Liv­ing Sky Casino re­flects back on im­pact­ful first decade

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The Liv­ing Sky Casino cel­e­brated a look back at an im­pact­ful first decade while kicked off a five month long 10th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion sur­round­ing their De­cem­ber 29, 2008 open­ing.

A 10th an­niver­sary Kick-off Gala was hosted on Septem­ber 28 to both cel­e­brate their achieve­ments over the past 10 years, in ad­di­tion to an an­nounce­ment of a se­ries of cel­e­bra­tion events over the com­ing weeks and months.

A num­ber of the key play­ers dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment years of the Liv­ing Sky Casino were in at­ten­dance in or­der to be rec­og­nized for their ef­forts in en­sur­ing the project ul­ti­mately came to fruition.

Tribal Chief Ed­mund Bel­le­garde, a for­mer CEO of the Saskatchewan In­dian Gam­ing Author­ity, pro­vided some key mem­o­ries of those early ef­forts. He vividly re­calls a phone call from ‘Wild’ Bill Thacker in July 2001, who po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rectly straight out asked Bel­le­garde “How do I get one of those In­dian casi­nos down here in Swift Cur­rent?”

Bel­le­garde de­cided to call then Tribal Chair Ron Crowe from the File Hills Qu’ap­pelle Tribal Coun­cil and the duo ven­tured to Swift Cur­rent to in­ves­ti­gate the idea fur­ther.

“So that one phone call that didn’t sound very busi­ness like, that didn’t sound very com­pelling, there was a bit of un­know­ing…just didn’t know how to ap­proach a First Na­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion and maybe some of the pro­to­cols. He was just straight up and straight out.”

“So one phone call led to a $36 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment.”

He also re­mem­bers be­ing in Swift Cur­rent on plebiscite evening on Oc­to­ber 22, 2003 when the com­mu­nity voted 55 per cent in sup­port of the casino/ per­form­ing arts fa­cil­ity. The Event Cen­tre added $5.5 mil­lion in cap­i­tal costs to the over­all project, but was in­te­gral in the casino mov­ing for­ward.

“That was the vi­sion and the com­pelling na­ture of the late Paul Rezan­soff and the Swift Cur­rent Al­lied Arts Coun­cil. He had a vi­sion. He wanted to get out of the High School and the tem­po­rary chairs. He wanted state of the art,” Bel­le­garde re­calls.

“We be­lieve that this was the value added to the pro­posal to that plebiscite ques­tion on Oc­to­ber 22, 2003, that made a dif­fer­ence. That com­pelled some who were sus­pi­cious, ap­pre­hen­sive, skep­ti­cal, that a First Na­tions project like the casino could be a

Swift Cur­rent Arts Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Me­lanie Friesen, Chief Alice Pah­tayken from Neka­neet First Na­tion, Tourism Swift Cur­rent Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Lee Friesen, Chief Alvin Fran­cis, City of Swift Cur­rent Di­rec­tor of Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Marty Sal­berg, for­mer Swift Cur­rent Mayor Sandy Lar­son, for­mer Saskatchewan In­dian Gam­ing Author­ity CEO Ed­mund Bel­le­garde and for­mer File Hills Qu’ap­pelle Tribal Coun­cil Chief Ron Crowe were all rec­og­nized for their ef­forts in help­ing the Liv­ing Sky Casino get off the ground.

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