community development financial institution (CDFI)

Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities

Year

This report emerges from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund’s commitment to helping Native Communities develop through increased access to capital. The ideas presented are grounded in an understanding of current economic conditions in Native Communities and in established research concerning the drivers of economic change in Native nations. They also reflect voices from the field, a key aspect of the research methodology.

Resource Type
Citation

Native Nations Institute. 2016. Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities, digital version. Tucson, AZ: Native Nations Institute.

Bankshot Episode 46 Report: Ignored by banks, Indigenous communities build their own financial system

Year

As seen from the air, the land is an expansive, grayish-brown terrain cracked open by the winding Missouri River with scattered clusters of black dots. On the ground, the dots become cows — so many cows — and the land becomes a roiling sea of prairie grass heaving under currents of wind you can see coming and going from miles in every direction. The reservation covers some 4,200 square miles in north-central South Dakota; it is the fourth-largest Indigenous reservation in the continental United States. Officially, it is home to some 8,000 people, though census figures systemically undercount Indigenous communities...

Resource Type
Citation

Pederson, Brendan. July 14, 2021. Ignored by banks, Indigenous communities build their own financial system. American Banker.

Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities: A Data Review

Year

As the second part of a two-part follow-up to the NALS, this report uses a range of datasets to document the evolution of Native Communities’ capital access since 2001. Its three main sections summarize data describing access to capital and credit for Native consumers, Native business owners, and tribal communities and governments. Its companion document, the Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities (ACC Report), published in May 2016, identifies success stories within a more detailed topical analysis. The full two-part study is intended to provide research and analysis in support of further improvements in access to capital and credit in Native Communities.

Resource Type
Citation

Miriam Jorgensen and Randall K.Q. Akee. 2017. Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities: A Data Review, digital version. Tucson, AZ: Native Nations Institute.

Winnebago Community Development Fund

Year

Establishing a framework for community development based on the goals of the government and its citizens, the Winnebago CDC Fund builds toward long-term development by matching funds for grants, building community projects, supplementing community infrastructure, increasing educational opportunities, and providing financial leverage to community projects. By having a dedicated fund, tribal governments can better address essential government responsibilities with the security of knowing the unique needs of many individual groups are being met. Additionally, local and regional partnerships are fostered.

Resource Type
Citation

"Winnebago Community Development Fund." Honoring Nations: 2006 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2007. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Frank Ettawageshik: Exercising Sovereignty: The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

Producer
Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program
Year

Frank Ettawageshik, former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBO), discusses how LTBBO has systematically built its legal infrastructure in order to fully and capably exercise the nation's sovereignty and achieve its nation-building goals. He discusses some of the specific laws and codes LTBBO developed and why, and he also stresses the importance of Native nations building relationships with other governments on their own terms and in furtherance of their strategic priorities.

Resource Type
Citation

Ettawageshik, Frank. "Exercising Sovereignty: The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians." Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 15, 2010. Presentation.

Frank Ettawageshik:

"It's really nice to be down here enjoying your nice weather and to be down here and to be working with the Native Nations Institute. I've had a lot of years, a lot of times over the years that we've been in touch with each other at different conferences and other places, but never really had a chance to be here and to work on, sort of as Ian said, reflecting and thinking about Native nation building, as we were way too busy doing it and we were working so hard on a lot of different things that it sort of boggles the mind in a way when you think about the full scope of what that means when you say 'nation building.' The first thing that a lot of tribes think about when they think of nation building is they think of economic development and they think of how does that reflect because they think you need...of course you need money for the projects and things that you do and there are some people who focus on the economic development part to a great extent. And to me, economic development is not nation building. Nation building includes a component that's economic development and you need to think of it in that way. And that's really the way that we thought about it.

As the tribal chairman, I was the one whose picture was in the paper and who got quoted all the time and things of this sort, but there was a large group of dedicated people who were of a common mind or at least common direction -- maybe not always agreeing with each other -- who worked towards trying to develop an effective tribal government and to find ways to strengthen our community. And while we were doing that, one of the important things that we think about in that process is that we had to have...we had to keep ourselves rooted in our culture. We needed to have our ceremonies. When we had a community meeting, we always made sure that we had the community eagle staff there in the carrier and we had a drum, we carried a ceremony, a pipe ceremony at the beginning of the meetings and we did things like this that would help use the best of our heritage to help strengthen what we were doing in a way that it helped bring people together of one mind and it helped add a solemn nature, a serious nature and to help use the gifts that we'd been given in our culture, traditional culture, that would help keep us focused. And we did that, that was a big part of what we would do, and of course as years went by in the development of our constitution, we made sure that we supported freedom of religion, which was that we clearly have within our tribal community we have several different methods of expressing our traditional culture with different lodges, a Bedouin lodge, a Wabeno lodge, the independent people of different sorts that are involved in the tradition, but we also have Catholics and Protestant sects of various sorts and the Native American Church, we have some Muslims, we have some atheists and as you look through this, when the government's there, the government represents all of the people. And so we have to find ways that we can honor and respect everyone at the same time, as making sure that we keep the central identity of our nation through our culture and history, keep that as part of what we were looking at.

So what I wanted to talk to you a little about today was how we went about doing that, some of the things that we think are important and ways that...things that helped me as a leader to think through these things and to keep an idea of what's important. And I'll tell you what often happened in my office. Someone would come in and they'd be running and they'd be saying, ‘Oh, my god, BLANK is happening. What are we going to do about it and how can we take care of this?' And it's just the biggest crisis in the world. Well, the way I would deal with that is I'd say, ‘Take a deep breath,' and I'd say, ‘Well, is anybody going to even care about this next week?' ‘Well, maybe next week.' 'All right, now how about if they're going to care about it in six months?' And we'd try to put it in perspective. If it's an earth-shaking thing that really is going to be big, yeah, but most of those day to day emergencies are distractions. They can get taken care of in a fairly comfortable way.

Being in the legal office, the legal office was often the center of much of this activity. As the tribal chairman at our tribe, my office was in the west wing of our tribal administration building and right next to me was the...the office just in the hallway next to me is the general counsel and the vice chair and executive assistant and other staff. But I regularly worked with the attorneys, the tribal attorneys, and I would regularly consult and talk with them, but I never forgot what one of the elders taught me and that is, ‘We don't work for the attorneys, the attorneys work for us.' And in the legal education that people get, they're going to learn a certain perspective and yet, being a member of the bar and being a member of...an officer of the court and these things, you're going to have, say of a state bar, you'll have a certain perspective on the law and there are certain things that you can ethically advise, but being a tribal leader there may be times when that line of thinking doesn't fit with the exercise of our tribal sovereignty. So I've had occasion where our tribal attorney...we were at a meeting, we were talking, the tribal attorney said, ‘Say this,' and I looked at it and thought about it for a minute and I stood up and I said exactly the opposite and then I sat down and I said, ‘Now make that work.' That's the thing that is important for tribes is to help keep that perspective, understand where the center of their reality is and for us.

There's a story that I tell about a tribe that's not in the too-distant past, had opened a casino and it was a small casino and they didn't have a vault. They had a safe that was in the back room and their one tribal police officer was there and this happened to be in a non-280 state, which is another important factor to think about. But the safe got broken into and the casino manager came in the back room and the tribal chairman was there and their one police officer who was the chief of police, he was there, and they were all looking around they were saying, ‘Ah, what are we going to do?' And the police officer said, ‘Gee, somebody better call the cops.' Where is your center of reality? Where do you think this? And in a tribe, that center is within the tribe's nationhood. That's where it needs to be. And it's in the exercise of the tribe's sovereignty. And often our own staff, sometimes their head isn't there, sometimes our own council members have a hard time with that. They'll say, ‘Gee, will they let us do that?' That's a question that I've heard often when talking about something that the Bureau wants to do or something that somebody else wants us...

And what I have focused on throughout my career and as I've come to understand -- bringing all together teachings from various elders and from other people that I've spoken with over the years and other tribal chairman that I learned from over nearly 20 years in office -- the way I've come to understand it is that you're either sovereign or you aren't. You're not three-quarters sovereign or a little bit sovereign. Somebody can't make you a little bit more sovereign or somebody can't make you a little less sovereign; you either are or you aren't. And as a nation, as a tribal nation, expressing that sovereignty and exercising that sovereignty is really what your task is and functionally every sovereign is negotiating the exercise of their sovereignty with the other sovereigns around them. The United States just signed an arms treaty with Russia. It's an exercise on the limits of their sovereignty with each other, just signed. It's got to go before legislative bodies for approval, but that's an exercise of sovereignty. About three years ago, the Sioux St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Bay Mills Indian Community, both on the United States side of the St. Mary's River at Sioux St. Marie, Michigan and Sioux St. Marie, Ontario, and the Batchewana First Nation and the Garden River First Nation that are on the Canadian side of that river, the four of them signed a treaty. Now, the United States does not recognize our authority to sign treaties and yet these tribes have signed a treaty called the St. Mary's River Treaty and they formed the Anishinabek Joint Commission to work on cleaning up the river that they live on that has gotten so polluted that at times they have an advisory against touching the water -- not just not drinking it and not just not swimming in it, but touching it. There were people who were getting sick just having a picnic in their yard next to the river and this was the Native people who used to swim, used to drink the water, felt that it was important to work with each other. They signed a treaty with each other to do this. It's an exercise of sovereignty; it's an exercise of how they're going to be working together on things. So I think that this whole concept of dealing with sovereignty is something that people have a hard time getting their heads around often.

So I ask this question: we get interns that would come to the tribe, we have a couple legal interns every year who would come to the tribe to work, and when they came I'd bring them in my office. They'd be introduced to the chairman and I'd say, ‘I've got a question for you and I want you to think about it and come back and answer me next week.' I'd say, ‘When the Supreme Court of the United States issues a ruling that limits tribal sovereignty, I want you to explain to me how that limits our sovereignty.' Of course the answer is, ‘It doesn't limit our sovereignty in any way at all.' We're either sovereign or we aren't sovereign and the Supreme Court cannot take our sovereignty away like that, but the Supreme Court can make it so that the federal government and all of the political subdivisions of it all the way down to the counties and the townships around us that they have a harder time recognizing our sovereignty and they can make it really difficult for us to exercise our sovereignty. And that is the trick, that's the key thing that we have to think about as tribes is how do we and what do we do that protects the exercise of our sovereignty and that in doing so, how does that actually build our nation?

So we thought about a lot of this and one of the things that we did is we worked on lawmaking as a big central focus. One of the first laws we passed was a legislative procedures statute. We passed that because we wanted to lay out the process under which we would develop laws and it required that we...this required a posting period so that we'd have to post them so we couldn't just move into a meeting, put something on the agenda and pass it and 20 minutes later the whole law of the land, of the nation had changed. We needed some transparency, we needed the population of our tribal nation to have access to the process and to have input and so we wanted to slow things down a little bit. So we passed a legislative procedures statute. We passed a resolutions and regulations procedures statute. We did a number of different things that would help lay out how we would function within the confines of a constitution. We had...in doing this, we also realized that it wasn't just enough for us to be exercising our sovereignty in these ways internally, but we also needed to have ways that we dealt externally with those people around us. We had to deal with counties and townships, had to deal with the local sheriffs, we had to deal with the State of Michigan, we dealt with the...our international policy dealt with all of the tribes around us as well as these other governments and we had to find ways to...in which to sort of regulate or set these things up, how we would work. From the early days, we had a constitution that had been recognized. And I guess I should digress a minute here and let you know that our tribe had not been on the list of federally recognized tribes. We spent about 120 years in a legal battle with the United States over trying to figure out our existence. We felt we existed, they weren't so sure about it, and we spent a lot of time dealing with this. And in 1994, after several legislative attempts and other type court cases and other things, Public Law 103-324 was signed by the President and that reaffirmed our tribe's federal relationship. It didn't grant recognition, which would have implied that we never had it, it didn't restore it, which would have implied that maybe we had it and they took it away, but it's a reaffirmation act. It reaffirmed that we'd always had it, which was our position and that's the way the Congress passed that law.

Two tribes, Little Traverse and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians just about a couple... about three hours south of us down along the Lake Michigan shoreline, we were both on the same bill. And when that bill passed we had an interim constitution in place. It was not really the regular IRA boilerplate constitution, but it was a constitution that had all of the authority in a single body and that the tribal council, the tribal chairman was a member of the council. The tribal chairman voted on everything that came before the council, as well as chaired the meetings, and between meetings, the tribal chairman was the chief executive officer of the tribe and implemented all the actions of the council. As long as you had a good tribal chairman, there wasn't an issue with that, but if you were to not have that or have somebody who wanted to abuse the authority, that's a lot of authority in one place. And there were no real checks and balances. The chairman controlled the gavel during discussions and could either lengthen or shorten discussion on things, could help set the agenda and so it worked pretty well, but the possibility of problems was great.

