Under deal, Tribe will lease The Ram restaurant back to owner; acquisition marks major diversification of Tribe’s economic development portfolio
October 1, 2021
PUYALLUP RESERVATION, TACOMA, Wash.—In a historic move into commercial real estate, the Puyallup Tribe has purchased more than 2 acres of land on Ruston Way in Tacoma. The land is well-known to Tacoma residents: Both The Ram Restaurant & Brewery and C.I. Shenanigans restaurant buildings are on the acreage and are part of the purchase. Shenanigans closed in 2020 during the pandemic. Under the purchase terms, the Tribe will lease The Ram back to the previous owner, who plans to continue operation of the popular restaurant. There are no plans to reopen Shenanigans, but the Tribe is evaluating future uses for the land.
“This is a deal that will benefit everyone involved,” Tribal Council said. “The Tribe will benefit by diversifying our economic base and generating revenue, and a popular restaurant will stay open.”
A major economic power, and growing
The Tribe’s prosperity is rooted in natural resources as it has been for time immemorial, but in recent years the Tribe has played an expanded role in the regional economy. The Tribe and its subsidiaries generate over $700 million per year and collectively put the Tribe as Pierce County’s fifth-largest employer, with a total workforce of 4,300.The Emerald Queen Casino, which opened a new $450 million location in Tacoma last year, remains the Tribe’s main revenue source but in recent years the Tribe has added cannabis stores and a golf course to its holdings. Under a compact with the state, 2 percent of the casino’s revenues are donated to nonprofits in the region, amounting to millions of dollars per year. Tribal Council regularly makes donations to local groups on top of the casino percentage.
While a major economic development move, the Tribe’s purchase of the Ruston Way property is also part of the Tribe’s long-term re-establishment of its presence on the original Puyallup homeland. Today, many local municipalities and community groups open their meetings with an acknowledgement. Exact words vary according to the hearts of those making the acknowledgement but often mirrors suggested language the Tribe has put on its website: “We acknowledge that we are on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup Tribe. The Puyallup people have lived on and stewarded these lands since the beginning of time, and continue to do so today. We recognize that this land acknowledgement is one small step toward true allyship and we commit to uplifting the voices, experiences, and histories of the Indigenous people of this land and beyond. ”
The suggested language comes with a reminder that a land acknowledgement should not be empty words but recognition that the land we are on was stolen from the First People. The cities of Tacoma and Fife and the Port of Tacoma all were built on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup people. The Tacoma waterfront, where the Puyallup people would fish for salmon, gather shellfish and canoe through the waterways, was quickly sought after settler arrival and the signing of the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854. After outright theft of the land, the City of Tacoma and the Port grew, while smokestacks, railroads, sawmills and shipping polluted the once-pristine waterfront the Puyallup called home since time immemorial.
Tribal Members began re-asserting the Tribe’s fishing and land rights in the 1960s, and after the historic Land Claims Settlement of 1990 resolved land disputes, the Tribe has steadily reacquired some of its lost land through outright purchase.
The Tribe intends to put The Ram/Shenanigans land into trust within the next several years, which means the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will acquire title to the property and hold it for the benefit of the Tribe and its Membership. One potential obstacle is the waterfront contamination that came with a century of dispossession and industrial development. Contamination complicates applications to put land into trust, but the Tribe is hopeful it can work through any issues.
More to come
Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud promised in his address to Tribal Membership at the 2020 Tribal Council swearing-in ceremony that economic development would be a top priority. He said the Tribe is looking for more reputable business partners interested in forming joint ventures that will expand the economic development base or to lease and develop properties. “Above all, we want partners who share our commitment to protect the environment and respect our heritage,” Chairman Sterud said. “Our Economic Development Team is actively looking for such partners who want to share and grow in our prosperity. We are ready.”
About the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
The Puyallup People have lived along the shores of what is now called Puget Sound since time immemorial. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 members and one of the largest employers in Pierce County. It serves its people and neighbors with generosity and is committed to building a sustainable way of life for future generations. Learn more about the Puyallup Tribe.
About the Puyallup Tribal Council
The Puyallup Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The council consists of Chairman Bill Sterud, Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller, Annette Bryan, James Rideout, Anna Bean, Monica Miller and Fred Dillon.
Michael Thompson, Communications Director, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 382-6200; [email protected]