The Swinomish Indian Tribe Community has come along way in the past 26 years.
From a time when jobs were being cut and struggling to keep the office open to todays 900 members and an annual budget of nearly $70 million and the leading employer in Washington state’s Skagit County.
Through it all Brian Cladoosby has been a part of it, from a member of the tribal community senate 26 years ago to being the chairman for the past 16 years.
“Our chairman, my predecessor Robert Joe Sr., turned back in his paycheck more than once to keep our lights on,” Cladoosby said while speaking at RES 2011, the 25th Annual Reservation Economic Summit & American Indian Tribal Leaders Award.
Cladoosby was the recipient of this year’s Tribal Leadership Award, given to outstanding leadership in support of American Indian business and economic development endeavors in tribal communities.
The Swinomish economic development started in 1983 with Swinomish Indian Bingo, later expanding to the Casino in 1994. And it continues to grow under Cladoosby’s watch.
“I often share with up-and-coming leaders that having your people believe in you and serving them is one of the most gratifying jobs in the world,” Cladoosby said. “Never think you can do it alone. In all of my experiences as a tribal leader, a fisherman, a father, and a grandfather, I have come to the absolute truth that it takes a team to succeed.”
Cladoosby praised the work the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and the National Indian Gaming Association do but said it is up to tribal leaders to help develop a climate in which business development is encouraged.
“First what challenges can the tribal leaders of today and tomorrow expect, in light of the fact that we are not only leaders in our tribal communities, but also captains of some of the largest employers in our areas,” he said. “Second, how can we work with the Congress to make the changes in our laws, regulations and policies so we can break down the wall of barriers to help us provide prosperous and sustainable economies?”
Cladoosby addressed the Swinomish are currently working on several projects to better the community including a safe shelter for women and children escaping abuse, a new hotel and gas station and this summer they will be hosts of Tribal Journeys, the annual canoe journey.
His dedication to the Swinomish tribe and his leadership upon receiving this award can be seen in his chairman’s statement on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community website.
“The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is not a big tribe, nor is our community a large community, but our people have the same needs, hopes and dreams as all communities throughout the world. We want our families and our homes to be healthy. We want high-quality education for our children and loving care for our elders. We want safe neighborhoods and a clean environment. We want to preserve our traditions, culture, foods, dances, crafts; in essence, our way of life. As a community, we work together to sustain these values and further our hopes and dreams for generations to come,” he wrote.
Cladoosby also serves as:
- President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, an organization of 57 tribes in nine Western states
- Chairman of the Association of Washington Tribes
- Executive Board of the Washington Indian Gaming Association
- Executive Board, National Congress of American Indians
- Co-Speaker of the Coast Salish Gathering
- Co-Chairman of the Northwest Climate Change Center
- Caucus member of the Environmental Protection of the National Tribal Operations Caucus