarettes and liquor sold at the Longhouse Market and Deli in Blyn are returned by the state to the tribe.
Perhaps more importantly, tribal land held in trust by the federal government is exempt from property taxes just like land owned by other governmental entities or by churches.
But in fact just 103 of the tribe’s 1,049.5 acres are held in trust, with another 13.5 in “reservation status.” The remaining 933 acres, including The Cedars at Dungeness golf course in Sequim, are taxed.
The tribe’s 600-700 employees pay taxes just like everyone else and so do tribal citizens who own private homes.
In addition to contributing to the local economy via taxes, the tribe also is required by its gaming compact with the state to provide financial assistance to local do-good organizations. They do what’s required and much more. Allen recently expressed the tribe’s view of its role in the community, saying, “We are proud and honored to be able to go above and beyond any minimum standards because we consider it both a responsibility and a privilege to make a real difference in our community.”
Jerry Allen, CEO of 7 Ce-dars Casino, said, “Ron set a beautiful template on how to interact with a community. We’re a part of it. The more successful we are, the more we can do.”
In November 2010 the tribe pledged $150,000 to the Olympic Medical Center Foundation to help reduce obesity and to provide for healthier lifestyles on the North Olympic Peninsula.
That was in addition to the $315,000 the tribe contributed to “the community” in 2010, with funds flowing to more than 60 nonprofits and governmental agencies providing a wide range of services, from the Feiro Marine Life Center to the American Cancer Society to Sequim Wolf Pack football.
The biggest recipients — those given between $5,000 and $12,000 — include the Boys & Girls Clubs in Sequim, the Northwest Maritime Center and the Olympic Medical Center Foundation.
The contributions reflect the tribe’s priorities, with 73 percent going to “community contributions,” 10 percent to “public contributions” (governmental entities, including the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Sequim Police Department), 7 percent to smoking cessation and 7 percent to prevention of problem gambling.
The final 3 percent was “political contributions,” which were spent in support of the joint efforts of American Indian tribes.
The tribe’s leaders make no bones about their top priority — a future in which they grow more independent, healthy and well-educated. Unlike many American Indian tribes, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe provides no dividends to its citizens and instead reinvests its profits to advance the tribe’s goals, which include the purchase of additional land, the preservation of the tribe’s unique culture and the providing of social and community services, including health care services and support for education. For example, virtually any request by a tribal citizen for college funding is approved.
The tribe also works to protect and nurture its natural resources.
But the tribe also reaches out to Sequim. “We try to touch those people who are meaningful in this community and give to the have-nots,” Jerry Allen said.
Hays welcomes the help: “What I see ... is our two communities growing closer together socially and culturally, building on our already intertwined histories, but I also see our combined economic prosperity; I see our two communities leading the region together and in partnerships with our neighbors in new areas of economic growth and in the positive development of our communities and the preservation of the land and its resources whose bounty has sustained our lives for many generations.”
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.