COEUR d'ALENE - It has been two years since the Coeur d'Alene Tribe last officially announced it was contributing a percentage of its annual net gaming income to support educational programs and schools in Idaho.
It has also been two years since public school districts throughout the region, including one that sits on the reservation, have received a contribution of funds from the tribe.
Tribe spokesman Helo Hancock told The Press by email that the tribe has made its required contributions for fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011 as mandated under the tribe's gaming compact with the state, but he would not reveal to whom the funds were disbursed.
Hancock advised that the tribe does not normally give out a list of the individual education donations the tribe makes.
"We chose not to do a public ceremony or announcement the last few years - partly because of complaints we got from some schools that others were getting larger donations (when they were made more public) - which is sad," Hancock wrote. The most recent contributions, made public in 2009, were from the tribe's 2008 revenues. The tribe's fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Sovereign Indian tribes, under federal law, can offer any type of gaming that is legal in the state, provided they negotiate a compact with the state. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe's compact with Idaho was negotiated and agreed to in 1992. It was amended in 2002 with voter approval of that year's Proposition One, the Indian Gaming and Self-Reliance Act.
The 2002 amendment clarified the types of video gaming machines the tribe can offer on the reservation, limited growth of the number of machines and included a provision requiring the tribe to contribute 5 percent of its annual net gaming income to support educational programs and schools on or near the reservation.
In July 2009, the tribe announced it had handed out $1.8 million for the year to local agencies dedicated to education, and held a ceremony on the reservation celebrating the distribution. According to the tribe, that brought the total to more than $12 million the tribe had given to local agencies dedicated to education.
Tribe chairman Chief Allan spoke at the July 2009 ceremony: "When my tribal leaders had a vision of this beautiful place (the casino, resort and golf course), they wanted to make sure to put 5 percent away for the future, not for only us, but for the state of Idaho, for the kids."
The tribe's offer to donate a percentage of its gaming revenues to education in Idaho was not required by the state during gambling compact negotiations, he said.
"It was something that our tribal leaders and our elders said, 'No, this is the right thing to do,'" Allan said.
At that time, money from the casino's 2008 revenues was given to 15 school districts, including $15,000 to Coeur d'Alene, $10,000 to Post Falls, $15,000 to Lakeland, $20,000 to St. Maries and $160,000 to Plummer-Worley.
The Press checked with all those districts. None has received a contribution from the tribe since that time.
The previous year, in the spring of 2008, the tribe announced it had given $4.5 million to regional schools and community programs during a two-year period, bringing the total disbursed to $12.5 million. Local schools that benefited from the 2008 distribution included Coeur d'Alene School District, $30,000; Coeur d'Alene Tribal School, $400,000; Holy Family Catholic School, $100,000; Kootenai School District, $20,000; Lakeland School District, $30,000; Plummer-Worley School District, $320,000; Post Falls School District, $20,000; and Timberlake Senior High School, $30,000.
There are other educational programs and schools the tribe has contributed funds to in the past. Colleges and universities, the Idaho Meth Project and the Human Rights Education Institute have all been beneficiaries. The tribe has made a $1 million commitment to Coeur d'Alene's Kroc Center, and recently made a donation toward that commitment.
Since some contribution recipients are nonprofits and are under no obligation to make their donor information public, it is hard to tell if they have received funds from the tribe in recent years.
John Martin, North Idaho College's vice president for community relations and marketing, said that because all funds received from the tribe go to the NIC Foundation, a private nonprofit that keeps the names of donors and amounts donated private, they would not release any information.
"The tribe has been a generous donor to the college in the past," Martin said.
The college accepted a donation of used office furniture from the tribe in 2008. The desks, chairs and conference tables previously used at the tribe's casino in Worley were valued at $250,000, according to the tribe.
A representative at the National Indian Gaming Commission's office in Portland said the agency could not disclose any information about the tribe. They referred all inquiries to Idaho's "gaming division" - however, Idaho does not have a gaming division.
No one at the state government level could confirm for The Press whether the tribe's required education disbursements have been made. The contributions are not monitored by the Idaho Department of Education.
David Workman, spokesman for the Idaho Lottery Commission, said lottery director Jeff Anderson is the person who works with the state's tribes regarding their gaming compacts. Anderson was unavailable for comment.