Sprawling mansions, exotic cars, yachts and round-the-world trips all without the need to lift a finger – sound too good to be true? Not for the Shakopee Mdewakanton, America’s richest Native American tribe.
Latest estimates say the small tribe of just 480 members earns $1billion a year from their two casinos built just outside Minneapolis – Mystic Lake and Little Six .
With their sovereign right to build the gambling houses, the enterprising tribe developed the two money-spinning ventures which now come complete with a championship golf course, 600 room hotel and concert venue.
When the revenue is divided between members it pays a check of $84,000 a month or $1.08m a year – which comes tax free if you live on reservation land, meaning members can forget the day job.
‘We have 99.2 percent unemployment,’ Stanley Crooks, the tribe’s president, told the New York Times last year. ‘It’s entirely voluntary.’
There are several mansions now on the tribal land and large warehouses have had to be built to house cars, boats and other belongings of the wealthiest members.
But even though the benefits are endless – many members build second homes off the reservation, send their children to private schools, take up thoroughbred breeding or go on lengthy global trips – there are concerns within the tribe that the wealth comes at a cost.
Curbed.com writes many are concerned it is difficult to teach children the value of money.
The traditional way of life is also still promoted with many tepees visible on reservation land. The tribe was annihilated in the US-Dakota War 150 years ago with the group’s ancestors brutally slaughtered or exiled – something they can never forget.
‘For us, we look at our ancestors as perseverance,’ Crooks told Minnesota Public Radio last year.
‘They held onto the language and they passed it on. They said, ‘This is your land, you need to do what you can to maintain a piece of it and pass it on to your children, that they will continue to be part of our land.’ That’s the way I look at it.’
The tribe is also well-known for their charitable giving.
It often donates cash to poorer tribes and charities across the country. Since 1996 they have given away $243.5 million, $28.5million in 2010 alone, including a $12.5million donation to the University of Minnesota.
‘If it wasn’t for Shakopee, especially during this time when things are tough for loans, tough in this economy — there’s tribes who would be in a very tough situation,’ Ernest Stevens, chair of the National Indian Gaming Association explains.
‘There’s nobody in the gaming industry that I know of that can compare to what Shakopee does.”
In 2010 they were given a Jefferson Award for Public Service.
A generation ago the tribe was living in trailers with no indoor plumbing according to the Times, remarkably now members admit they simply have too much money to know what to do with.
‘Why dig a hole when you don’t need to dig it — when you can pay someone to dig a hole?’ Keith B. Anderson, the tribe’s secretary and treasurer told the newspaper. ‘Instead of budgeting a dinner and movie, you can go to dinner and a movie and have dinner again and see another movie, but you can’t see enough movies and dinners to spend all your money.’