Article by HerLife Magazine
Written by Nicole Stracek

Margaret Dalton, leader of the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, and her husband, Earl Dalton Senior, had a dream. Through her hard work, dedication and perseverance, the Tribe’s fate was solidified by her leadership, and her dedication never wavered through her 30 years as Tribal Chairperson.

“Her vision for the Tribe was that it become self-reliant. She didn’t want future generations to have to depend on government handouts, and she was determined to find a way to do it,” said Chief Executive Officer Rich Hoffman, who oversees Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort for the Tribe. Through her devotion, Margaret was able to bring independence to the Tribe, and today Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort thrives as their commitment to the community continues.

Margaret Dalton, Visionary
Margaret L. (Hughes) Dalton was born in Tuolumne, California to her Native American mother, Tessie Jeff, and her non-Native father, Clyde Hughes. At 16, Margaret left school and married her best friend, Earl Dalton Senior, and they moved to the rancheria near Jackson. Together, their dream was to make their small band of Miwuk Indians self-sufficient, independent of state or government funding. The couple would raise not only their own four children, but also Margaret’s four younger siblings. “Their only rule for the children was that they must graduate high school, and every one of them accomplished this and more,” shared Rich. “Margaret had a difficult childhood; her parents struggled with alcoholism and her family struggled while she was growing up on the reservation. It was important to her that her children and siblings have a better life, and she was adamant that they complete high school.”

Margaret knew that in order for the Miwuk Tribe to become self-sufficient, they must form their own government to strengthen their position while dealing with local, state and federal governments. The Tribe met in 1979, established a government and elected Margaret Tribal Chairperson, a position she held uncontested for 30 years. However, in 1980, Earl died in a logging accident, leaving Margaret to pursue their dreams on her own.

Determined to succeed, Margaret began educating herself on ways to develop the Tribe and their future. After reading about the success of the Seminole Tribe in Florida with a bingo hall, Margaret began to search for private investors to finance a bingo hall. She encountered a rocky beginning that led to closing and opening the bingo hall three times. After it closed for the third time, she was determined to try again and convinced her tribal government to let her try one more time. In 1991, with honest investors, Jackson Indian Bingo Hall opened. “If there was one thing you could say about Margaret, it was that she was both optimistic and persistent,” affirmed Rich. “She would get knocked down and get right back up again, dust herself off and try again.”

A pioneer in the Indian casino movement, Margaret took the success of the bingo hall as a sign; she began working to open a casino. After California voters approved Proposition 5, the Tribal Government Gaming and Economic Self-Sufficiency Act of 1998, the Tribe signed a contract that would solidify their future.

Heritage Prevails
Margaret Dalton passed away in 2009, leaving a legacy that continues to flourish. Her son, Adam Dalton, now leads as Tribal Chairperson, and her grandson, Earl Dalton III, serves as Tribal Vice Chairperson. Today, Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort is the largest employer in Amador County. The Tribe offers competitive wages and an excellent benefit package while encouraging career advancement.

In addition to providing career opportunities, Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort continues the tradition of caring for the land, enjoying the rewards while protecting it for the future through a series of environmental protections. “She really showed us how to keep moving forward. Her hard work and dedication were unmatched. Thankfully, her legacy continues,” shared Rich.

Community Involvement
The Native American tradition of sharing and contributing to the community is exceptionally strong in the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians. The latest commitment is to upgrade every park and ball field in the county; the Tribe supports a variety of charitable programs through philanthropic grants, awarding thousands of grants annually with an emphasis on supporting local community groups, schools, organizations and projects that directly impact children and seniors. Additionally, to honor the Margaret Dalton, the Amador County Chamber of Commerce recognized the Tribe’s commitment to the community by naming its annual humanitarian award after her.

As the casino remains strong, the Tribe is diversifying the future of its members. Working together, Rich and others in the Miwuk Tribe are forging forward to bring more housing, healthcare and community investment to ensure that Margaret’s vision continues for many years to come.