When Jamie Stuck graduated from Central Michigan University with a B.S. in health and fitness, he could probably hardly imagine that a decade later he would be overseeing the 2009 opening of FireKeepers, a new 0 million casino in Michigan, during an economic firestorm. But his interest in his tribe has catapulted him to leadership roles in the community and in the gaming industry—so much so that he recently made the prestigious list of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development Board of Directors’ “Native American 40 Under 40.”
Stuck credits his mother and grandfather with instilling a strong work ethic in him at an early age. He remembers his mother telling him, “I don’t care if you push a broom or are the president. Be the best at it.” He recalls his grandfather working four jobs in lieu of accepting a handout.
Following in his grandfather’s tradition, Stuck wears many hats as well. While juggling tribal council duties, Stuck also serves on the FireKeepers Development Authority, the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Potawatomi Resource Conservation and Development Council and the FireKeepers Local Revenue Sharing Board. Stuck admits his job is tough. But he tries to learn more about his culture every day. “If you don’t have a higher power, and good family support, you aren’t getting through,” he says.
Stuck takes the idea of family support to the community level in operating FireKeepers.
“I’m proud that we are providing nearly 1,500 jobs and are using local vendors and suppliers as much as possible,” he says.
Although the old ways are important to the tribe, Stuck feels that his company must “take advantage of emerging opportunities and technologies.” He also feels technology should be “flexible and scalable to meet today’s needs.”
Stuck takes pride in many new projects that have come to fruition during his tenure.
“In the past four years, we have succeeded in the acquisition of land in trust for the Pine Creek Reservation and for FireKeepers Casino. We have watched our infrastructure grow on Pine Creek with the addition of HUD Tribal Homes, our community center, the Health Department building, and the road and parking structures to support these developments.”
The NHBP is in the process of obtaining more land to grow the community and make services and programs more available. But tribal gaming is facing one big problem on the horizon.
“Off-reservation gaming,” he says. “Our tribe is working with a coalition of other federally recognized tribes in Michigan to oppose the approval of off-reservation gaming.”
When it comes to looking to the future, Stuck finds inspiration in his own tribe.
“I look to 2011 with confidence because we are a people of action and hope,” Stuck says. “As the tribe becomes more self-sufficient and makes lasting economic progress, we will do so only with great respect for our culture and traditions. We carry with honor and pride in our hearts a legacy that was the vision and great gift of our ancestors.”