Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux district eyes 'micro-gaming'

Leaders of the Wounded Knee District of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

District governments pursue development
Class II gaming headed to Wounded Knee?
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

MANDERSON—For many districts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the time for creating their own sustainable economies has arrived.

“We are just tired of waiting for the tribe to act. The tribal constitution guarantees that individual districts can pursue their own ways of creating development separate from the tribe and that is what we are doing,” said Garfield Steele, former Wounded Knee District tribal council representative and current President of Wounded Knee district.

According to Steele the Wounded Knee District has signed a letter of intent to pursue micro-gaming and entertain the offer from investors.

“It is very hard to get some of these things off the ground. As a district we looked in to everything from zeolite mining to marijuana legalization and they all stalled. What we want to do is create a grocery store and gas station that would house several class II gaming machines,” said Steele. “The next step is conduct a feasibility study to determine what capacity for growth exists in a specific district. Once that happens we can determine what types of businesses can be sustained there,” added Steele.

The Pine Ridge Indian reservation is under the jurisdictional authority of both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the federal government. However, Pine Ridge is divided amongst 8 sub-districts that operate under their own set of constitutional bylaws that are separate from those of OST. The modern legal interpretations of Oglala Sioux law have essentially guaranteed each individual district the ability to create development that is free from wrangling by tribal government.

At a meeting last week in Wakpamni Lake several district chairmen comprising the Crazy Horse Planning Commission met with investors from Texas who intend on heavily pursuing in each district on the reservation.

The potential investor who met with the district reps was Steven Haynes of Haynes Investments. The website for Haynes Investments lists the company as a “private equity firm specializing in Native American business and development." Steele says that the deal proposed by Haynes would create a multi-purpose building, grocery store and or gas station with a small gaming facility inside. He would also add that the profit sharing agreement proposed by Haynes would be an 80/20 split with each district receiving the larger half of the profit.

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The district of Wakpamni has aggressively pursued business ventures within their district and have included everything from developing small business ventures to entering in to a partnership with entrepreneur Raycen Raines in the creation a payday loan business that caught the attention of Al Jazeera America who ran an expose on the district’s efforts.

“When you look at what Wakpamni has going out in their district you can see the potential for growth we have,” said Steele. “Wakpamni has set an example of what we can do and they did a lot to inspire what we are doing,” he added.

Steele said that Wounded Knee is not the only district looking to enter in to the micro-gaming business and that the effort to create economic development within each district is something that is gaining momentum.

“What this is called is ‘The voices of the people movement’ and it is the right of each district to pursue ways of brining in revenue to their community,” said Steele.

Over the course of this week Steele will meet with other district chairman in the hopes of pursuing a letter of support from the tribal council for the districts’ effort to create small gaming facilities that would be housed in either a gas station or grocery store.

“Although the constitution allows for us to create businesses like this, we want to show the tribe that we are unified behind the idea of creating economic development in our districts,” said Steele.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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