Tribe behind Graton casino gives $8M to Sonoma County environment, education, fire relief

As one of Sonoma County's largest employers, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria supports thousands of workers both at the Graton Resort and Casino as well as at centers that provide a broad range of tribal social services including housing, environmental and cultural protection, temporary assistance for needy families and other programs such as establishing low-cost organic farming for low-income members of Sonoma County.

Graton Rancheria's largess extends well beyond its member tribes in the federation of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Native Americans recognized as a tribe by the U.S. Congress.

For example, the recent philanthropic reach of this organization is extensive, providing more than $3 million toward education, $4 million for environmental projects, and millions more in donations for other community needs — such as $1 million for the Bay Area Fire Relief Fund from the Graton Resort.

According to Greg Sarris, tribal chairman, the environmental legacy is remarkable, as a result of the tribe's preservation of thousands of acres of land in Sonoma County now protected in land trusts, along with funds provided to develop affiliated public access and educational programs.

In the field of education, Sonoma State University, College of Marin, Santa Rosa Junior College, Rancho Cotati High School and other local schools have benefited from Graton Rancheria's generosity and interest in promoting education success for Sonoma County students.

'Graton is particularly interested in creating a pathway to university education for local, underserved students,' said Mark Stapp, director of development at SSU, and nominator of the Graton Rancheria for this year's Community Philanthropy Award.

He said at SSU, for example, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria is funding an expanded Summer Bridge program that will help first-year, first-generation college students orient to campus life during the summer prior to matriculation.

'SSU is able to leverage Graton Rancheria's generosity to support current students through academic advisers, counseling and support services that put them on a path to graduation and successful local careers.'

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