And when the bill passed, we had the interim constitution and it called for the creation of a new constitution or for us to have a vote on a constitution. We started a committee. It took us nearly 10 years in the development of a constitution when we adopted [it] and I had printed in this little booklet form. The constitution for the tribe was adopted on February 1st, 2005. And this constitution is a separation of powers constitution: it divides the executive, legislative and judicial into separate branches and talks about how they're going to interact with each other. But right up front in the document is something that makes it, I think, is the thing that really makes it more us as our nation. And that is, it directs the government through opening directives, it says that we are to promote our Indian language and our Indian culture at every...every law we pass is supposed to do that. All the ways that we set up programs and everything, we're supposed to be looking at this, at governance through that lens and that says right in the constitution. The other thing it says is that we recognize that our right of self-governance is inherent in a sovereign people and we also recognize that there are other sovereigns and we pledge to recognize them as they recognize us. It's the essence of a state department or a secretary of state or something that is a way of acknowledging the other sovereigns around us in what we do. And the constitution goes on to spell out a lot of other things, how things work, but it's been a really solid document to help us through, help us in our growth. And my personal belief is that it's a good constitution and that it really moves the concept of nationhood ahead in a very positive way.

There's a website at [www.]ltbbodawa-nsn.gov. It's our tribal website and on there we have a thing called the Odawa Register and in that we have, each branch of government has a section and we have all of our tribal code on there. We have our constitution, we have our regulations, we have pending regulations and pending statutes. All of this stuff is posted for us and our tribal citizens and the rest of the world for that matter to look at and to give input on. And the local newspaper has discovered this site and is now readily making use of it in writing articles about the tribe, which some of the tribal citizens are a little upset about thinking, ‘This is our business, why are they writing about it?' but actually, I welcome it because I think that it...what happens to the tribe is so important to what happens to the community around us that reads this paper that it's important for them to be aware of the proceedings of our meetings; the laws that we're considering, what laws we pass and things of that sort. So that's a little about the constitution and sort of how we brought that into being and the fact that we did things within the constitution; we also lay out a territory.

And our territory, just like us, was not on the list of federally acknowledged territories. In other words, if you go...if you look up reservations, you'll find that we do have a reservation, but it's only about 500 of the acres that we own. We own around...between 700 and 800 acres of a 216,000-acre reservation. This is the tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan here, this little map and this is just on the Lake Michigan side. There's a red line right here that outlines our reservation and this is the blow-up of that. If you notice, this is just like a state map. We got a regular map printed to help show our territory and to talk about the things that were important. And we pass these out to the local police and other people, even though it's not on the list of federally recognized reservations, we have asserted that in our constitution and we assert that in our laws and we believe that eventually this will come to pass, that it will be on the list of federally recognized reservations. It came from the Treaty of 1855, this particular boundary. So we printed something that actually shows where our territory is.

Some of the laws that we've passed are important. We have a criminal code, we have an Indian child welfare code, we have a lot of the things that are the everyday sort of meat of what it takes to be the government in Indian Country, the things that we work on, but we also have a lot of other laws that we've done. One of them is we passed corporation codes for the creation of corporations under tribal law and we have our own department of commerce and within that we have the ability under our corporation codes to create tribally chartered corporations that are owned by the tribe, individual tribal members can create corporations under our law, and we can create non-profit corporations under our law and we've done all three so far. And we have a tribal corporation called Waganakising Odawa Development and I'm the president of that board. And that's a tribally owned corporation that was created under our law. We also have a couple of tribal member corporations, one of which is a dessert business, another one is an IT business. These are individual members who have gotten...have functioning businesses under the tribal law. We also have a non-profit corporation under our law that is the Northern Shores Loan Fund. It's a CDFI, community development financial institution, through a program with the Department of Treasury and it's a revolving loan fund to help people be involved in business. And these are things that we've created. It has a 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS and is set up for working to help people with business plans and do things to help them get into businesses. That's one of the laws that we passed. Of course, when you're doing all of that, you need something else -- this is like a jigsaw puzzle. The next thing we needed was we needed the comprehensive commercial codes and what we needed the most was article IX, Secured Transactions. And with that, we've adopted that. We have plans in the future for others, but we needed to have that as we were getting more and more into business and we've adopted that, but then we also did some other things.

We did...it's my belief that we're the first tribe in the country to have a notary public law. Now you don't need notary publics very often, most people go through their lives and need one...maybe once or twice, tribal government maybe needs it a little more often, a few times a month, where you have something...but people think that it's not something that's really...that is every day for people. But if every time you notarize a tribal document you go and do it under the authority of the state that you're within, through a state-licensed notary, somehow that detracts from the assertion of nationhood and the exercise of sovereignty. And so when you have a right to govern yourself, you also have a responsibility to govern yourself and responsibilities are not always easily met. Sometimes they're difficult. And it took several years to develop this notary public law and it got passed. I had a six-month time period within which to implement the law. So we called up an insurance company and said, ‘We're going to need to get insurance,' the surety bonds for notaries. And they said, ‘No problem, we do that all the time.' And I said, ‘Well, it's the tribe calling.' And they said, ‘Oh, no problem. We can do that.' So we didn't worry about that. Then we started trying to get someone to print our stamps and the embossers for us for doing notary. Well, we went to several companies and once they found out it was the tribe doing it, they couldn't do it. And we went...I spent about two or three months looking for companies. And finally we found one who we talked into doing it and they said, ‘Now how many tribes are there?' We said, ‘There's over 500.' He said, ‘You know, maybe we could do this.' And this was one of the smaller companies that does this and I think they're thinking there's a lot of business out there. And so we got that agreed.

So then we went to get the insurance for the people who'd applied, the surety bonds, and even the large Indian companies couldn't do it because all the product that they had was for state-authorized surety bonds for state-authorized notaries. And we spent months trying to figure this out. And finally we...one of our tribal members is married to a woman who's an insurance agent who specializes in hard-to-insure things and she...took her about 17 hours to come up with somebody who thought they could do it. Ironically, it's a company called First American, it's in Boston and it's not Indian, but they have an Indian in headdress as their logo, but this company had...some of the executives had just been to a seminar somewhere and at that seminar they had talked about tribal sovereignty and they got real interested in that. And then a phone call came and gave them an opportunity to work on it. They were real excited about it. And so we worked out over about another two months, worked out all the forms and all the things that were necessary to create this product. And we now have tribal notaries. We have 10 notaries, I believe, at the tribe. And while we were doing this, we didn't just sneak this in under the radar, we had meetings at the governor's office and with the governor and her deputy legal advisor who is the liaison to Indian Country, we told them what we were doing and said, ‘This is what we're doing, it's what we're working on and we're going to have this in place in a few months.' So we didn't just sort of try to blindside anybody with it and we now have this law. How often is it used? I don't know how often it's used, but I can tell you that this kind of work is not the big, sexy exercising tribal sovereignty kind of things where you're going to the Supreme Court and winning a big case or you're off doing the fishing rights or hunting rights or some big thing with this. This is one of those little grunt-level things that happens that just...it's a part of the everyday exercise of sovereignty that's important in nationhood.

Some of the other things that we have, I have some copies of regulations. These regulations have the force of law under our law and these regulations were promulgated by our natural resource commission and they are hunting and fishing regulations in response to a consent decree that we have in a lawsuit U.S. vs. Michigan hunting and fishing rights case that has been an ongoing case for years. The Great Lakes portion had been settled and there's a limited time consent decree. The first one was 15 years, the next one is 20, in how we exercise our rights. In court, we won the fact that the right existed on the Great Lakes. Then there's a...court has continuing jurisdiction through consent decrees on how we're going to exercise those rights. On the inland portion, that hadn't gone to trial and it started to heat up just a little just a few years ago and we decided that...we were on our way to court, we were doing depositions and everything, but we decided for one last round of negotiations to see if we could settle it. Lo and behold, we actually settled it. In the discussions for this major case, it was one of the major rights cases across the country, we anted up in the discussions by agreeing to not put gill nets in inland lakes and streams and we agreed to not commercialize our inland harvest. We weren't going to shoot deer for sale on the market. The state anted up with a stipulation. They agreed to stipulate that our right existed forever and be a permanent consent decree. So we put that stuff on the table and then we started to talk and we talked for a long time. There was 30, 40 of us in a room at a time and the tribes and plus the...we have a very unique animal in this case that's called litigating amicae. They haven't joined the case, but they have this special status and it's the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Upper Peninsula White Tails and the various sport groups around the state that had an interest in this, and they had this special status in this case. Well, they had representatives in the room as well and we, at any one time during the long negotiation we had, there were times when one or another party was the one that left the room all red faced and in a huff over something and eventually we just kept talking and we gradually worked it through to where in the end, there were certain things that we had given up. Both the state and the tribe had given things up, but we also each won way more than we would have won if this had gone to court. And the problem with court is you have absolutely no idea how it's going to come out. You make your best case, you do your best shot and you don't know for sure what the judge is going to say or what a jury's going to say, and plus you don't know how it's going to go on appeal because almost every one of these cases that goes to court ends up running up to the Supreme Court and frankly, tribes have not actually had a real good experience in the Supreme Court lately.

So those are some of the things that we worked on. We worked on these regulations, we did all this, we passed laws and we worked on the implementation and enforcement of those laws. Another law we passed was a law against patenting, patents. Let's just say this right, I got my tongue tied here. But against patenting genetic material. Now, why would we do that? Because we heard all these...the various stories that have occurred around with Indigenous people and their genes, personally their own genes as well as the genes from our traditional foods. The wild rice case up in Minnesota was one that just really raised our concern because there had been strains domesticated and were being grown in paddies and those genes were drifting off into the wild and when people were selling wild rice somebody was, they started to want a cut of that sale from the wild rice because it had those genes in it from the patented versions. We felt that this was a danger to our traditional foods and so what we did is we passed this law. Now our jurisdiction is fairly small. In many ways in the grand scheme of things it's more of a show of intent and an exercise of sovereignty than it actually has effect because very few people are going to be patenting genetic material, but it also prohibits our government from cooperating in any venture where there will be a patent issued from our territory and our jurisdiction. So those are...that's another way that we went about working on things with our laws.

One of the more interesting laws that we passed -- this came from one of our council members Fred Harrington who...this was very good and it's called the Application of Foreign Law. Now if you've looked at Indian law and you've looked at various issues and you look at how there's a chart that's published by the Department of Justice that has which law and which person and which jurisdiction and all of these things and it's a great big chart on whose, which law applies to whom and what part of Indian Country and who's got...I mean it's really complicated. And there are clearly times when within our own jurisdiction, for us, there are people who aren't under our jurisdiction and yet we have to deal with them. And we've actually been working on a cross-deputization agreement with the local county, but we wanted our officers to be working under our law not just working with the county law or county authority. And so we passed this law that said, 'Anybody who's physically within our jurisdiction who isn't subject to our law has to follow state and federal law, and therefore our officers can enforce that law following our own law. It's a subtle point, but I think it's really important and that is an example of the kind of things that our government has put forth. We're a...I think about the kind of issues as we work toward things and we're taught to consider the consequences of our actions through a time period long enough to encompass seven generations. Now that's something that...I first started talking with people from the office of the governor and they were talking about things and they talked about a long-term plan that was seven years. And I said, ‘Well, you know, we've got something to tell you. Our long-term plan is generational, multi-generational and we're to think about that and to have that long view.' Well, the other part of that is that each one of us is someone's seventh generation. What did they do that got us, for instance, us in this room? What did they do that got us here? What things...where did they move, what did they study, what kind of things...where's our propensity for understanding things, for higher education, what are the things that got us to this room and what are we doing that seven generations from now will be echoing down through the generations for people at that point? So we're sort of in the middle of this continuum.

We talk in Indian Country a lot about balance. And we have balance in the medicine wheel and the four directions and we try to make sure that we maintain ourselves in balance, balance and harmony. And we try to make sure that a substantial amount of what we do restores harmony, restores that balance. Well, we're also in balance between the past and the future and we need to keep a balance there. If we just look...I was out at Sabino Canyon here last...just last weekend and I got to looking at the mountains and it was just...oh, they were incredible and I tripped on a stone in the path. You've got to be looking ahead of you, but at the same time you've got to be looking up. If you just look ahead of you, you miss everything, all you see is a path. And so we have to be careful how we do these things in terms of how we balance our vision. If we just look to the past and all of our answers and our salvation's in our past, we miss what's happening right in front of us as the world's unfolding and if we just look at what's unfolding without any comprehension of where we've been, we also miss the richness of our own sense of place within that past and future, within the four directions, within our, the growth in our communities and all of those things. So it's very important to have this vision and what I look at is in a vision is that what...the vision for tribes is to be a healthy community with healthy individuals and have healthy institutions and to be at peace and to be at harmony and that's the goal, that's the center, that's where we try to go to and that all of these documents, all of these things I've talked about, the regulations, the constitution, the maps and all these things, these are all tools to help us achieve that, but by themselves they don't achieve it. We have to balance ourselves between these different things that have a tendency to pull us and distract us in different ways.

