Former Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa talks development with Hopi High students

POLACCA, Ariz. - The Hopi Tribe's Economic Development Corporation (HTEDC) is considering developing its land near Twin Arrows Casino for businesses and housing.

LeRoy Shingoitewa, one of the seven board members on the HTEDC, said the land between Flagstaff and Winslow is prime for development because of the casino and the traffic on I-40. He said this would be a perfect location for a truck stop gas station.

Shingoitewa, former chairman of the Hopi Tribe, spoke to an economics class at Hopi High School about the possibilities. He said the business plan will have to consider who the customers would be, the type of business, who is using the road and how many vehicles pass by.

He said the HTEDC would work with business consultants including the state. The HTEDC would also check with Twin Arrows Casino about their needs.

The Hopi Tribe owns 300,000 acres by I-40.

Shingoitewa said he would like to see a Hopi casino on I-40 or in Winslow, but not on the Hopi reservation. He cautioned against some problems that casinos can cause.

For example, he said the Ute Tribe has casinos and as soon as a youth becomes 18-years-old they give them $24,000. He said this resulted in many Ute youths dropping out of high school because they knew this money was coming their way. Some of them went through the money quickly because they didn't know how to manage money.

Shingoitewa said he is serving on the HTEDC board because he is concerned about the Hopi people.

"We need money in order to provide services," he said.

The Hopi Tribe has an annual budget of about $21 million. Despite the Hopi Tribe owning several businesses, most of this money comes from the federal government, state government and Peabody Coal Company.

"We need people who will think, 'How can we make money?'" he said about the tribe's needs for the future.

Shingoitewa asked the students what economic development they would like to see on Hopi. The students responded that a Bashas, a mall and a movie theater are needed. Development is often hard on Hopi because it's hard to find land where construction would be approved by the Hopi people who own it.

The Hopi Tribe owns the Hopi Cultural Center on Second Mesa, Days Inn Kokopelli in Sedona, Hopi Travel Plaza in Holbrook, Walpi Housing in Polacca, Hopi Three Canyon Ranches in Springerville, Winslow and Flagstaff; and commercial prosperities in Flagstaff, including Heritage Square building in the downtown and Kachina Plaza and Continental Plaza on the east side of Flagstaff.

Shingoitewa told the students that their career paths can go in different directions. He was interested in working as a sociologist with law enforcement, but he became an educator when he learned he could make more money to support his family. He said that whenever money changes hands that economic development is taking place.

Shingoitewa cautioned that economic development can be risky. He said Moenkopi borrowed $13 million in order to get the Tuuvi Center started and had to put up land as collateral.

"They took a chance," he said. "If you understand economic development, it's a good field to go into."

He said if a student is considering become a physical therapist they could go to work for somebody else or they could start their own business.

Shingoitewa told the students to be proud of their heritage. He took issue with elders who blame students who don't speak Hopi fluently.

"It's not their fault. You need to teach them," he told the elders.

Shingoitewa said there is a brain drain on Hopi because there are no jobs available on the reservation. He said a lot of Hopis are well educated, but have to get jobs off the reservation.

Shingoitewa has a long connection with Hopi High Principal Charles Gover. They both were raised in the same area in Utah and Gover served as the basketball coach in Tuba City when Shingointewa was principal there.

HTEDC has its main offices at 5200 E. Cortland Blvd, Suite E200-7, Flagstaff. More information is available at (928) 522-8675.

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