- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Construction is beginning on a new D.C. hotel that links four American Indian tribes with city developers.
The $43 million Residence Inn Capitol, three blocks from the site of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian near the Mall, marks the first time four tribes have joined to invest in an off-reservation project.
The two Southern California tribes and two Wisconsin tribes, which make up Four Fires LLC, have partnered with the Donohoe Cos. to develop the 13-story, 233-suite Residence Inn in Southwest. Representatives of each group gathered yesterday for a ceremonial groundbreaking and tribal blessings.
The Marriott-brand extended-stay hotel is scheduled to open in fall 2004 just before the new American Indian museum opens. The $220 million museum is expected to draw about 6 million visitors a year.
"A tremendous part of the attraction was this location," said Michael Dickens, president of Hospitality Partners of Bethesda, which will manage the hotel. "This is going to be a compelling hotel and a wonderful member of the Residence Inn family."
The Forest County Potawatomi Community of Wisconsin; the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin; and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, both of Southern California, make up Four Fires, the economic partnership of the tribal governments.
The D.C. hotel is the first venture for the new group.
"The first Four Fires project represents economic advancement for tribes and a symbolic unification of our resources," said Rick Hill, tribal adviser of the Hill Group and member of the Oneida Nation.
At yesterday's groundbreaking, representatives from each of the tribes were present to pray, bless the hotel's land and give thanks for it.
"They view land much differently than we do in terms of their reverence to it," Mr. Dickens said.
Each tribe is an equal investor in the hotel and its land, contributing $3 million each to the project. The Donohoe Cos. and other private investors have contributed $8.5 million, and the rest is covered by a loan, Mr. Dickens said. The partnership is not getting any special treatment and will be subject to taxes, unlike developments on the tribes' reservations.
"This [hotel project] is significant because it signals that U.S. tribes are now in a position with their leadership and capabilities to step out and take economic ventures into their own hands," said Joseph Kalt, co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. "Tribe after tribe, whether they have gaming or not, are looking to diversify their economic development."
The tribes say the partnership is a result of the success from bingo and casino gaming on their reservations. Gaming is the largest economic builder among U.S. tribes.
"Gaming has allowed all these tribes to be successful," said Cristina Danforth, chairman of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.
Tribal gaming operations brought in about $12.7 billion in fiscal 2001, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission, an independent agency that regulates gaming activities on Indian lands.
The D.C. hotel venture proves that U.S. tribes have enhanced their business capabilities during the past 15 years, generating enough wealth to invest in other projects, Mr. Kalt said.
While tribes have begun to invest in off-reservation and non-gaming projects, this is the largest collaboration, says Katherine Spilde, senior research associate for the Harvard group.
"Once you see this can be done, it provides a model for other tribes to aspire to, and other developers as well," she said. "This is a great model for economic diversification."
Each tribe in the partnership has separately developed other business ventures. For instance, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians founded a bottled water company, and the Viejas Band invested in its own bank.
The Residence Inn Capitol, on the 300 block of E Street SW, will be similar to Marriott's other urban extended-stay hotels.
The studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom suites will have full kitchens and are designed to be homes away from home. The hotel will include a 2,400-square-foot meeting space, underground parking, indoor pool, fitness center and gift shop. The interior of the hotel will reflect American Indian heritage and culture.
"It's not unusual for a Residence Inn to reflect its local community," said Stacey Milne, brand vice president for Residence Inn.

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