I've had sort of a general talk here about things and I had one other document I didn't hold up and that's a U.S. Constitution. As a tribal chairman, I virtually always carried one of these because too few people who are in Congress and in other places in government, they've never read it looking at it through, ‘What does this mean to an Indian? What does it mean to the Indian nations?' The Commerce Clause, Article VIII, things that are really fairly, that are fundamental to the U.S. federal Indian law and how it relates to tribes and that relationship. Very few people actually understand that, even ones who you would think would need to. So I carried one of these, I carried our tribal constitution, I carried maps with me, all of these are things that help outwardly show people what it is. When I handed somebody one of these, what did it say to them? It says we're a constitutional government, and that means a lot in terms of people understanding things. So I'll be glad to take questions and discussion here and I'll do my best at what I can answer."

Audience member:

"Do you have any provisions under your corporate codes that allow you to take trust, to take land into trust under a corporate status for the tribe?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"No, not specifically. We talk about taking land into trust through the constitution and that...we don't take it into trust, but we put land in trust. But we have never...we don't have something that allows the tribe to hold things in trust and that's something that we don't have in there. There's been a lot of talk about land and land reform in Indian Country. The fact...one of our big problems in growth is the lack of inter-generational transfer of wealth, which most often is done through property in non-Indian society and that's something that is a big problem in Indian Country. We're missing that step because we don't have a private sector economy for the most part in Indian Country, but there's a lot of talk about how we might look at that and change that. I talked a lot with a number of individuals over the years and the Indian Land Tenure Foundation has done some work in this regard. I know there's a lot of people thinking about it. Maybe that's something that the folks in this room might work on some day and help us resolve."

Audience Member:

"If you're a federally recognized reservation, are you subject to the Major Crimes Act?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, our 216,000 acres is not acknowledged as a reservation, but our trust land, which is the smaller ones, are acknowledged as that. So we are subject to the Major Crimes Act when it comes to that, when it comes to the casino, the tribal administration building, tribal housing, the various parcels. We're buying our reservation back one little piece at a time as we work on things, but we are subject to Major Crimes and so...but we have something unique also in our district in that the U.S. Attorney has developed a misdemeanor docket for non-Indian offenders on trust land and this is throughout the whole western district of Michigan, which includes a lot of tribes and our casinos and so we...someone commits a crime that wouldn't have risen to the level of federal prosecution, but it's clearly a crime, urinating in the parking lot for instance at the casino, which is something that people bring up, but all kinds of different things that fall into this. We now have a way to write them a ticket that they can pay a fine through this, as opposed to having to go and appear in federal court for these, if they choose. If they want to fight it, they've got to drive three-and-a-half hours to the closest federal court and go to court. So we have...this is sort of a...not every area has this and our U.S. attorney who is one of the ones that was fired, by the way, of that group that was fired, Margaret Chiara, she really worked hard to put this together. Other questions?"

Audience member:

"You talked about when you tried to develop the notary public and you talked to the governor and they seemed to be pretty receptive to that, but can you talk about some of the strategies you and your government went into when you came up against factions or individuals in state or local government that seemed to be opposed to y'all expanding sovereignty or exercising that sovereignty?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"We've done some real interesting intergovernmental relations over the years in Michigan, one of which is under the previous governor. This current governor is nearing the end; she's in her last year of two four-year terms. And actually -- Jennifer Granholm's the governor -- she's on that short list of people that is being looked at as a potential Supreme Court Justice, but she's...yeah, which reminds me. I've got a letter here from the Native American Bar Association that was written to the President, this is a copy of it, informing him about the lack of Native people in the federal court system as court clerks in the Supreme Court or as Supreme Court justices and it's very well written and hopefully it will be well received, but I thought it would be good since I was coming here today to pass that out. But some of the things we did is we passed a tribal-state accord with the governor. All the tribes in the state signed this along with the governor and it acknowledged the sovereignty of the tribes pledged to work together and pledged to create a tribal-state forum, which was a monthly staff level phone call at which things could be worked out so that any issue...It's basically a safety valve in case there are any issues.

So anyway, that's the first thing that we did. And then, through those monthly calls, we were able to head off a lot of issues like the ones you're talking about. Probably one of the big issues was that we had game wardens in the state who really didn't like the fact that Indians had ‘special' rights. And so any time they could, they would push the envelope. Well, we'd reached an agreement with the governor's office and through the director for the [Michigan] Department of Natural Resources that, while we were working on the U.S. v. Michigan case, it was a government-to-government issue and they weren't going to pop individuals who were hunting with proper licenses from the tribes. So I got a call. A 14-year-old hunting deer for the first time with his dad got his first deer and the game warden took the deer, took his rifle and they were all upset. Well, I had a phone number. I called it and it was the phone number of the liaison to Indian Country that was through the Department of Natural Resources. He was on his deer blind in his mom's back 40 up in the Upper Peninsula and I called him. I said, ‘Jim, this is what just happened. We've got a problem.' Jim said, ‘Okay, just a sec.' And he got off the phone and he made a couple phone calls and he called me back and said, ‘Don't worry, it's all taken care of.' The guy got his deer back; he got his rifle back. It took a couple days, but they had gutted the deer and they kept it refrigerated, they'd done all the things that they needed to, but we were able to deal with things like that and we built these safety valves in.

There's a liaison to Indian Country in every single department in the state. The list is published, these phone numbers are available to people on the state website. If you go to Michigan.gov and you go to the governments, there's a bunch of different things there, but go to governments and on the state government page there's a link to tribal governments. And as the page opens up, there's a link to all the tribal websites and all of the agreements that we have done with the state are on there, which includes the Tribal-State Accord, a water accord on how we're going to mete [out] unshared water resources, an economic development accord and addendum to the initial economic development accord that was done the next year. Each of these are the results of a summit meeting with the governor that happens annually where we all get together. And as usual in summit meetings, we don't actually do the work at the summit meeting. It's done all year and the summit meeting is, we're all together, the chairman and the governor sign the document and there's photographers and we share pens and all this stuff. It's a photo op and it ices the cake, but the cake's already baked, is basically what we're talking about here. But all of these agreements are there including the most recent one, which is an accord on climate change issues that we signed nearly a year ago now. And this one, they create meetings like with the...the water accord created a meeting that happens twice a year with the tribal...at the staff level between the tribe and the state on how to deal with shared water issues. And we are meeting at the end of this month with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as furtherance of the economic development accord that we passed. We've had the director come to speak to the United Tribes of Michigan meetings. We have a variety of things where we're working together and we've just tried to establish how do we do this. And what happens when we have people that don't agree, we try to make a political climate in which it is more difficult to disagree than it is to sit back because they're there still...but they're not the ones that are leading the discussion. And we also do our very best to convert them to the fact that...I say to, and unfortunately, I don't know if anybody here's from Ohio, but I pick on Ohio quite a bit. I say, ‘Poor, Ohio. Every time they have to do anything environmentally and stuff, they've got to go to the EPA all by themselves.' Michigan has 12 federally recognized tribes, so 13 of us go to EPA together to work on the issues. And the tribes have access to resources that the state doesn't and vice versa. Together we can really get a lot of stuff done.

And so actually, this idea has not only taken root within the people that we deal with in our communities, but they actually come to us now. We had a local governmental entity come to us and inquire about us putting a piece of land in trust because they wanted to do something with the land that they couldn't do under their law, but they thought maybe we could. We couldn't do it either, but nevertheless it was such an amazing turn about that I was blown over by that. But those are some interesting things in the working relationship with other governments around us. Other questions?"

Raymond Austin:

"Could you talk a little bit about you as a customary law, customs, traditions and tribal government operations not necessarily in court decision making, but the overall structure of the government itself? That's one. And two, can you say something about attorneys working with Indian tribes? What are their responsibilities, duties and all that to not only the tribal council, but the chairman, the president or whoever and what their roles would be? Sometimes you have general counsels that are overbearing, they come up with policies or they draft laws on their own and then they give it to the tribal council. The tribal council merely rubber-stamps those things, that type of thing. How should attorneys work with tribes in your view?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, let me answer that last, second question first in that I reiterate what I said initially, is that the attorneys work for us, we don't work for them. And that's a difficult thing for some people to think through, but the other one is that we have to when we're passing laws and you're thinking about sovereignty, the attorneys may be the drafters, but they're not the ones...they make the draft or they find the words to make happen what their bosses, the legislators have said. ‘We want it to say this.' They might not be able to find the right words to say it, but then the attorney's job is to help draft it so it says that. And as you said, there are...we worry about activist judges. Well, there are activist attorneys as well who really work hard at trying to get certain points of view across and at times there are a number of things that you get a tribal council of lay people who sort of get awed by the attorney and say, ‘Well, the attorney said this. It must be true.' Well, attorneys are trained to argue either for or against a particular point and they may or may not believe that point, but the job is to do the best you can with what you've got to win the case whether you agree with it or not. I used to be a debater in high school and we debated on the affirmative for the first half of the year and then we'd switch and we'd be the negative and we'd switch that in the middle of the year because we'd heard all the good arguments from the other side and now we could argue that side pretty well. I learned that.

That's the problem we have a lot of places is we don't, people aren't...what they really don't understand, and this is the thing I think that happens a lot for the tribes is that the elected officials and perhaps the citizenry don't have a really good understanding of how their government works. And one of the projects I've been working on here is developing a good strong outline for civics education for tribes, sort of a subheading of ‘How to Get the Most out of Your Elected Officials,' some way to help people understand what the roles are so that they know better what their powers are and how they can be expected to act. And I think that in the absence of people knowing that, it leaves room for attorneys to actually take those actions as you described and I've seen it happen some places. I've had...I don't, as you might hear or suspect, I really have not had that problem because I wouldn't tolerate it. I knew what we needed, I knew what I would want and I would argue quite strongly for it without letting someone just write something that we rubber stamped. I was sort of dealing with the second question first, but I've forgotten the first one."

Raymond Austin:

"Culture in governance?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Oh okay, yes. To me, one of the ways that I deal with culture and how it relates to governance is I've worn a ribbon shirt almost every day of my adult life. I've worn a ribbon shirt when I was the only one and out of a thousand people in the room that was wearing a ribbon shirt. When I mow my lawn, I wear an old ribbon shirt because I've got to wear them out. And the thing is that I've always tried to make sure that I let people know that I was Native and that I was proud of it and that this was an important part of the things that we did. When we meet with the governor, the State of Michigan does not allow prayers before their meetings, but every single meeting that they have with Indian people starts with a prayer. They concede to us to do an opening prayer and we do that because we feel that that's an important part of us all being in the room, we need to come together as a mind. We feed people. This is part of our culture. You get a bunch of us together, we always eat. Well, we make sure that if the state or the other agencies, these people love to come visit us and have the meeting because we feed them. When we go to there, they're so embarrassed that they'll personally go out and buy some donuts and coffee just so they'll have something because the state will not spring for any of those, any refreshments or anything at their meetings. And so we make sure that they understand these elements of our culture and understand these elements of protocol.

I think it's important to sort of let people understand that we try not to make rash decisions, we try not to jump into things real quickly, and it's impolite actually to do so. It sort of implies that we're not actually giving careful consideration to the thoughts of the other side. So sometimes it takes a longer time in dealing with us and we've done some trying to understand that culture, understand how we bring that into our governance. I mentioned that we start our meetings, our community meetings with the drum, with songs, with the eagle staff being brought in, with our tribal flags, with the pipe ceremony and that this is something that we do in those big community meetings. But we also, when I was the chairman, I carried my personal bundle with me into the room even though I didn't open it in the council meeting [on] a regular basis, but I had it with me because to me it was sort of something that helped root me where we were.

We have an opening at the meetings for a smudge. We try to do everything that we can in our, within our community to...let's look at this way: in the architecture of our tribal administration building, we incorporated our culture. And in doing so, what it is, you walk in...even though the driveway comes in from the south and at most big buildings you'd turn the building so that it would face the driveway, we faced the building east because that for us is the direction we need to face with the building. And, there's a big octagon center that's got a big vaulted ceiling in it. And in the center of that is a circular area that has a fire pit in the center that's right on the earth. The architect said, ‘Oh, we'll just build some concrete, we'll fill it with sand.' We said, ‘No, we won't. We're going to have undisturbed earth right there where we can build a fire and that's going to be the center of this building.' And there are no offices in this big center building. It's open. We have a kitchen, we have a receptionist and we have a little meeting room and bathrooms and other facilities and things, but this is a commons area in which we meet, it's the center of the people, it's ceremonial and then off the north facet we have a two-story office building in which there are our tribal police, our environmental services laboratory and offices, the computer lab and the education department, the archives and records and the accounting department and the tribal administrator. All these are in this north wing. In the south wing is the tribal, first of all, the tribal council and tribal court chambers, we share it. And then all the court offices and the probation officer and all that are in that south wing. The west wing of the building built on the west facet of this octagon is on the south side of the building are all the executive offices for our government. The north side are all the legislative offices. And this building, as you walk in it, it's an education in the way our government functions and it's an education in our traditions in that around that fire pit we have tile in the floor that are the four colors for the four directions.

