About 20 years ago, there was a craze that swept the country concerning membership in a Native American tribe. Any tribe would do. People just wanted membership because it seemed like an easy way to get rich quick.
The sudden interest in being a member of a Native American tribe was in response to the fledgling gaming industry that was beginning to test the waters as legitimate gambling enterprises that operate on the sovereign soil of a federally recognized American Indian reservation.
In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which did, indeed, acknowledge the legitimacy of gambling casinos and bingo parlors located on tribal lands. As tribal entities, all tribal members were allowed to share the wealth. Assuming membership to the tribe could be proven. And also assuming there would be wealth generated.
Legal membership into a Native American tribe is determined by each of the 561 Native American tribes recognized by the US government. Each of these tribes sets the standards by which kinship is determined. Each of these tribes hosting a casino or other gambling operation also sets the distribution of the wealth among its tribe’s people.
As it suddenly became important to become a member of a Native American tribe, all kinds people came forward with stories of family lineage that included the likes of Geronimo, Pocahontas, Sitting Bull, and any other Native American dignitary of recorded history. As tribal councils became flooded with requests for membership, they were forced to strengthen their standards.
Once verifiable documentation was required, many of these would-be Native Americans disappeared.
And poverty is still an everyday issue that confronts every Native American tribe. Nobody got rich over night and there are very few wealthy Native American tribe members who made their fortune from tribal money generated by a casino.
The fact of the matter is that casinos are expensive operations to build, expensive to operate, and come with expensive payrolls that include many people. Some casinos have certainly been successful thus far. Others struggle.
Perhaps the wealthiest people in any Native American tribe are those who possess the wisdom to understand that the best money comes after years of honest labor that earns steady income over the long haul. There is no way to get rich quick. No matter who you claim to be.