Niagara Gazette — Robert Odawi Porter ruffled countless feathers as president of the Seneca Nation but he did depart from his two-year term in office with a meaningful message for his people. In his farewell letter, Porter cited many needs including health care for the Senecas, despite the excellent system already in place. The challenges go far beyond the routine visit to the doctor's office or the annual checkup. Whether they want to admit it, there are deep-rooted issues with obesity and mental illnesses, Porter said, in addition to "rampant substance abuse" problems. The former tribal president indicated that his administration and those before him should have been doing a better job of preparing their people for the workplace. Granted the nation that operates three gambling casinos in Western New York — the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel in Niagara Falls as the showpiece — has 1,300 government jobs and 4,000 gaming corporation jobs, many of them still lack the skills or education to perform the particular tasks. With the millions of dollars they reap every week from the three gambling palaces, funding the training should be no problem.
It's more complex than just putting people on the payroll, as Porter explained: "We also have a motivational-deficit where our people lack the work ethic to maintain a steady commitment to a well-paying job." For the record, almost 50 percent of the nation's government jobs and 95 percent of the gaming corporation jobs are held by non-Senecas.
Another issue that obviously bothers Porter: The increasing responsibility of the Nation for elder care. He points out that adult children of Seneca elders no longer care for their parents as they did decades ago. Sound familiar?
"Before there was a Nation government," Porter says, "Our elders were cared for by their own adult children." For the record, the Nation is expected to provide more housing for the elders, more health care, more recreational opportunities and more transportation. Asked why this is happening, Porter said it was probably a combination of factors: Caring for elders is time consuming, expensive and difficulty to do. It's also due to a breakdown in the family structure. As an example of how much the Senecas have depended on the Nation to cover even personal expenses, Porter noted that at one point the council (on the Reservation) was asked to approve an emergency appropriation for the shoveling of elder's sidewalks.