We've had meetings in there where we had a gathering of the eagle staffs from throughout the Great Lakes Basin and there were 17 staffs and 21 pipe bundles that were all in there in that circle as part of the ceremony. We've had the Attorney General of the United States come in and we had a meeting where we hosted him in Indian Country in Michigan. We've had the Governor's Interstate Indian Conference with all the different state governors and their staff of places where they have tribes in their states, they have this organization that they meet, they came and met. We've had the Kiwanis and the Rotary that come and meet from the community in this place, but this building itself lets them understand elements of our culture. Every time they see it, we get a chance to explain it and every time a staff member walks from one wing to the other, they come to the heart of the community on their way through. Other thoughts?"

Stephen Cornell:

"I was just wondering how these assertions of nationhood and of sovereignty have been received at the sort of level of local publics. You're in an area of the country where there at times have been a great deal of tension between local constituencies and you've mentioned the state, but I was wondering what have these, how have these been received by local people, including the people, you're in an area of mixed population. I'm just wondering what impact this has had in your relations?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, we're in an area where there -- within my lifetime -- there were signs ‘No Indians' in some of the bars and there were places that we really couldn't go. Nobody would have thought that they were being discriminatory, but we certainly have lived within this knowing that there were things that they couldn't do. Early in my tenure, an Indian student came to the school in Petoskey drunk and they pulled all the Indian kids out of class and breathalyzed all of them. So a couple of people and I went into the school to the superintendent and said, ‘Listen, either you and us are going to get to know each other really well as we go to the Supreme Court and we sue you and seize all of your assets or you're never going to do this again,' and they've never done it again. They straightened out and they realized they shouldn't. So we managed to go through that, but we have had those certain kinds of tension.

One of the initial parts of tension in this is I got...early on in our, after the reaffirmation bill was signed in 1994, I'd say about '95, maybe '96 or so, I got a letter from a local prosecutor who said, ‘Dear Frank, this is to inform you that your police officers are impersonating police officers. It's illegal for them to be on the road with lights and with emblems on their car. It's illegal for them to...' Most importantly, he said, ‘It was illegal for them to have the chip in the radio that allowed them to pick up police frequencies.' And so he said, ‘You have 10 days to deliver those to me.' So I wrote him back a letter, ‘Dear Bob, you know where those cars are and you're welcome to come get those chips anytime you want, just be prepared for a visit from the U.S. Attorney as soon as you're done.' And so he called the U.S. Attorney and within several months actually, he had signed off on a limited deputization with our officers, but before long we actually had a full cross-deputization [agreement] where the sheriff and the deputies from two different counties had came before me in our tribal courtroom and took an oath to uphold the tribal constitution and all of our laws, and our officers were sworn in as deputies with the county so that we had seamless law enforcement. So that's one way that things have happened.

We gave people the map and we've showed them the constitution and a lot of them didn't realize that we were a constitutional government. And there are tensions, but we've also done some tremendous things. One of the things that we did that...we are either the only tribe or one of just two or three that got the ‘The Great Read,' ‘The Big Read.' There's a program through the Humanities Councils and the Arts, I forget. It's through the...it was some agency through the National Endowment for the Arts on 'The Big Read' and we got a grant for it. Some of the other recipients were like Maryland Public Radio got one of the grants and things like that. Well, our tribe got one and we worked with the Great Lakes, the Little Traverse Symphony, we worked with the library in town, the college and various other people and we put together this thing where we all read To Kill A Mockingbird. And we had programs throughout every place and the tribe was the lead agency on this working with the others in terms of comparing what our situation was with the situation in To Kill A Mockingbird and the story from that. And these are the kind of things that we've done with the other agencies in town to help people understand where we're at; it helps to get rid of a lot of the tension. And those are things that we've done both in big and small ways that have tried to deal with that tension. It still exists and we have individuals who would be a great detriment to us if they were the one in charge, but nevertheless this thing works quite well. I think my time has arisen; actually the timekeeper has risen from his seat. And so with that I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak with you today."

Honoring Nations: Tom Hampson: Native Asset Building

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

ONABEN Executive Director Tom Hampson discusses the resilient entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Indian Country, and how it can be a key to transformative change in Native communities. 

People
Resource Type
Citation

Hampson, Tom. "Native Asset Building." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 17, 2009. Presentation.

"That was really inspiring and educational. How entrepreneurial is that approach? And so it underscores the thing that I've noticed in coming here, which is that there are so many threads that are weaving in and out of the conversations here. And I want to try to capture some of those but first I have to admit that I was a little bit unnerved about coming here. It's a long plane ride -- it's five hours -- gave me plenty of time to work. In fact I was looking through my remarks and Sarah Vermillion Echo Hawk looked and said, 'What, are you writing a book?' And she said, 'You're worse than Mike.' And she was talking about [Mike] Roberts. I said, 'Oh, no. Please don't say that.' [Because] Mike Roberts is deathly afraid of something, which is that both our mothers are from Grant's Pass, Oregon, and he's so scared that we're related somehow. I'm doing genealogical research as we speak to determine if in fact I have something that I can hold over him. I expressed my reservations about what I might say today to Jonathan and he said, 'Oh, just tell stories.' And I said, 'Well, okay, I'll do that.'

So here's a little excerpt from a story that is in our second curriculum, called 'Indianpreneurship: Growing a Business in Indian Country.' It's designed and being beta tested now at Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation and it's designed as a peer mentoring, coaching and educational experience for existing business owners and we are writing the chapters as we speak.

Autumn Rainmaker was the dreamy type. She never planned anything. She just let things happen in her life. She just did what she fancied and let life take care of the rest. 'Being open to the universe,' that's what Autumn called it. Being a free spirit is how her mom described Autumn. Space Cadet, that's her dad. That was before culinary school. Autumn decided on culinary school the way she decided on everything back then. She didn't pick it, it picked her. Autumn had just been dumped by Dallas Brings Yellow. She was walking back to her apartment from school thinking that his name should be Dallas Leaves Yellow when she turned the corner and saw this group of people about her age standing in front of the culinary school having a smoke break. The students were gathered in small groups with their white coats and aprons. They all had tall white chef's hats on and thermometers in their pockets. Autumn liked the hats. A young man named Jeff was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. His curly red hair was sticking out of the sides of the chef's hat. Autumn slowed down to move around him and then she just stopped. She looked up into his piercing blue eyes. Tears began to well up and she tried to hold them back by concentrating on the thermometer in his pocket. She recovered quickly. 'Hi, could I bum a cigarette?' That's how it started and now she was in her third year of being the proud owner of Raindrops Catering. Much has changed in the last three years that Autumn had been totally open to. Jeff didn't last long. He left culinary school to become an electrician with his dad. Autumn was totally okay with that. She quit Jeff on the same day she quit smoking. It wasn't something that she planned to do, it just seemed like the right thing to do, get up in the morning, say goodbye to Jeff and bad breathe and start a business. That was her dream, start a business. It quickly became an obsession.

Now Autumn's dilemma is discussed in the curriculum with a series of questions, and then there's a conclusion at the end of the chapter. We use these stories in our curriculum just as we use -- and you'll notice that I'm doing little 30-second spots here -- that we do in our DVD, which are actual vignettes of real entrepreneurs from reservations in Oregon and Washington, and these are four- and five-minute conversation starters. We created these so that the entrepreneurs could also use them as files to put on YouTube or whatever other marketing devices they have. I may just set that up here. No, it'll fall.

It's an incredible honor to be asked here. It was an incredible honor to be honored by Honoring Nations in 2005 and then to be invited to come to speak to you. It's very special since when I walked in the room I saw lots of good friends, some very old-time colleagues, not old colleagues -- speaking of Antone Minthorn -- and even family. Robin Butterfield is married to, is a first cousin, I'm married to Robin Butterfield's first cousin. That would be my wife. And I see Robin left, you know, family, you can't pick your relatives. But as soon as I walked in the energy and the camaraderie was really, was palpable and I felt immediately comfortable and I think we all owe that to the spirit that Honoring Nations staff and board bring to this event. And I want to thank Megan [Hill] and Amy [Besaw Medford] very much. It's very special. [Because] it doesn't always happen to me when I walk into a room, especially of Indian people.

But I'm struck with the notion of these threads, as I got back in, just the things that we learned today from this panel about the entrepreneurial way that these social enterprises are approaching what they do to serve the community. I also learned that in this group all you have to say is 'shack up' and you get an immediate rise, so I've learned that so I'm trying to find a story that has shacking up in it. I guess I did. Actually I did, didn't I? Some of these concepts that were introduced by the structure of the symposium itself, and then what we've heard since are really quite incredible, the way they weave together. It underscores the importance of gathering together to see how these threads would weave in and out, how they connect and how they divide, how they might be woven together to create a basket or a blanket of ideas we might take from here for our own use.

The metaphor of the blanket reminds me of Pendleton, and Pendleton reminds me of my second, and in many ways, my adopted home, the Umatilla Indian Reservation. And as I flew over that territory yesterday, I was reminded of many things. But this week, this week, I was particularly reminded foremost of the Pendleton Roundup. Antone is laughing as we speak. When I came to the Umatilla Indian Reservation to work as the fourth tribal employee and its first non-Indian, it was 1973. It was not far from the 60s -- protests, Black Panthers, AIM [American Indian Movement], peace and love, and contradiction. It was a time of activism in which many people seeking transformation in themselves, in their institutions, in the world. It was that, with that kind of lens as an activist-oriented person, that I first viewed the Pendleton Roundup. The impressive cowboys and Indians, the Indian encampment next to the rodeo grounds, the Happy Canyon Pageant, which is if you have...How many have seen the Happy Canyon Pageant? It's a Wild West extravaganza with real horses, real cowboys, real Indians, white people dressed up like Chinese coolies tiptoeing like chipmunks with made up buck teeth and squinty eyes. The locals at the rodeo leaving the stands to go to the leather buck room when the Indians came into the arena to dance. The year before -- on the basis of the complaints from the Humane Society -- they had enlarged the pens for the rodeo stock and took the space out of the Indian encampment. The irony of the insult was not lost on the Indians, but they were willing to put up with a lot to be part of the show since its inception in 1910.

There's a very charming story about the founders of the Pendleton Roundup who had invited the tribes from the Umatilla Reservation to participate, Antone's great-grandfather. And there was some doubt as to whether they would show up. Their arrival was announced by looking to the east and seeing a great cloud of dust as the tribes road their horses to the event. As one tribal member opined in the Confederated Umatilla Journal, 'I think about the magical appearance of a large Indian village that was built in one day. From the beginning the Indians liked the idea because it was a place for them to show and compete in roundup events.' Now, not to say that there wasn't a lot of grousing about the roundup. In fact, when I was there, in fact there was even some occasional rebellions and as legend has it, or as Donald Sampson would have you believe, the legend, he and his brother Curtis departed from the script one night and rode a horse back into the arena and routed their enemies reversing the storyline, if only for one glorious, intoxicating and probably intoxicated moment.

Well, many things have changed, including my attitude towards that event. I found myself spending four days, all four days at the Roundup supervising soccer players, selling Cokes and watching my children play in the band and showing off the event in all its Wild West contradictions to visiting friends and families. As Wes Greeley, a pioneer descendent and Roundup board member said, 'For years, the Pendleton economy has driven the tribes. Now it's the complete reversal and turnaround.' He praised in the article the leadership of the Confederated Tribes and admitted it was now the tribes that drive the economy of the county. The Confederated Tribes has been honored here in this forum a number of times. Their successes for their innovations have become economic development legend that we all hope will continue, including joint venturing with Accenture, the casino and the resort, the Umatilla Basin Project which brought fish back to the Umatilla River under Antone's leadership that required a lot of negotiation with non-Indian farmers and ranchers. And so as the years pass -- and this is why I'm belaboring this Roundup story, it's a long event, four days -- and as the years passed, the evidence mounts for what Harvard and Native Nations celebrate as effective tribal government development. I come back to a very uncomfortable truth: that a large part of the Umatilla story at some level has something to do with that damn Roundup. Why? Because if I were to make my own list of what are critical elements to effective tribal government, it would be the number one on that list, would be the extent to which the members and leaders are willing to engage and learn from what organizational development people call boundary spanning but we call walking in two worlds.

