Kyrie Irving, an NBA champion, seven-time NBA All-Star, and member of the exclusive 50-40-90 club, has achieved another recognition: Native American.
This week, the 29-year-old who was born in Melbourne, Australia, and raised in New Jersey, became an official member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe counts more than 8,200 people as Standing Rock members.
Irving has been for several years fostering his relationship with the Native American group. His mother, who died of an illness when he was only four, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux.
Grateful for all of my relatives. I am home,” Irving said on Instagram.
Irving’s activism within the Native American community began in November of 2016 when he lent his support to protectors on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation who were demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Two years later, the tribe assigned Irving his Lakota name of Ȟéla (Little Mountain).
The NBA superstar has honored his tribal heritage since by donating money to the Standing Rock Sioux. Irving additionally burns sage before each game, a practice popular among Native Americans to rid negative energy.
Irving’s Brooklyn Nets lost in seven games during the June Eastern Conference Semifinals to the eventual NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets, however, are favored to win next season’s NBA title. The team currently has the shortest odds on DraftKings at +220.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, like most Native Americans today, relies on its casinos to keep its economy and sovereignty afloat. The group owns and operates two gaming resorts.
Standing Rock’s primary casino is its Prairie Knights Casino Resort in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The gaming floor features 700 slot machines and blackjack, craps, three card poker, and ultimate Texas hold’em table games.
The Prairie Knights Lodge offers 200 guestrooms, and the resort’s events center attracts marquee acts to the remote region. The resort additionally features a marina and RV park.
Standing Rock’s other property is the Grand River Casino Resort in Mobridge, South Dakota. The smaller casino comes with 250 slot machines and about a dozen table games.
The two tribal casinos are separated by roughly 50 air miles. Standing Rock’s sovereign reservation spans across the two states, and measures approximately 3,500 square miles.
Along with its two casinos, the community’s economy is fueled by its cattle ranching enterprise. However, tribal members who live on the reservation are far from wealthy.
According to the US Census Bureau, the median per capita income on the reservation is less than $20,000 annually. That’s substantially less than the national average of $34,100.
COVID-19 didn’t spare tribal communities in its destruction. In fact, health experts say the coronavirus disproportionately affected American Indian populations compared with the rest of the country.
Tribal casinos were also greatly impacted. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) at Native American properties dropped 20 percent in 2020.
GGR numbers compiled by the National Indian Gaming Commission reported earlier this month that 248 gaming tribes that collectively own 524 casinos combined to win $27.8 billion off of gamblers.
By comparison, the tribal casinos won $34.6 billion prior to the pandemic in 2019.
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