Highlights from the 2018 Tribal Spirit of Giving Celebration

Deana Scott Sean McCabe

Acknowledging Tribal organizations that give back

Looking back to when most Baby Boomers and older generations entered the workforce, using corporate philanthropy as a basis to work for a company was a non-factor. This was also the case when it came to buying a company’s products or services.

Raving Flash! Highlights from the 2018 Tribal Spirit of Giving Celebration Indeed, until fairly recently, many companies agreed with economist Milton Friedman who wrote, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”

Enter into the 21st century, and there’s a new standard. An organization’s focus on environmental and community social wellbeing does play a factor in their bottom line. Many of these companies weave their altruistic stories into their overall marketing strategies, with philanthropy buying goodwill from consumers and employees.

With that being said, tribes have a history of uncommon generosity and support to non-native and native communities. For Native American organizations, “giving back” and “sharing of wealth” are not a corporate trends, but a part of their cultural heritage.

Unfortunately, tribal gaming organizations are seldom recognized for the millions of dollars and hundreds of life-changing programs that they endow every year, for reasons ranging from a desire to give quietly to good works being overshadowed by ongoing anti-Indian gaming sentiment.


To share the many untold stories of positive relationships between tribal entities and the regions in which they operate, gaming and hospitality firm Raving created the Tribal Spirit of Giving recognition program in 2015. This program’s purpose was to raise awareness and recognize the acts of giving by tribal communities.

Since its inception, the Tribal Spirit of Giving has honored over 50 generous acts of giving by Native communities across the nation. Tribal casinos are asked to “share their stories” and are celebrated annually at a special celebration luncheon during Raving’s National Indian Gaming Analytics and Marketing Conference. This luncheon, which was sponsored by VGT – An Aristocrat Company, was held on January 31, 2018, at Choctaw Casino Durant, OK. While several of last year’s entries benefited national organizations, this year’s submissions were focused on local programs which included rebuilding a community baseball park, supplying a food bank, providing supplies for local school children and raising money for a community’s Boys and Girls club. Real people. Real causes. Real impact.

Submissions were posted online, as a vehicle to inspire, educate and engage. Readers could also vote on their “favorite” campaigns submitted by the following casinos:

  • Angel of the Winds Casino Resort—Angel of the Winds Food Drive
  • Blue Lake Casino & Hotel—Part of the Heart – Blue Lake School
  • Coeur d’Alene Casino—Tools 2 School
  • Dakota Connection Bingo & Casino – Dakota Sioux Casino & Hotel—Ride 4 A Wish
  • FireKeepers Casino Hotel—FireKeepers Casino Live Local, Give Local
  • Isleta Resort & Casino—Isleta Family Appreciation Day
  • Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort—Amador County Parks Restoration Project
  • Lake of the Torches Resort Casino—Lac du Flambeau Tribal Wellness Benefit
  • Mohegan Sun—Mohegan Gives Back to Veterans
  • Northern Quest Resort & Casino—Fourth Annual Celebrity Throwdown Craps Tournament
  • Prairie Band Casino & Resort—Boys & Girls Club Annual Golf Tournament
  • Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians—Soboba Gives Back
  • Swinomish Casino and Lodge—Loving, Caring, and Sharing: Habitat for Humanity

Over 600 votes were cast, and the top five programs (Angel of the Winds Food Drive, Tools 2 School, Amador County Parks Restoration Project, Mohegan Gives Back to Veterans and Boys & Girls Club Annual Golf Tournament) were entered into a cash awards drawing, with the prizes to be given to the charity of their choice funded by Raving.


In addition to the awards ceremony, this year’s Tribal Spirit of Giving celebration included a keynote address by Sam McCracken, visionary and general manager of the Nike N7 Program.

“Sometimes we forget the power of one… and how one person can create a movement; how even the smallest of kindnesses can impact our co-workers, our guests, our neighbors, in a positive way,” said Raving CEO, Deana Scott. “This year, we wanted to give our attendees a shot of inspiration and to have them hear an amazing story of how one man, with one big idea, has helped so many. We invited Sam to share his story of giving and determination.”

Sam McCracken grew up on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation in northeastern Montana and got his start in Nike’s Wilsonville warehouse in 1997.

Thirteen Years later, in 2000, McCracken had a big vision: the idea to sell Nike products directly to Native American tribes to support health promotion and disease prevention programs. He called it N7. Seven years after Nike’s Native American division began, the Nike design team collaborated with various community experts and tribal leaders to create footwear specifically for the Native American community, called Nike Air Native N7.

All proceeds from the Air Native N7, which is sold through Native American community centers and tribes, are given back to youth sport and physical activity programs in Native communities across North America through the N7 Fund.

The bottom line: to date, the N7 Fund has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants to 185 communities, schools and nonprofit organizations across the U.S. and Canada, reaching more than 350,000 youth as part of Nike’s Global Community Impact work.

“The Tribal Spirit of Giving Program is not a contest; for every act of giving deserves celebration,” Scott said. “It’s important that we support each other and share how tribal organizations make these causes part of their mission statement each year. It’s about the employees that volunteer their time and that embrace these activities to help their fellow employees or their communities at large. Our role at Raving is to use our reach in the industry and beyond to educate our communities to how tribal organizations are so much more than a business.”

Christine Faria