The Roundup, near a hundred-year-old institution now, has built traditions and most importantly relationships. Armon Minthorn, board member and religious leader, says, 'It's important that we continue to support the Roundup because we share the same tradition with the people of Pendleton. It doesn't matter what race of people we are; tradition is tradition.' Admittedly, it took money and the acquisition and assertion of sovereignty and power to bring these transformations in behaviors, and notice I say behaviors and not attitudes, but CTUIR [Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation] at Confederated Tribes has reclaimed its position of authority in the region by being effective boundary spanners, negotiators, listeners and watchers. The last 35 years has been quite a rodeo. It has been truly transformational and the changes that I have seen in this time span in tribes all across the country has been an inspirational but also excruciatingly painful. And I think many tribes have entered a new and potentially even more transformative period as we speak, one that has planetary consequences. And believe me, I wrote this before we had Chief Lyons and Manley's comments, but I was so delighted to be affirmed in something, that sometimes I'm accused of being overly optimistic or romantic. Because what I often say is that the future of the planet is in the hands of the Indians, because of the principles common to Indigenous societies that hold the interest of the land, the water and all creatures is generally equal to people's interests.

Native American models for economic development hold great and probably the most promise for long-term sustainability. Indian Country has the unique opportunity to develop new economic forms and systems that combine communitarian value systems with capitalistic competitive forms of commerce. It's truly a transformative time or the potential for this. So what does Indian Country have to do to live up to this awesome responsibility? Well, first of all, tribes and communities don't have to do anything. Since when did such a daunting challenge fall upon those who had so little to do with our planetary fall from grace? And yet, Chief Lyons talked this morning about the challenges that we have faced before us with global warming. And said that it will be up to our generation. Let it not be our generation upon whose watch the world crumbles, or more accurately drowns. We need a lot of help. Global crises require extraterrestrial assistance. Manley Begay challenged us with a question about how do we integrate spirit, the spiritual into the revitalization process. The notion is a very important test of our capacity to be a planetary savior. There are many similar tests we could all pose for measuring effectiveness for this role. How do we educate? How do we treat our elders? How do we treat our fellow species? These are all good tests.

Here's another one and finally to the point of my presentation, how do we reclaim the marketplace in the name of the Indian trading sector? That is, Indian trader sector? How do we treat the entrepreneur? That is a good test for a tribe's potential to write their ticket to the destiny on this destiny train. The entrepreneur is called in private sector, small business owner, citizen-owned business traders, independent scallywags -- call them whatever you like -- they're used to all of it. The entrepreneurs have a very special role to play in Indian Country. They are the bridge from the past to the future. I love the story about talking to modern elders about the notion of living in the pueblo, the notion of going back to go forward. Entrepreneurship was culturally, socially and economically a part of the fabric of the community, inseparable like the first strands woven into the structure of a basket, built to hold roots or berries or dried salmon. If we are ever going to have a world that is in balance again, the entrepreneurs have to play an important part in achieving and keeping that balance.

So how do tribal governments and tribal communities support entrepreneurs in the community, especially the Autumn Rainmakers of the world, will be one of the key tests of how Indian Country will be able to transform ancient and enduring values and visions into viable and sustainable economies. If Indian Country can rebalance things, it can truly save the world. So entrepreneurs, small business owners, traders -- whatever you call them- the orneriest ones that come to council meetings, are pretty important. And it's quite frightening when you think about it that the future of the world might be in the hands of such scallywags. Mike Meyers, my favorite Seneca philosopher, has issued similar challenges for us. In reclaiming the marketplace, he says we must infuse enterprise with spirit, for spirit is the source of all innovation, all creativity, the spirit of enterprise. There is much to be gained. Small businesses, primarily family business, extended families with a basic cultural, social and political units in Indian Country, no matter how problematic they may be. Small business ownership is shown to be a very effective way of accumulating assets. Therefore support and growth of family-owned business strengthens the fabric of the society. Small business owners are the reservoir of what we now call social capital.

As you know, in pre-contact times there were all kinds of clans and systems to create events to support culture, to support the doings of the work of the people. Many of those institutions have been destroyed. We're now seeing in transformational way through the creation of chambers of commerce, the organization of entrepreneurial activity, a renewal of that kind of social capital. Unfortunately, from the entrepreneur's point of view, the focus has been on tribal enterprise, often at the expense of citizen-owned enterprise. There are many good and poor reasons for this. Our job is to help tribal policymakers more informed choices in creating their economic mix. There are many useful distinctions about what is appropriate for enterprising endeavors for tribes and for citizens and the Harvard Project has gone a long way in helping make those distinctions meaningful and outline the choices. But it's clear to me that without a vibrant trader sector we are at risk of being just another economic engine just running on fuel or on fumes, as Manley was talking about, subject to the irrational marketplace hanging by slim margins to competitive advantages that are not necessarily of our own making.

Now I have no quarrel with tribal enterprises. Tribes -- first, last and always -- and tribal enterprises are the critical element in making the transformative changes that have to occur in tribal economies in partnership with the small business sector. The social enterprise sector is another critical element. It's not about profit, it's about entrepreneurial; it's about the spirit of enterprise in all that we do. I think we're entering an incredible, as evidenced by our panelists, incredible era in which we're seeing joint ventures and collaborations with Native and non-Native institutions. The CDFI example was a perfect one or the, I'm sorry, the new market tax credits. Boundary spanning must incorporate reservation and urban populations. We're seeing a trend away from, thank God, the old res/urban Indian dichotomy and one of the boundary spanning activities that is making that bridge a reality is entrepreneurship and the desire for entrepreneurs to go back to their home reservations and to create economic opportunities between the centers. We must get past the old boundaries and collectively build Native assets throughout the territory that can be used in all of Indian Country, keeping the homeland, nurturing and healing and growing it but exporting the spirit of the homeland and importing the capital and using that to develop new forms of tribally controlled capital.

And I'm out of time, so I'll make one other editorial comment about the notion of capital, and Sherry [Salway Black] said it so well, is that the essence is not the nature of capital; it's who is controlling the capital. And it's up to Indian Country to create their own definitions about what capital must look like and act like. It can be human capital, it can be debt capital, social capital, equity capital, non-cash capital, but ultimately it has to be Native capital. And the CDFIs are wonderful things, but they're sort of being promulgated as an intervention institution rather than growing up from the source on the community level. They can be an important tool, but they have to be managed by Natives changing the name of the game. We can only make transformational change with words and ideas that cause us to change our points of view and usually that means by tapping into spirit.

All of these stories that we tell at ONABEN are stories that tell us who we are and what we might gain and what we might lose. We have lots of stories to tell. Maybe some of the stories that will be passed down from generation to generation can be about how our generation saved the planet. We can only hope. And in the spirit of Roundup, let's go forward and 'let her buck.' Thank you."

Honoring Nations: Tom Hampson: Native Asset Building (Q&A)

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

ONABEN Executive Director Tom Hampson fields audience questions about ONABEN's work and strategies for cultivating entrepreneurship in Indian Country.

Susan Jenkins:

"I'm Susan Jenkins with the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. I wanted to ask Tom a question. You have, with your Indianpreneurship been working with a lot of CDFIs. Can you give us an idea of what is emerging as far as new businesses that you're seeing?"

Tom Hampson:

"Indianpreneurship is... She's referring to the curriculum that -- as a social enterprise -- has become a significant part of our mission and our revenue stream. In fact, it is critical to our survival as a social enterprise. We also do training and curriculum sales. Thank you for asking that question. Actually, this comes back to what I was saying about CDFIs, or community development financial institutions, as being sort of introduced notions, by virtue of the fact that they are generous ideas about carrying capital to a place that needs capital with a lot of inherent structure in that program. And what CDFIs promise is debt capital in communities to support entrepreneurship. The reality is that, especially at the start up phase, debt capital is a very inappropriate kind of capital to finance an early stage business -- although entrepreneurs do it all the time, credit cards, friends and family and associates -- but still it's not the most desirable kind of capital. And so we're exploring -- by using the World Bank model, for example -- a way of creating equity capital injections into promising ideas using a business plan style competition that's based on the Alaska Marketplace model, which the Alaska Federation Natives manages in Alaska.

And fundamentally, what that does, where I'm getting to is that the reality is that by injecting capital into anyplace doesn't necessarily generate a particular stream of business or deal flow. That has to come out of the entrepreneurial spirit and the opportunity analysis that they do at the local level, and then that needs to get financed. And so generally,what we're seeing is the tail wagging the dog on the CDFI movement in the northwest. We are collaborating with Shore Bank Enterprise -- cascaded to service CDFI -- to help tribal CDFIs create an entrepreneurship development system and they're doing the back office part of the loan servicing and financing. And there's like eight different CDFIs emerging, there's lots of capital around, but the deal flow is what's lacking. It hasn't generated a lot of new businesses but the businesses that are there -- the mom and pop retail outlets, the gas stations, the hair salons, the woodcarvers and other artists. They're all there in the community and our challenge is to match and marry capital to their needs, and we hope that the CDFI can be a part of that solution."

Mediator:

"We have a question over here."

Mary Lee Johns:

"Hello there. My name is Mary Lee Johns and I'm with Rio Tinto, Senior Advisor on Tribal Governments and Native Communities. My question is to the gentleman. I'm curious about your response to supply chain activities by identifying like... I think that we really missed the boat when it came to the casinos. The fact that those casinos all over Indian Country are being supplied by non-Indian operations and I think that we have to be prepared to begin to develop our supply chains to these... I mean that's where the action is, that's where the cash is and yet we seem to -- as Indian, Native people, Indian people -- we don't look that far down the road. We look to the casino for providing us jobs but we don't look to the actual supplying. We should be the entrepreneurs developing our businesses to supply the casinos or any other business. You're talking about the rodeo. I'm sure you have an Indian contractor who... I know in South Dakota we have all these Indian contractors who have rodeo, they do the rodeo contracts; and so not only do they provide the bucking horses and the bulls and all that... But those are the kinds of things that I think that we as Indian people need to start looking at and I'm just wondering what your response is to that."

Tom Hampson:

"It's an incredibly complex and interesting topic. We have an annual conference, Trading at the River, that; it's a lot like this in terms of its tone and flavor which is thoughtful discussion and talking about how traditions of commerce from the pre-contact can inform new ideas. And that issue is a constant workshop topic every year. We beat it up constantly over and over again. The person that can best address that from a business model standpoint is John McCoy -- sitting next to you -- because there are incredible, the dilemmas that... One of the things that is a very amazing and complex problem is the fact that the business model for a casino, for example, is almost requires a business model for supplying it that is mega in proportion that does not favor an entrepreneurial approach. It might favor a tribal consortium, of which there is at least one now that is trying to be launched that tries to address the enormous capacity problems that Cisco Systems -- or what's the other major food supplier? -- they have solved those problems by being mega corporations. And so the entrepreneur, the efforts for the entrepreneurs to break into those purchasing systems is very complex but it can be done, it just depends on what scale you approach it. It's a whole topic in and of itself."

Mary Lee Johns:

"Well, the reason why I'm asking you that is because there is a model."

Tom Hampson:

"Oh, good. I'd love to hear it."

Mary Lee Johns:

"Well, it's not so much the entrepreneur, but it's based upon a tribal model. These friends from Canada may have heard of Diavik, it's our diamond mine, it's Rio Tinto's diamond mine in Northwest Territory. And what we did was -- we have an agreement with six communities -- and what we did as a company is that we saw an opportunity to help develop a sustaining economic there in Northwest Territory. And so we went in and assisted the communities in developing trucking, which is the ice road truckers, the Tlicho government; we also helped to develop an airline that supplies our, flies our workers in and flies our workers out. So there are some models out there and I'm one that I really believe that this model has to be done in other areas so that when a company wants to come in and do business with a tribe, then we need to be able to participate in the supply chain of that particular business if it's on our reservation. And that's why I say casinos is a perfect model for those kinds of things. Granted, it's becoming more of an older business model, but if we're going to begin to be developing anything else on our reservations, we need to begin to think about the supply chain because that's where the... When you're talking about asset building, that's where asset building can be developed."

Tom Hampson:

"I completely agree but what I'm saying is that... Actually, I would disagree at one level, is that casino may not be the best example. But there are other tribal enterprises over which the tribe has a lot more control over the price points that they have to pay in the marketplace that could be, that we are seeing are much more fertile ground for tribal enterprise and entrepreneurship relationships. The casinos are a little bit different problem but they're still an opportunity." 

Honoring Nations: Kristi Coker-Bias and Allen Pemberton: The Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation and the Red Lake Walleye Recovery Program (Q&A)

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Honoring Nations symposium presenters Kristi Coker-Bias and Allen Pemberton field questions from the audience about the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation and the Red Lake Walleye Recovery Program.

Resource Type
Citation

Coker-Bias, Kristi and Allen Pemberton. "The Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation and the Red Lake Walleye Recovery Program (Q&A)." Harvard Project on American Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 27-28, 2007. Presentation.

Alfreda Mitre:

"The next question is from Ben Nuvamsa, chairman from the Hopi Tribe."

