Tammi Tiger's unwavering dedication to her roots permeates every fiber of her being. Fueled by a passion for community service, a deep connection to her Native heritage, and a steadfast loyalty to UNLV, Tiger (’15 MS Public Administration) radiates a remarkable sense of purpose.
Soon after completing her master's degree at UNLV, Tiger helped found the university’s Native American Alumni Club and volunteered to represent UNLV at a college fair organized by her tribe, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Recognizing the importance of the Choctaw’s casino enterprises, she wanted her community to have access to the world’s premier hospitality management program at UNLV.
What Tiger couldn’t have imagined is that five years later she would be part of launching a tribal gaming initiative at UNLV's William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. Following an exceptional two-decade tenure with Clark County, Tiger embraced the opportunity to serve as the director of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and UNLV Tribal Education Initiative. A proud member of the Choctaw Nation and descendant of the Muscogee Nation, she plans to leverage her connections within Indian Country to advance the mission of the college while also preparing future generations for leadership roles in tribal gaming and hospitality.
You spent the first half of your career in public works. What inspired you to devote this next chapter of your career to furthering tribal education?
The timing was perfect. After volunteering in the Native community for nearly 20 years, I felt it was time to commit to full-time service. Also, witnessing the success of tribal gaming across Indian Country, along with the impact the presence of the San Manuel Gaming & Hospitality Authority in Las Vegas, fueled my excitement to serve in this capacity.
Explain your experience working with tribal-related organizations and communities.
Locally, I’m on the board for IndigenousAF, an indigenous community arts organization. Statewide, I serve as a commissioner for the Nevada Indian Commission, which works to improve the well-being of American Indians. Nationally, I’m a Native vote coordinator with the National Congress for American Indians and part of a training cohort with the Native Organizers Alliance.
I come from a family of Rebels – I’m an alum, and so is my son and sister. I’ve also witnessed a lot of progressive, Native activities start at UNLV, so I see the university as a place that’s really open to diversity, new ideas, and making a positive change in the community.
How does tribal education fit within the Hospitality College?
Every culture has its own concept of hospitality, and for Natives, it is woven into our traditional values of embracing and welcoming guests. The cultural connection is also apparent in tribal casinos. We equate public service with hospitality because all the revenue supports the tribe’s economic sustainability, which in turn benefits the members and surrounding communities. This is the difference between tribal and commercial gaming.
What is the goal of the Tribal Education Initiative, and how will you achieve it?
We want to give Native students the leadership skills and education needed to run their tribes’ hospitality enterprises – with the opportunity to learn in-person or online … as degree-seeking or non-degree-seeking students. My job is to build relationships with tribal communities to understand their educational needs and partner on delivering a program that works for them.
As for course development, the college has some of the top gaming and hospitality professionals in the world. We’re so fortunate to have gaming professor Vince Eade on the team. He has an incredibly nuanced understanding of tribal gaming operations. I am so honored to offer the industry best to Indian Country.
What was the last big tribal-related project you worked on?
As a member of the UNLV Native American Alumni Club, I helped organize the annual Powwow for the Planet that was hosted on campus earlier this year. While it is a community-based social gathering, it also serves as a platform to raise awareness about the cultural significance of sacred places to inspire youth to advocate for the protection of land, water and natural resources.
Favorite tribal-related shows or books that are portrayed accurately?
Reservation Dogs: The show follows four Native American teenagers in rural Oklahoma.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: The book highlights Native Americans’ relationship to nature, weaving together indigenous wisdom with scientific knowledge.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Saturday morning's Schoolhouse Rock! was my favorite cartoon! I was always into politics and law making. I remember when Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president and wanting to be a judge or an elected official. Also, many of my family members have served in tribal leadership and public service, so maybe it’s just in my blood. I enjoy being resourceful and out in the community directly helping people.