Saluting Stanley Crooks

Around the Midwest, Stanley Crooks was a well-known name and influential force in the gaming industry, and in late August this year, we mourned his death. Crooks served as chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community since 1992. In fact, he was just re-elected to another four-year term in January this year.

Crooks was known for being an unwavering advocate for the Dakota and tribal sovereignty, and his contributions to the industry were many. Under his leadership, his own tribe—who owns and operates Minnesota’s successful Mystic Lake Casino—donated millions to other tribes and charities and worked to further community and economic development. He was reported to have been among area leaders who resisted then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s failed attempt to use tribal casino money to help solve state budget problems.

Perhaps tribal leadership was in his blood—his own father, Norman, was the tribe’s first chairman.

Crooks previously served as the chairman of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and was a tribal representative for the National Congress of American Indians. He was also a U.S. Navy veteran, serving in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Crooks received many awards and honors throughout the years in recognition of his contributions. They include three awards from the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA): a Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award, a Leadership Award and a Chairman’s Leadership Award of Excellence: Going Green for Mother Earth.

Crooks also was honored as Tribal Leader of the Year by the Native American Finance Officers Association, and most recently was honored as the 2012 Eagle Visionary Award Winner by Indian Gaming magazine.

Vice Chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Charlie Vig issued this statement about Crooks: “Chairman Crooks was a leader in every sense of the word. I am honored to have worked with Stanley over the last 20 years and especially over the last eight months on the tribal council. He was a true mentor and a true leader. We join with his family, friends, and all those who were privileged to know Chairman Crooks in mourning his passing. We offer our deepest sympathies to his family in this difficult time.”

In a NIGA press release, NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. said: “These awards are the highest honors NIGA gives to leaders dedicating their lives to making a better world for their people. Chairman Crooks has surely demonstrated that not just to his people, but also to his neighbors and other tribes.”

“When I last saw Chairman Crooks, I assured him that we will stand united with our tribes and that his vision will continue with our leaders,” Stevens continued. “He taught us well and I thank him for his knowledge and generosity. Today, you can feel the immeasurable impact he had on his people and Indian country. He was a leader for many and, on behalf of NIGA, we thank Chairman Stanley Crooks for his tenacity, quick wit and passion.”

Crooks clearly impacted many others, especially in the Minnesota area. Several high-profile political figures spoke out about him too, including Shakopee, Minn., Mayor Brad Tabke, Prior Lake, Minn., Mayor Mike Myser and Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

Crooks is survived by his wife Cheryl; two daughters, Cherie and Alisa; three brothers; an uncle; and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Charlie Vig succeeded Crooks as chairman. Secretary/Treasurer Keith B. Anderson assumed the office of vice chairman, and a tribal election held to fill the position of secretary/treasurer elected Lori Watso, who previously served in that position from 2000-2004.

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