Ben Nuvamsa:

"Thank you. I just wanted to thank you for all the good work that you're doing out there for Indian Country, all of you. I just have a question for Kristi Coker on your program. Most of our reservations are isolated out there and we typically have a difficult time attracting businesses, or at least the financial, the banks and so on, out on our reservations. My question to you is, your population, was that a deterrent in trying to get the banks or that kind of financial [institution]? Maybe you took the matter into your own hands, but it seems like that's something that may be a challenge for most of us. And how did you overcome that obstacle? Because we are faced with that -- we would like to have some banking institution out there, but it's because of our isolation it's often difficult for us to do that. By the way, we're Hopi, we may be short but we walk tall."

Kristi Coker:

"Well, we did take matters into our own hands. In 1994, we bought a struggling bank, a national bank, the tribe did. And why we started the Community Development Corporation in 2003 is that traditional financing, traditional financial institutions, just weren't the answer for the Native American community. It was a great enterprise for the tribe and it's a great financial institution, but so many people just needed the handholding and just were leery of banks still. And so even though we have our own bank there, there was a need for a non-traditional, flexible, self-regulated financial institution that is geared toward your mission, geared toward your market.

There's a lot you can do with a CDFI [Community Development Financial Institution]. You can do a credit union, and a credit union is the answer for a lot of Native communities. Oweesta even has some upcoming training. I'm on the Oweesta board, if you couldn't tell. But Oweesta has some upcoming training on ‘does your native community need a credit union?' And it's actually online and over the phone and so that might be something you want to get involved with. But a CDFI can do a lot, as you see. We're doing financial education, we're doing credit counseling, we're doing commercial lending, micro loans, larger loans. So we're doing loans from $2,000 up to $750,000. So we have a wide range of loans.

And we have had a tremendous amount of interest from private foundations, from the large national banks. They don't understand how to do lending in Indian Country and a lot of them, through the Community Reinvestment Act, have incentives to do this type of work. So one of the things they can do is they can fund CDFIs in Indian Country to do this work for them. If they're not interested in doing that, you could at least engage the local institutions in financial education as trainers and curriculum they may have.

I think what's so neat about the CDFI -- and the Treasury Department has been an amazing department, as far as a partnership with tribes. They have set up very comprehensive, coordinated programs and actually give you the training and technical assistance along with the money. And one of the things about being a CDFI, for those of you that don't know, our incentive, one of our incentives was for every non-federal dollar you can raise, you get that matched dollar for dollar from the Treasury. So a lot of my time goes to fundraising efforts and those sorts of things.

But I think what's so neat is the flexibility of it. It's regulated by the tribe, by the board of directors of your community development financial institution, and that it meets the needs of your people. You design it around your people. It looks many different ways. Some CDFIs are doing housing, some CDFIs are just doing IDAs [Individual Development Account] or just micro loans. You gear it toward your mission and your market, which is kind of driven by a study. It all kind of starts with a market study to determine what the needs are. Is there a housing need? Is there a business loan need? Do we have a gap?

Another thing that we're doing is even helping with gap financing for banks. A lot of the times even existing businesses that have assets, that have collateral, that have financial records, and those types of things, most of the time you can only get 80 percent financing at a bank and they just don't have 20 percent cash to inject at that time. So we're able to come in and it would actually be a bankable project through a bank and we're actually able to come and do the 20 percent.

So I think there's lots of creative things you can do and lots of opportunities and I would recommend exploring developing your private sector."

Mediator:

"Next question is from JoAnn Chase."

JoAnn Chase:

"I have a question for Red Lake. Obviously, so many of the stories that we have heard, they're very moving components to how initiatives and programs came to be. And one of the most moving ones for me, during my involvement with this program, was the fact that your own fishermen chose, they voted actually to vote themselves out of a job in economic situations which were absolutely dire. And so that told me that you obviously spent some significant time with your own community and working with the community. I'm wondering if you might just talk just a little bit more about what went into engaging folks, to the point that they would take a very deeply sacrificial decision in order to replenish the lake, and some of the aspects of the dialogue or the efforts that you, as a program, had to undertake in order to get the community to really buy and support and ultimately make very deeply sacrificial decisions."

Allen Pemberton:

"I wasn't actually at the meeting, but there was a lot of talk. Some people didn't want to do it, but I think the majority of the people seen that they just weren't getting the catches that they were in years past, and if they didn't do something now it would never come back.

I think looking at the records and some of the stuff that happened years before -- like about six years earlier we had a really big year class of female walleyes. And, as we all know, we have to have females to keep moving in this life. And there was -- the fishery guys that I talked to, they did the spawn nets every year and there was like -- they'd get like 100 males in the net and no female. And what happened was that -- If they would have just stopped like five years before, which is pretty hard for them to do because they were really catching the walleyes that year, and if they would have just stopped then, knowing what they know now, maybe we wouldn't have to quit for ten years [because] there was that nucleus of fish out there at that time, but they got hit pretty hard by the nets and stuff. And I think a lot of the people back home now, they're worried about -- that's why they told us to take a cautious look at what we do from now on. We've go to protect that resource.

One of the things the old people, the chiefs, and people called it, that lake was our freezer. As long as you have fish in there we're never going to starve. There are so many things that move to these days. Like my grandpa, he told me, there's another -- I have a hard time talking about him because I loved him. He told me, 'There's another lake under this lake.' That was one of the kind of -- the fish will come back, there's another lake under here. And a lot of people to this day still think that there is one there, but I don't know. It's kind of hard to -- it's in my heart to take care of our land. The fishermen are -- right now, they're looking at a different way of taking fish because a lot this, what happened was -- they all know it. All of them were older guys and now there's ten years of people, almost a generation of people, that didn't go out into the lake and do any fishing.

So the lake, our lake is -- I always remember what Pat Brown said, our fishery biologist, when he first came to Red Lake just before they started the recovery. He came from Wisconsin (another Packer fan), but he says to me, he said, ‘Man, I walked up to...I got to DNR [Department of Natural Resources] and I looked out on that lake and said, ‘Oh, man, how am I ever going to bring this thing back? I can't even see the other side of the lake. It's just monstrous.'' It's the sixth largest fresh water lake in the United States. He just said, ‘Oh, man, are we ever going to be able to bring it back?' It was a big initiative. And actually, the DNR took a big step forward in that. And really, Dave Connors, and there's a lot of people to thank that were non-members, but they were hired by the tribe to help us bring this lake back and it's back bigger than it ever was. The numbers show that there's more fish in our lake than there ever was.

And I think one of the things that happened throughout -- when I first got on the council we went to a game one time. I always like to tell this story. Red Lake was playing in Grand Forks, which is about 90 miles away. Basketball -- it's a big thing on our reservation. So everybody went. And we were coming home, and my wife -- we were riding down the road between Red Lake and Redbye coming home -- and I said, ‘Man, what is that on that truck?' We seen these red lights coming and I said, ‘What is that?' It's almost covering the road. And we got closer and there was a plane, there was a plane on the back of this truck. These non-members came and they flew up and down Redby, which is the district I live in and represent, and they landed on the lake and started fishing, which is -- the fishing, you can come buy a permit on our reservation to fish the small lake but the big lake is only for [band] members; only members fish that lake. So we guard that with our lives. So people are calling the cops. I suppose these guys thought, ‘Oh, these Indian tribes they don't have no game wardens. They ain't going to care if we go fish on their lake.' They knew where they were. And what they did was they landed and started fishing. And game wardens went out and arrested them, took their plane away.

They were coming down -- Then when I come home, it was like my first year on the council and we were getting bombarded, the council was, with ‘What are you going to do with this?' Because we really can't...in our laws -- it's one of the things we've been working on now -- that we can't do anything to non-members. If a non-member comes [and] punches me, we can't take him to court. The federal government would probably slap his hand and, ‘Go ahead. Go ahead and land on the lake some more if you want. It's only Indians that live down there.' But one of the things that I said at that time, I said, 'We should just keep that plane because there's going to be more people coming, thinking that they can trespass on our land.' But we said, ‘Well, we'll be good neighbors and give it back to them.' Like we've been catching heck over that for the last -- I think at the Honoring Nations deal I was telling them, I said, ‘If we would have kept that plane I could have flew out here to Sacramento. I would have been a pilot by now.' One of the things that happened after that, they did get fined a lot. It wasn't the best plane in the world. But you have to, as Indian people, you have to stand up for your rights.

We own that land in Red Lake. It's all owned in common. It's a closed reservation. We own all the land there. We have hunting and fishing rights and we never ceded our lands to the federal government. I'll just let you know that they had a game warden that was for the State of Minnesota, and it seemed like we have a pretty good relationship with them now, but this guy kind of threw like a wrench in it last spring. They didn't care about our lake before, but now that the walleyes are back, ‘Okay,' they said, ‘All right, Red Lake, you don't own that lake. You own the land under the lake.' Uh, okay? Well, they were citing some kind of court case in Montana, but those people in Montana they allotted their land. So it was more of a waterways issue. We talked about it and we said, ‘Well, Red Lake's totally different than that tribe. We own our land. And they said, ‘Well, I'm going to bring a bunch of people over there and we're going to fish on your lake.' I'll tell you, a lot of people at home said, ‘Well, bring it on.' There's going to be -- we're going to fight for our land again. If it comes to that, that's what's going to happen. But it never did. But just that part of it, we have to always be on our toes as Indian people because there's always somebody out there that wants our land. They put us on land that they didn't think anybody wanted. But it's our land and we've got to take care of it.

This guy -- I had an old man call me one time, he was an older fellow, a white gentleman and he said -- I got this call at my office --and he said, ‘Yeah, you know, I don't like that that you guys took this boat away from this guy 'cause he went across the line and then you guys had machine guns in there. The game wardens had machine guns.' And I said, ‘Well, they weren't machine guns. They were issued arms for their work. You guys were a mile onto our land. You knew where the -- we put GPS -- they had GPS ratings with the state and all this stuff. And they knew where they were at, but yet they came on to Red Lake to fish. So our game wardens had time to go all the way to Red Lake, which is about 40 miles away from the Upper Red Lake, get their boat, come back and them guys were still fishing on our side of the lake.' And this old guy tells me, he says, ‘Oh, I don't think -- then that plane. You guys kept that plane.' I said, ‘Well, we didn't keep the plane. We gave the plane back.' I said, ‘I just want to say something to you.' I said -- I was trying to do it in kind of laymen's terms and be nice to him too, but I said, ‘If you owned 100 acres and you had four or five really nice bucks on your land and I knew about it. And just before deer season I came over and shot all four of those deer...' I said, ‘How would you like it?' ‘Well, I wouldn't like it,' he said. ‘Well,' I said, ‘it's the same thing here.' I said, ‘We own this land. It's not owned by the state. It's not owned by the government. It's owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa.' I said, ‘We all own it in common.' He said, ‘Well, I kind of understand now.' I said, ‘But one of the things that I think a lot of people don't understand is that they think that no matter what it's everybody's land, but it's not.' That's one of the things that's unique about Red Lake. And like I said, the chiefs for -- they had some real good insight to keep that land for us. And we have to -- we, as a council and people, have to protect that [because] that's our land.

I think one of the things I forgot to say earlier was that the tribe recently served notice to the Secretary of the Interior that they will no longer abide by the federal regulations governing the fishery. We are going forward and determine our own quotas. Every year it'll change depending on how many fish we have in the lake. It'll no longer be -- we won't have to go see Big Brother to say, ‘Hey, is it all right to go and take some of our own fish? Can you guys sign off on this?' I think one of the things I always laugh about, at the DNR when we went Self-Governance, they kept one person there to sign off on things. The guy didn't, the guy really didn't like what I said to him, but I always told him, ‘Oh, yeah, we better get our Indian agent in here so we can make sure that we're doing things the right way.' He didn't like that. That's about all I've got to say. Thanks."

Alfreda Mitre:

"Thanks, Al. One of the recurring themes that you're going to see throughout the symposium here is -- that's going to make this symposium a little bit different is -- the love of the land. We are who we are because of the land. The only thing American about America is us. Everything else was imported into this country and I think that's important. You can see, and you'll probably see throughout the symposium, the love for the land inspires the programs that are put forth to Honoring Nations. No one can tell our story better than we can. When westerners do something in their neighborhood that they don't like, they can move to another city, they can move to another town, they can move to another neighborhood. We are truly connected to the land and therefore no one could love the land or protect it better than we can. So that's going to be a recurring theme, and I want to again thank you all."

NNI Forum: Asset Building for Indian Country

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

The Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona convened a panel of leading experts to discuss the fundamental obstacles standing in the way of asset building in Native communities, and the innovative strategies that Native nations, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and other organizations are deploying to overcome those challenges and build stronger futures for Native people.

The "Winds of Change" video is featured as part of this video resource with the permission of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Four Bands Community Fund.

Resource Type
Citation

Native Nations Institute. "Asset Building for Indian Country" (roundtable forum). Native Nations Institute For Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 15, 2008. Interview.

