TPT’s Almanac airs interview with Chairman Stanley Crooks

In a rare TV interview last week, Chairman Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) told TPT “Almanac” reporter Mary LaHammer that he and Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson reached their historic joint marketing agreement after “a great conversation” that lasted only two hours. “The handlers took it from there,” he said.

Despite the deal, Crooks said he thinks the pressure for expanded gambling isn’t likely to go away, given the state’s continuing budget deficit problems. “The racino issue may be quieted somewhat, but there’s plenty of clamor still out there,” he said.

LaHammer asked Chairman Crooks about the hundreds of millions of dollars his tribe has donated to charitable causes and other Native nations. “You have to remember that we didn’t have a lot back in the ’60s when our community was first recognized,” he responded. “It’s just part of our culture–you use what you need, and you share the excess.” The total so far is approaching one billion dollars–about half a billion in loans, and over $200 million in grants.

The interview also touched on the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Dakota Conflict, which led to the December, 1862 hanging of 32 Sioux warriors by order of President Abraham Lincoln. The event remains the largest mass government execution in American history. “Certainly it’s on the minds of a lot of Dakota people,” Crooks said. “It’s very close to us.”

Chief Shakopee, for whom the Shakopee community was named, was one of those hung. Crooks is a descendant of friendly Sioux who helped white settlers escape harm during the conflict, but most of those Indians were exiled from Minnesota. A handful of families remained behind or returned, forming the tiny community that eventually won federal recognition in 1969.

“People ask how we were able to set up a village next to the Twin Cities,” he said. “We were always here. In hindsight, we’re grateful that the Twin Cities got built; if they hadn’t been, we wouldn’t be so successful.”

After twenty years as SMSC Chairman, Crooks commented on his legacy. “I find all we’ve been able to accomplish astounding, and I’m humbled to have been able to play a role. Of those to whom much is given, much is expected. That’s kind of my belief anyway.”

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Andy Platto