W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chairman/CEO, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe

W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chairman/CEO
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
7 Cedars Casino in Sequim, WA

NAVIGATING 2021: We are experiencing unprecedented times and challenges in Indian Country. There is no question, no one saw this COVID-19 virus pandemic coming. Our first challenges were to protect our citizens, particularly our elders.

As we move deeper into 2021, we find ourselves doing our part to defeat the pandemic and get back to normal. This current health care dilemma has been an adjustment for both our tribal governmental operation and our businesses. On the governmental side, most of us went quickly into a virtual, tele-working format except for functions that required physical presence, including health care and public safety. 

But on the business side, we all had to shift our operations to stabilize our business revenue.  That required us to mandate new rules, i.e. wearing masks, practicing new hygiene practices, and spacing personal conditions, and find new ways to work efficiently. No, it was not easy for tribes or for the public. Tribes wanted to be part of the solution, watching, and complementing state and local requirements. Although over the past 20-30 years, tribes’ economic bases have been growing to advance their self-reliance goals, the new conditions and down-turned economy caused by the pandemic significantly impacted our unrestricted revenue sources. 

CHALLENGES/OPPORTUNITIES: Indian Country has learned from the challenges over its long history, so we persevered. We have found ways to re-boot our businesses in the current pandemic restrictive environment. The good news is we are seeing ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ and have confidence that we can move forward. Our businesses and other public services operations are responsibly moving back into full operations. As of May 14, masks are optional for guests, but still mandatory for our employees.

KEY TO SUCCESS: The CARES Act and now the American Rescue Plan of 2021 have helped all tribes survive and adjust, but I believe it is the determination of our communities that has led us through these difficult times. Our people believe in our inner strength and resilience and trust it will help us achieve our purpose and thrive into the future. Our historical heritage has instilled the qualities of survival and perseverance in our community. 

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: When the pandemic hit, our tribe was in the middle of building our hotel as well as a couple of other huge construction projects. We found a way to build the hotel and open it up responsibly, adjusting to health care restrictive conditions. Our tribe continued to move our tribal and business projects forward knowing normal economic and health conditions would return, and we wanted to be ready. We are continuing our path to economic diversity for our business base.  Currently, the cannabis industry has become a new venture for us, and we are advancing our retail, farming, and medicinal sectors of the industry. 

Our tribe’s construction and broadband businesses are continuing not only to survive, but to grow with the market demands. And food supply demand has benefited our Jamestown Seafood operation. We are not letting the restrictive pandemic conditions dampen our Self-Reliance mission.