Miriam Jorgensen (moderator): "Asset building refers to the process by which individuals and families build permanent economic independence. This is an area in which Indian Country is engaged in a more and more active conversation. So we’re here today. My name is Miriam Jorgensen. I’m the Director of Research for the Harvard Project in American Indian Economic Development and the Associate Director for Research of its sister institution the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona. I’m here with a team of great people to talk about exactly this topic, asset building in Indian country. I want to introduce to you the team. First I’ll turn to Elsie Meeks, who’s the President and CEO of the First Nations Oweesta Corporation and one of the pioneers of asset building in Indian Country. Next we have Elena Chavez Quezada, who’s a Policy Associate with the Aspen Institute which has long time engagement on asset building domestically in the United States and also internationally to bring us a more broad perspective from beyond Indian Country. Also Karen Edwards, who’s a Policy Consultant and also an Associate with the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. Again, a pioneering organization. Karen’s also a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and has been engaged in asset building in Indian Country for a long time. And finally I want to introduce to you Peter Morris, who’s the Director of Strategy and Partnerships for the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center, which is another organization -- like the Native Nations Institute and First Nations Oweesta Corporation and the Center for Social Development and the Aspen Institute -- which is engaged in asset-building efforts in Indian Country both on the research and policy outreach front. And so we’ve got this fantastic panel of folks today to talk about asset building in Indian country and we want to just start off the conversation, I’ve given a very brief definition of asset building and I’m wondering if any of you want to just jump in and expand on that definition and also talk about why this conversation is so critical in Indian Country today."

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Elsie Meeks: "Well, I’m from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Oglala Lakota Nation, and Pine Ridge has been the poorest county in the nation, Shannon County, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, for decades, and yet I think because of my 20-plus years of working at Pine Ridge and across the country now, if we don’t start thinking about the opportunities that lead to permanent wealth creation, permanent economic independence, then we’re not going to change the way we are and it has to change, it really has to change. We have to come to a place where we aren’t reliant on the federal government, that we aren’t reliant on government at all and so the work that we’ve done at Pine Ridge and now nationally, we really, that’s where we want to end up, that’s our goal."

Peter Morris: "To me, probably more so than any other community in the United States and maybe in the world, Native Nations understand how important assets are and have been working on control of assets and being able to benefit from their assets as communities, and I think what asset building as a field outside of Indian Country has been talking about is kind of assets and the individual component of it and I think what the conversation in Indian Country has taken us to in the last five to ten years is a conversation that blends those two approaches and talks about the need for individuals to take responsibility for the economic self-sufficiency of themselves and their families, but to also do that within a community context. I think that’s often not thought about as we look outside of Indian country both domestically and internationally."

Karen Edwards: "Well, I just think asset building historically has been the purview of people who already have accumulated some wealth or are wealthy people. For many, many years the only people who were asset builders were people who had inherited wealth or somehow had made a fortune on their own. But low income and poor people weren’t really asset builders. They were cut out policy wise and there were many, many, many historical policy inequities. Most people build assets through the tax system so if you don’t have a considerable tax liability you really don’t have an advantage to build assets. The hope is that people who are poor or have low incomes won’t be left out of this whole new system of asset building that we’re seeing now. We’re talking about individual accounts for social security, we’re talking about individual accounts for college savings, individual accounts for retirement and what happens if people can’t benefit from the policies that are there to establish these individual accounts."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Karen, you’ve started us down a path that I wanted to spend quite a bit of time today talking about which is if a Native community or a Native Nation is interested in asset building, how does it go about doing it? How does it go about creating policy and creating opportunities for individuals and families in the community to really begin to undertake asset building? What are the components? What are the pieces?"

Elsie Meeks: "Well, if I might jump in here, it’s really…we have tribes that have considerable income, considerable resources, and some of them are actually dispersing per capitas to their tribal members, which doesn’t always create assets. We have poor tribes like mine that we have to figure out how we’re going to start down this road of developing assets. Or there are some tribes that have been really good at providing jobs. But even jobs don’t necessarily end up as assets. So it’s really about how do we get people to this point of creating wealth and that’s been kind of a word that hasn’t been used a lot in...Indian Country. So we have to start that conversation."

Elena Chavez Quezada: "I think what’s really, to build on that, we need to shift the conversation from a conversation about income to a conversation about wealth and I think income is about today, wealth is about tomorrow, and we can’t talk about wealth and assets without really talking about saving, and that’s why I think the financial education component is so critical, just to kind of establish that mindset that I am saving and sacrificing today for some goal tomorrow."

Elsie Meeks: "I don’t think the federal government ever meant for Native Americans to be economically independent and all the policies that they imposed on Indian Country were completely opposite of that, of us being independent. So it was really built on the more dependent we are the more the federal government controlled us. At this point, they don’t want us to be dependent anymore, and so we have to figure out how we’re going to reach that. In the past we always had resources that we managed and that we were self-sufficient, whether it was putting up food for the winter or just planning for the future. We always did that. I think that’s where we have to get back to is that we really control our own destinies and taking a place at the table means that we have, we build our own assets and our own economic self-sufficiency. And the way that a lot of tribes have done this is through home ownership. In the greater society or the outside society, outside Indian Country, the main way people built assets were through, they built it through home ownership, they built it through business, through various ways, and through investments and we have to figure out how we’re going to do that ourselves, how we translate that into Indian Country. There are many tribes that have done this and tribal members that have done this and been good at it. And so for the tribes that haven’t quite got there, the tools are there and so it’s through entrepreneurship, through savings programs, through home ownership, through education, all of these ways and the tools are there. And so I just think that we have to…it’s more in the messaging that we have to start talking about as tribal members, part of tribal communities, that we become economically independent and healthy societies. And I guess that’s really what the goal is."

Miriam Jorgensen: "So really a very important critical first step in moving there though is really changing the conversation so it’s a conversation that’s not about dependence, it’s a conversation about economic self-sufficiency for individuals, families and ultimately for communities and nations as well."

Elsie Meeks: "And that’s exactly right, and with the tribes that have considerable resources whether it’s through being really good at business or gaming or natural resources, they have sort of a jump start in some ways although the message has to be the same is that this income that they’re providing their tribal members has to create wealth. It can’t be just spent. But for poor tribes like ours, it’s the same conversation in some ways. It’s like, where do you start and it’s really…Elena commented on how financial education is really the key, and for us at Pine Ridge it’s really…there’s no resources available, hardly any jobs, but we still have to get people thinking about what’s the first step you can take towards figuring out how you’re going to become economically self-sufficiency and it’s maybe saving $20. There’s a program at Pine Ridge that has an IDA, individual development account, which will match their savings two to one. These are important programs cause not only are people saving money, but they’re also learning the skills for money management and that’s the first step."

Karen Edwards: "And I just think that’s an important thing to create are incentives that are meaningful to people at different income levels. There are many, many incentives for people at high income levels when you consider that 20 percent of the population has 80% of the wealth. There’s a lot of incentives up there for wealth building. There aren’t many incentives on the bottom which is why IDAs are an important incentive. It does actually give you an institutional framework in which to save and it gives you an incentive of a match to your savings and we have to be more creative about these incentives. The financial education is so key but also to be able to use that financial education is key. So people have to have a meaningful framework to build wealth in."

Miriam Jorgensen: "So can you give us some examples of some tribes that are doing some of this work that are either putting in place some very effective financial education programming or who are doing the match savings account programming with the incentives for savings? Are there some examples out there of good programs on these fronts so we get some of this real flavor of it happening?"

Elsie Meeks: "There are actually quite a number of tribes, there are Native communities that are doing this and Four Bands Community Fund is one of them. Their first building block really is financial education, the individual asset building and entrepreneur capacity building, youth entrepreneurship. It’s melding all of these things and actually that’s where that video should come in."

Miriam Jorgensen: "So I think at this point we’re going to pause and show a video of this very specific community application of financial education, matched savings account, and then also a wide variety of programs that are focused on asset building and really see how it works in the community and hear some statements from community members just to get more of this on-the-ground flavor of what we’re talking about."

“Winds of Change” video (produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

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Narrator: “South Dakota hill country, a majestic tapestry of earth and sky. The people who live here, the people who understand the natural wealth of their surroundings, have wonderful traditions of celebrating what they have. But this regal setting on the Great Plains conceals a sad reality. These people are among the poorest in America. Four bands of the Lakota people, as they are also called, today live on a reservation near the Cheyenne River. Seventy-five percent of them live in poverty. One-fifth live in deep poverty, unable to afford even the barest of necessities. It’s a place where the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has been hard at work.”

Veronica Valandra: “The greatest concern I see in the diocese is poverty because we have many Native people that don’t have homes, they don’t have any jobs, they need food for their families.”

Narrator: “The unemployment rate for men hovers around 64%. Only one of every three has a full-time job.”

Tanya Fiddler: “We have largely overcrowded households where 2-3 families [live] because of the lack of housing. The major employer on the reservation is the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe itself, but of those employed, 90% of them are still living below the poverty line.”

Narrator: “Tanya Fiddler oversees the Four Bands Community Fund, set up to spur business ownership and entrepreneurship among the Lakota people.”

Receptionist: “Four Bands Community Fund, this is Louise speaking. How may I help you?”

Tanya Fiddler: “We’ve made over 80 loans in the last four years. Our first year, the average loan size for a micro-loan was $1,000, and as the customer’s capacity has grown, the capacity to borrow more has grown. Our average loan size now is $10,000.”

Wynona Traversie: “‘This is our loan application.’ I love helping people, and seeing the look on their face when they come in and I tell them, ‘We’ve reviewed your loan application and you are eligible.’”

Narrator: “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development was on the ground floor with crucial start-up money, helping to establish a financial base for the community fund…”

Woman: “Savings needs to be a family effort.”

Narrator: “…and providing resources for business education classes called C.R.E.A.T.E.”

Wynona Traversie: “I’m just so happy for our entrepreneurs because they’ve struggled so hard.”

Narrator: “The Four Bands Community Fund is less about dollars and cents than about names and faces. It helped Gerald Davidson build his plumbing and heating business. It helped Eva Gilbert set up a hair and nail salon. It helped Mike Ducheneaux turn a fascination of cars into a full-fledged auto repair business.”

Blake Farley: “What kind of snow cone would you like?”

Narrator: “And even helped 11-year-old Blake Farley start his snow cone company. And it helped Cheryl Red Bear find economic vitality after suffering a series of strokes. Cheryl makes Native regalia and beautiful hand-sewn quilts. She took the Four Bands C.R.E.A.T.E. class, then turned her hobby into a livelihood.”

Cheryl Red Bear: I learned how to run a small business, learned how to budget, finance. ‘Hi Carly, I got your cape all finished.’ And it helped me out throughout the course. And it was great.”

Tanya Fiddler: “Cheryl Red Bear is one of our best homegrown customers. She was able to complete C.R.E.A.T.E. and, at that point, was able to ask for a micro-loan and an equity award from Four Bands.”

Narrator: “Sometimes, entrepreneurship requires thinking outside the box, or the house. In this case, the people of a remote reservation community called Bridger got together and came up with the idea of having tourists stay at a teepee bed and breakfast.”

Tanya Fiddler: “So they have this wonderful bed and breakfast. They have overnight teepee stays. One of the resulting businesses from the teepee bed and breakfast were trail rides. So we have a loan to the trail ride company. And we assist them to do their marketing and promotions so that they can build a package as a community, attracting customers to come in.”

Byron Buffalo: “It’s helped make me realize that, not to let anybody else define your reality, and to follow your dreams and make your dreams come true.”

Narrator: “But in today’s harsh reality, supporting even one’s immediate family, putting food on the table and a roof overhead, is nearly impossible for many of the Lakota people. Without work, there’s no paycheck; and without businesses, there are no jobs. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development strongly supports efforts like the Four Bands Community Fund precisely because it addresses the need at its source. It sows the seeds of economic stability and self-sufficiency. It promotes financial education and encourages the kind of responsible risk taking that may one day reverse the cycle of poverty on the Cheyenne River Reservation in these majestic hills of South Dakota.”

 

 

 

Elsie Meeks: "But there is really a number of tribes, and I think the conversation that tribes are starting to have around even if the tribal members get per capita payments from gaming or other natural resources how that really translates into permanent wealth and that’s really what it’s all about. Native people should have every right to have permanent wealth just like non-Native people should. But it’s really up to us to start providing the path to doing that."

Miriam Jorgensen: "And you’ve just said providing the path and I know that a really critical piece that’s of interest of a lot of this asset building work is focused on kids because people are saying, 'Look, if you don’t know that much about asset building and wealth building, financial education and savings by the time you’re older, a lot of it’s because you didn’t get that grounding and training when you were kids.' And Elena, you’ve done a lot of work through Aspen Institute in the U.S. broadly among largely non-Native populations and then some international work focused on kids' savings accounts, and I’m wondering if you and Peter together can talk a little bit about the children’s savings programming and some of the results and ideas that seem…really how to get people on this path so that we don’t get to a point, especially in some of the Native nations where we’ve got a lot of assets and a lot of potential opportunity for wealth building so that that isn’t reaching a situation of that being wasted, that we’re really getting people along that path toward it."

