The unemployment rate on the Fort Hall Reservation has always been notoriously high, Tribal Business Council Chairman Nathan Small said, but on Friday, that number took a hit.
The new Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Events Center held its grand opening Friday morning and the word on everyone’s lips was “jobs.” From the Tribal Business Council down to the housekeepers, the hotel is already adding value to lives of tribal members.
“Oh yeah, I got lots of friends working here,” said newly-crowned Miss Shoshone-Bannock Natasha Watson. “It’ll change our tribes because you know it gives our tribal members more opportunities for work.”
And with two ribbon-cuttings held by both the Blackfoot and Pocatello Chambers of Commerce, there was no shortage of emphasis on economy.
“What I like about my job is moving a lot, and you got to be on time and just get the job done,” said housekeeper Joan Graves.
Graves was just waiting for the hotel to open so she could get a job. She’s been on staff since June 6 and said low-income families will do themselves a favor by working here.
“Apply here, because it’s a good opportunity for everybody,” she said.
So good, in fact, that banquet worker Lenny Yupe said it changed his life — and others’.
“It is, like, life-changing for quite a bit of people,” Yupe said.
Yupe had been looking for a job for quite sometime before he got picked up by the Fort Hall Casino, and then applied for a different job with the hotel.
“I like it so far. I mean, we get to wear these snazzy suits,” Yupe said with a laugh.
The area is going to get even snazzier, Small said. In the future, the tribes want to build a second casino that connects to the hotel, a water park and a golf course.
And as a hawk, a symbol of blessing in the Sho-Ban culture, flew over the hotel, Small said, he felt the same way.
“My heart soars like a hawk,” Small said.
The hospitality company, Ovations, has trained tribal members alongside Ovations staff members as the business opened so that soon, the tribes will assume complete responsibility over the hotel and events center.
There are about 170 people already employed.