Hampton Beach NH recruits Native Americans from South Dakota for jobs


HAMPTON — A group of young Native Americans will be coming to Hampton Beach for the first time this summer to work as part of a new pilot program in the tourist community.

John Nyhan, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, said they plan to host a dozen 18- to 25-year-old Oglala Lakota tribe members from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, starting in May. 

This will be in addition to the roughly 250 to 300 foreign students expected to arrive this summer to work in the beach’s shops, hotels, restaurants and state parks.

“This is a win-win,” Nyhan said. “These young Native Americans (from the Lakota tribe) will get to see a part of the country they’ve never seen before, and workers will get the help they need.”

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The chamber along with New Hampshire State Parks, is partnering on the pilot program with One Spirit, a nonprofit working on the reservation in South Dakota.

Several beach businesses, including the Sea Ketch Restaurant, the Boardwalk Cafe and Marguerite Motel, along with state parks, have already signed on with offers of employment.

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Beach businesses need workers 

Nyhan said the chamber started looking last summer at innovative ways to bring more workers to the Seacoast.

Hampton Beach, he said, is reliant on college students from overseas to work in the seasonal shops, restaurants, hotels and state parks. In the last two years, he said businesses have run into issues with foreign students obtaining J-1 and H-2B visas that allow them to come to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a win, win," Hampton Chamber President John Nyhan said. "These young Native Americans (from the Lakota tribe) will get to see a part of the country they've never seen before, and workers will get the help they need."

While they don’t expect that to be an issue this summer, Nyhan said, local leaders still expect to see fewer workers from overseas than usual. A number of the students who come to Hampton Beach to work each year are from Ukraine and Russia, and Nyhan said they are having difficulties getting their visas due to the war.

“Those two countries are so far up in the air right now,” he said. “We don’t know if we are going to get anyone from Russia or Ukraine … so we have to start to look elsewhere.”

Chuck Rage, Hampton Beach Village District commissioner and owner of the Pelham Hotel, said he’s excited the beach will have another pool of potential workers. 

Chuck Rage, owner of the Pelham Hotel, said he's excited about a new pilot program that will bring Native Americans to Hampton Beach to work.

Even before COVID-19, Rage and other business owners reported seeing a decline in students from overseas.

“It was better last year than the year before (with COVID restrictions), but we are still having a hard time trying to find enough people,” he said.

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Rage said he’s still awaiting word on whether his J-1 visa workers from the Dominican Republic, Columbia and Romania will get their visas.

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