Shakopee Mdewakanton: The Richest Native American Tribe

While many casinos are struggling due to the economy, online gaming, and competition, one Minnesota Native American tribe is thriving. The Shakopee Mdewakanton tribe, which owns Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino, is reported to earn more than $1 billion in revenue each year. With fewer than 500 members, each member gets nearly $1.08 million per year once disbursed. (Not to add that living on reserved land exempts the income from taxation.)

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Unsurprisingly, many of America’s wealthiest tribe members live in vast mansions, drive high-end automobiles, squander on lavish vacations, indulge in expensive hobbies, and do not work.

“We have 99.2 percent unemployment,” the tribe’s president, Stanley R. Crooks, told the New York Times in a 2012 interview. “It’s entirely voluntary.”

Aside from the two popular casinos, the Shakopee Mdewakanton also built a championship golf course, a concert venue, and a 600-room hotel, making the tribe the largest employer in Scott County.

Many tribal members prefer to establish second homes outside of the reservation and enroll their children in private schools in order to better their educational experience and get perspective on life outside of the community.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that the riches are newfound. Only a generation ago, tribe members lived in trailers with no indoor plumbing, and three-quarters of the tribe received government food subsidies.

In addition to their wealth, the Shakopee Mdewakanton are well-known for regularly donating money to less fortunate tribes and other charities throughout the United States. The tribe has donated $243.5 million to charity projects since 1996, including $120 million to poorer tribes.