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The head of Catawba focused on the casino, the financial impact, the local connections

After nearly a decade of fighting, the Indian Catawba Nation, the only Native American tribe recognized by the federal government of South Carolina, can move on to a brighter future.

In 2020, Catawba Nation fought the coronavirus (American Indians found by disease control centers to be more susceptible to the virus). In November 2020, Catawbas lost race leader Booth Sanders to a virus.

In 2017, Catawbas had to argue in the South Carolina Legislature with their children at Rock Hill Public Schools, where their reservation is located.

And the tribe has been fighting since 2013 for financial improvements.

The Katavba Nation’s unemployment rate, as of April 2020, was 13.8%, more than three times the unemployment rate in North and South Carolina. Records show that the average household income is $ 30,000. That’s about 30% lower than the median income in both Carolines.

In 2013, Catawba Indian Nation announced plans to build a casino, eventually called Two Kings Casino, in King’s Mountain. fifth year

The casino can be a break that the tribe needs to overcome its financial challenges.

The casino faced many obstacles, including political opposition, failed applications, and federal lawsuits filed by the Cherokee Indian Orchestra. But on April 16, a federal court ruling dismissed the lawsuit, removing the casino’s last hurdle. Catawba representatives now say that part of the casino will open in July.

Herald correspondent Toby Nell Perkins recently sat down with Catawba CEO William “Bill” Harris to talk about the Catawba nation.

Harris, 67, became head coach in 2011. Harris says this is his deadline, but plans to lead until 2023. The chief said he hoped the casino would leave their financial struggle to Catawbas.

“It was a long, hard fight,” he said. “We are correcting historical mistakes.”

His answers have been edited for brevity.

We are in a really good time for Catawbas, because there was an epidemic, and at the same time the casino is developing. Talk about the effects of COVID.

“We lost tribal citizens because of COVID. As you well know, the indigenous community is very vulnerable to COVID-19, there were communities that lost a lot of people … Fortunately, that did not happen here. Ours was usually a bewildering loss, but we also lost a tribal leader during the epidemic. Butch Sanders, we lost him last November.

“But some good things came out of COVID. One of them was the ability to communicate with people virtually, something we had never done before. People were resistant to it, because usually when you come to a round room, which is the chambers of the General Council, that room is only allowed to belong to tribal citizens.

“What we saw was the interest of the community, which was not at a machine distance to participate in virtual meetings. When we had our first virtual meeting, we were getting people from California, Colorado, Mississippi, Utah who are now actually reuniting. Before that it was just a newsletter for them.

“And with that, I hope what we’re going to do is build on that, create hybrid general council meetings where you can be present, or you can be virtual.”

Blocks at King’s Mountain Casino have been lifted. Do you anticipate that the casino will make a significant financial difference?

“Let’s talk about economic development. There is no community, a society that can sustain itself without economic development. Without economic development, you will be limited in your resources. Catawba has had this for many years now, because what we have survived from is our ability to write grants, to serve the needs of the people through those grants.

“The most important thing for the coming economic stability is that you do not expect the Congress to dictate what you can or cannot have.”

Is this an opportunity for the race to have some control over its financial situation?

“Absolutely: What everyone has said about the natives is that they do not know how to deal with their affairs. But when you look at the indigenous communities that have this opportunity, they excel at it. Look at the successful indigenous tribes and communities that have won so many games. For one, the Seminol tribe (in Florida) owns five Hard Rock cafes. ”

Will many Catawba citizens work in the casino?

“I hope so, because this is something you can sit still and say, ‘I’re a part of it. It’s not that it belongs to me. I’m a part of it. ” And that should make me proud. If you work there, you know that you are truly an ambassador for our nation. It’s a job they will be proud of, that they are on top of the schedule when it happened. When they become grandparents, grandparents, they can actually sit down and say: “I was there in 2021 when that door first opened.”

Talk about Katawba’s relationship with Rock Hill and the city.

“I think it’s time for South Carolina to come back and sit at this table, otherwise we will sit at their table and have a discussion. Let’s start working on it, because we can really be a profitable partner. We have always had that opportunity.

“When I took office in 2011, what I saw was that it was time to rebuild some of the fences. I think in many ways there are still many misconceptions about what Catawba is. What are they doing there? Can we go down there? ”

“But you see that sign coming (to the reservation). It is not written there. “You are not allowed here.” It is written there. “Welcome to Catawba Booking!”

“You are welcome here.”

Is there anything else you want to say?

“For the Catawba community, what I mean is a long, hard struggle. At this point in time we are correcting historical mistakes. Accept it և accept what it is.

“No to the Catawba community, what I mean is that we have been your friends for generations. We have welcomed you into our community for centuries. We only ask that you also accept, as we never know when something Catawbas might bring to the table will allow the project to move forward. And Catawbas does not know what Rock Hill can bring to the table. ”

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