Sycuans’ chips up

• The Sycuans’ casino is getting a $300m expansion this year.

PERTH council is planning to send a delegation of Whadjuk Noongar elders to meet a tribe of casino-owning first nation Americans in 2021 under a new indigenous cultural exchange program.

The Sycuans are a small band of about 130 people who form part of the Kumeyaay Nation, which straddles the US and Mexico border.

They own the Sycuan Casino Resort outside San Diego, one of Perth’s eight sister cities.

Perth council’s new First Nations Cultural Sharing Plan mixes up the usual grip-and-grin cultural exchange between white, suited councillors, sending local elders to Sycuan country after hosting a visiting delegation of the Indians in Perth.

During the trips it’s intended the elders will share stories and cultural practices, give talks to the public, and act as ambassadors for their respective homes.

Last week Perth council’s commissioners voted to allocate $20,000 to the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council to host the Sycuans on a 12-day visit, timed to coincide with the World Indigenous Tourism Summit held in Perth next April.

WAITOC CEO Robert Taylor says they’re excited to be hosting the delegates.

“The event is looking to bring together extraordinary stories of business and Aboriginal cultural success and provides a great opportunity for the Kumeyaay people to share in this rich cultural event,” Mr Taylor said.

The Sycuans do have an extraordinary business story: in 1972 their chairwoman Anna Preito Sandoval led them to set up a casino on the reservation that had once confined them.

They used the profits to buy back huge tracts of ancestral land and updated their dilapidated housing, where indoor plumbing was almost unheard of. Sandoval died in 2010, proud of lifting her people from poverty, but sad to see the wealth undermining culture and tradition.

by DAVID BELL

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