Haskell Indian Nations University has invited tribal leaders and top Indian gaming officials here next week for a conference aimed at helping tribes take advantage of the economic opportunities that accompany on-reservation casinos and bingo halls.
"We're very excited about this," said Marilyn Bread, director of the National Training Center and the Center for Tribal Entrepreneurial Studies at Haskell.
Between 300 and 400 officials are expected to attend the Tuesday and Wednesday conference at the Lawrence Holidome, 200 McDonald Drive.
Speakers and guests include:
l Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Assn.;
l Monte Deer, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission;
l Phillip Martin, tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians;
l Raejean Kanter, executive director of the Forest County (Wis.) Potawatomi Community Foundation;
l Badger Wahwasuck, tribal council chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
Much of the conference, Bread said, will focus on tribal economic development.
"The idea is to step back, take a look at all that's going on and then see where the opportunities are," she said. "We want to capture some of that opportunity."
Now that Indian gaming has grown to a $10-billion-a-year industry, she said, tribal leaders are seeking ways to strengthen and diversify their local economies.
Also, the conference will look at ways Haskell can help its students land jobs in the gaming industry.
"Indian gaming has grown phenomenally," said Steve Cadue, the conference's lead organizer. "But as Indian people, we are not ready skill-wise for the management-type jobs that are out there. We need to change that."
According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, Indian gaming employs 200,000 workers. Of these, just 25 percent are Indian.
Cadue said attendees will be asked to work with Haskell officials in developing a curriculum to meet the gaming industry's needs.