Jonathan W. Smith, Chairman, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Jonathan W. Smith, Chairman
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Indian Head Casino in Warm Springs, OR

CHALLENGES/REWARDS: Some of the biggest challenges we face as an organization are the increased cost of supplies, services, and fuel that we see in the economy today. It is very challenging to plan and budget for a post-COVID type of economy because of the fluctuations we are seeing. We also have challenges with hiring enough people to fill the vacancies in the tribal workforce, and with some of our tribal enterprises.

PROMOTING LEADERSHIP: We are working to promote strong leadership by communicating with our membership effectively and working hard at incorporating some of that engagement into our policy level work. We are conducting a comprehensive analysis in our tribal government to address the challenges we are facing and to develop strategies to become more effective and resilient.  

INITIATIVES: One of the most important objectives for us will be increasing our revenues and working at increasing engagement with our trust resources. Developing resiliency and becoming more competitive in this type of economy will require significant investments. We will continue to protect the traditional foods, cultural resources, water, and other things that we hold sacred as a people. This will require significant resources and other types of investments in the future. We have a gaming casino called Indian Head Casino, and it plays a vital role in the revenue for our tribe. We are currently looking at the possibility of emerging industries and technologies that would be viable and sustainable.

As we move into the future, we must plan for a fluctuating economy, address our infrastructure needs, meet our community goals, and become more resilient.

We often hear the story of what it’s like to be a Native American in the modern world as walking in two worlds. First, you must honor and respect the life as a traditional warrior to protect all the things that we hold sacred for our people – the foods, culture, medicine, and language. At the same time, we also need to be able to perform and compete in the modern-day economy to obtain the resources that we will need to protect all those things and sustain our community. Although it sounds simple, it can be very complex at times.