Elena Chavez Quezada: "This idea of children’s accounts is actually one that started here in the U.S. with Michael Sherraden at the Center for Social Development, and the U.K. has implemented it, and so it’s been up and running for about three years now and our proposal at the Aspen Institute is very much modeled off what’s happening in the U.K. But in that proposal, every single child born in the country receives a certificate or a voucher for an investment account at birth. And so the parents go and redeem that voucher at a participating financial institution and it’s endowed by the government. So the government has put in $500 for every single child born in that country and lower-income kids get an additional $500. These accounts are run through the private sector and the idea is they grow over 18 years and encourage families to contribute over time and at that point the child can or the young adult at that point can use those funds for whatever they feel is appropriate, whether that’s education or to buy a home or to buy a car or continue saving, and you’ve 18 years to kind of instill the financial education in that savings mentality. And because it’s universal, everybody’s doing it, so this is a really big cultural shift and those principles of this is in the private sector and we match it for low-income kids -- which is part of our proposal -- and that there’s unrestricted use at age 18 are really important."

Peter Morris: "The attractive element to me, and I was going to share this story as we were talking about what kind of concrete programs are going on and I think the Four Bands example is a good one, one story that I’ve shared with Elena and other colleagues at Aspen is the story of a young Navajo girl that I met and she had just completed an individual development account, matched savings account program, and I was sitting with the practitioner who ran that program and her over lunch and she was describing for me her life experience and how the process of saving just $500 over the process of two years to go to college, to go to Diné College, the community college there on the Navajo Nation. And the way she described it was that she was this quiet girl who wasn’t super engaged in things in the community and now she was on the student council at Diné College and she was super engaged and wanted to go to Arizona State [University] -- I guess there’s no accounting for taste -- to go to business school and she just had these grand visions for how she was going to start businesses on the reservation and she had this…she’d been given this vision and she said to me, and I’ll never forget what she said, 'If it wasn’t for this opportunity, then I’d be sitting on the couch watching TV with my cousins.' And the first thing that I see in child accounts is that opportunity and giving children -- no matter where they’re from, black, white, Hispanic, Native, Asian, from whatever background they are -- giving them that opportunity. And I think in Indian Country specifically, there’s two very key opportunities that we found compelling from the Aspen proposal and the first one is that it’s unrestricted use. So one of the great things about America is we hate regulation except when it applies to poor people and then we want lots of it. And a lot of the other proposals around children’s savings accounts talk about restrictions to uses that there are significant barriers to like home ownership in Indian country and going to college where you might need transportation that you don’t otherwise have. So it’s very important to me that we think about mechanisms that will really close the wealth gap between Native people and other people in the broader community and people of color broadly. So I think that’s an important thing for us to think about. Unrestricted uses is important. The other thing, and I’m sure Elsie will talk about this more as the conversation goes on, is it provides an incentive for financial institutions to come to Indian Country. So the fact that every Native kid at birth -- whether they’re in Gallup or on Pine Ridge or wherever it is --have a voucher that gets taken to a bank to open an account. When we have nine of ten of our Native communities lack a single financial institution within their borders, we need an incentive to get financial institutions to think about investing in Indian Country, and this isn’t the only way to do that, but it’s one way to do that, and I think this big idea at the national level to me really has a lot of legs as we think about how we can connect asset building in Indian Country with asset building beyond Indian Country."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Well, you’ve just hit to me what’s a really important barrier to asset building is just this lack of financial institutions because when I think about my contacts growing up in a small town in South Dakota, there were four different banks that I could go to even in a town of just 7,000 people and yet if you’re telling me that some huge percentage of folks in Indian Country don’t even have that opportunity, how is it that asset building can occur and some of these programs can really get off the ground?"

Elsie Meeks: "My organization has been really involved with helping Native communities start community development financial institutions. And these institutions generally start up in areas where banks really have not been able to lend. And so for instance 20 years ago we started the Lakota Fund at Pine Ridge, which was one of the first community development financial institutions. And after a couple years of lending there, we did a sort of survey of our borrowers and 75 percent of them had never had a checking or savings account which was really because…and 85 percent had never had a loan. It was because there were no institutions there. So one of the tribes we’re working with is the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota and the woman that’s running the community development financial institution there, and they’re doing financial education kind of across the reservation with the housing authority and also in the schools to reach the youth. And one of the programs they have is, they call it the day treatment program and it’s youth that are really at risk of dropping out of high school and they want to at least give them some financial management skills. So they were working with these kids and she was telling the story about Nodem was his name and he…she got him to set some short-term goals, which was pretty difficult 'cause he was a kid and it was like easy come, easy go, but his short-term goal was to buy some new shoes 'cause he had pretty holey shoes. And then the second goal was to set up a bank account and start a savings program. And she thought she didn’t have any effect on this at all and she said about three months after their program had ended she was in the bank and there was Nodem and he had new shoes and he had a job and he’d put some money in his savings account. So he’d actually opened a savings account at the bank. So it’s really getting people pointed down those paths which those opportunities really haven’t been available in Indian Country. So we were really rewarded by that one outcome."

Miriam Jorgensen: "That’s a great story. And it makes me think that most people here have similar stories to tell and I’ve also heard, and I want to give credit where credit is due with this, in an earlier conversation with Mike Roberts, who’s the President of the First Nations Development Institute and having a conversation with him about asset building in Indian Country and they’d been up to this again for 20 years at this point. And he said, 'One of our goals in all the work that we do is to look for these points of entry and to try to look for programs or opportunities where the individuals or the communities are ready to start some sort of asset building.' In the case that you have just told at Turtle Mountain, that opportunity sounds like it was to get financial education into this alternative school. In other cases, it’s to get children’s savings accounts going if the opportunity is there. Are there other critical intervention points or opportunities that are out there staring Native communities in the face, that tribal leaders, non-profits, communities can jump on to have these -- in a sense -- where the opportunities are and the folks are ready to move forward with them?"

Elsie Meeks: "Let me give one really good example -- and I hate to monopolize the conversation -- but at Pine Ridge, there is also...we started the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing and that was in 1998 and just prior to that there had been a study that showed that something like 70 percent of the people could have qualified for a mortgage of at least $65,000. But up to that point only four mortgages had ever been done on Pine Ridge. And then the partnership got started up and they had to deal with some of the security…securing the loans, perfecting mortgages because the land issues are very complex as you know and helping them with some down-payment assistance and this and that. But at this point in time, there’s been 40 some mortgages now created, so that was a real point of time where we said this can happen."

Peter Morris: "And for me, what Elsie’s just saying refers to two key principles in terms of thinking about, 'What are the entry points?' I think one is institutions and Elsie and the work that First Nations Oweesta Corporation does is a key part of that, is to build credible institutions that can facilitate asset building, facilitate access to opportunities. And I think it’s really important for us to think about asset building as almost a rebuilding process so asset building prior to contact with Europeans coming over here and the federal government thinking that the IRA [Indian reorganization Act] was a good system of government and all these other kind of great policy innovations of the U.S. federal government but put tribes in a situation where they were behind and needing to revitalize and rebuild some of these institutions is one thing. And I think the other thing is removing barriers and so there are immense, and I referred to them, immense barriers in policy to acquiring assets. Where is the hardest place in the United States to own a home? It’s in Indian Country, when the title status process can take as long as five, six years and so really what asset building in Indian Country is, it’s an integrated strategy to open the way to opportunity through investing in institutions and I think removing barriers to those opportunities. And there are so many of them, so it’s not obviously an easy strategy, but I think what I heard there was opportunity is there for housing and institutions need to support it and also there needs to be a removal of barriers that are still fairly significant."

Karen Edwards: "I think expectation has to be there also. I don’t think poor people or low income people are expected to save money. For years they were actually penalized for saving money and still are in many cases. People who are disabled save money they lose. If they save for retirement or for college even, they lose their disability benefits. It’s still the case. Those types of disincentives to saving have to be removed. Michael, in his book Assets and the Poor, said that income feeds people’s stomachs but assets change their heads. And it’s true, it’s what I think is happening in low income communities. The minute the opportunity presents itself, the minute there’s an institutional structure, the minute expectations and access and there’s a secure way for them to save money, there was suspicion at first, especially with IDAs. It was considered a scam. They’re just trying to get my money. Once they figured out, hey, there actually is a structure that I can do this and get a home and start a business and get an education, then people began to actually utilize it and I think that’s going to continue to happen on a broader and broader scale but we do have to have policy structures in place and larger amounts of incentives to make that happen."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Well, it sounds like there are a number of things going on here. One is the attitude and just the belief that this can be different and we talked about this at the outset of just to have this notion of this is about wealth building and about economic independence not about economic dependence. There’s the set of institutional things in terms of building institutions like community development financial institutions. How many of those are there now in Indian Country?"

Elsie Meeks: "There’s 48 certified community development financial institutions."

Miriam Jorgensen: "And probably another 70 or 80 in the pipeline?"

Elsie Meeks: "Right, exactly."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Those sorts of institutions but also other points of institutional intervention and it really sounds like one of the ones that you have focused on is for instance housing authorities and housing programs as a point of intervention, maybe also small business development sorts of institutions in Indian Country, schools as an institution for intervention as well and other kinds of training sorts of programs. And then the third piece being the policy piece. You can add whatever you were going to add Peter, that’s fine."

Peter Morris: "I was going to add -- and I think it’s important -- often there’s a disconnect, and I think we need to be really clear about the relationship between the tribal government as the facilitator of these kinds of policies being implemented and the kind of community infrastructure, whether it’s a housing authority that’s the tribally designated housing entity or it’s a CDFI that’s related to the tribal government and needs a good relationship with it but is separate. Or whether it’s in situations like in Cherokee Nation. The oldest Native individual account program is run within a department of the tribal government, and so tribal governments are called up and sometimes it’s an unrealistic expectation 'cause there are so many different challenges that they’re facing as governments, but sometimes it’s the tribe who can invest and at least in the case of CDFIs incubate it. The other point that I wanted to make -- and I think maybe Elsie you want to talk about this some more -- my sense is watching the CDFI field grow has been a remarkable thing and each time I hear you talk about CDFIs, I hear a different number because we’re seeing more and more certified CDFIs. What’s your sense of where the growth is going?"

Elsie Meeks: "I think tribes are really beginning to understand that by building the capacity of their individual tribal members because in the past it’s really been the focus on economic development has been really building tribal enterprises, tribal businesses. And I think that they really understand now that the more we focus on building tribal community members, tribal citizens, then that’s going to get us to this place of, that the tribal membership is really contributing to the economy instead of taking away from the economy, and that’s really important. So I think they’re really realizing that community development financial institutions are the vehicle to do that, that it’s through home ownership that helps to build wealth, build assets, or through entrepreneurship, which not only supports the individual entrepreneur and their family but also provides employment, starts creating a tax base for that tribe and through savings programs. So it really gets people to this place of, that we have an interactive, vibrant economy. Let me just give you a really quick example of this is so we start a business community development institution, community development financial institution, so we’re allowing people to get into business. So most people on a reservation haven’t been in business before, maybe haven’t even worked in one before. So they come in the door and they’re never turned away, but they’re sort of given an assessment about where are you at financially. They do a credit report, they find out their credit’s really ba,d so they get them in this credit counseling so that they start to rebuild their credit. They get them into an individual savings account so that they’re starting to save, to put away a little bit of money and in the process learning some things about money management. They’re correcting their credit, they’re starting to build their credit, then they start in an entrepreneurship program so that they learn that they maybe aren’t quite at this point where they can be in business but what’s the path to get them there. And then over time they say, 'Well, we really want to be in this business,' or maybe they say, 'I think I should go get a job for awhile.' But whatever it is, it leads them down this path towards some economic independence. This just hasn’t been done in Indian Country, really. I grew up at Pine Ridge, and I know that this sort of thinking and now that I’ve had this wonderful opportunity to work nationally, this is a whole new realm and it’s great. It’s really where we have to head."

Peter Morris: "And to me, it’s about pathways to choices, and so my sense is we talk about dependence negatively when people make negative choices because of dependence. But dependence in a broad sense is not bad, and in fact in society none of us is self-sufficient in the broad sense and each of us depend on policies that facilitate good choices that we make. So we think about college savings plans for our kids, we think about the home mortgage deduction that 70 some percent of Americans depend on to build assets, to build wealth, and we need to think about some of these policies and structures within Native communities that can encourage those positive decisions. So dependence in a kind of interdependent mutual responsibility kind of way is a very positive thing, and we don’t really want people to be self-sufficient in the strictest definition of that word, we want them to have encouragement and structures that promote good choices and help them get there so that they have the skills and the information that they need to make good decisions."

Miriam Jorgensen: "One of the things that I’m really curious about is we’ve talked about all these opportunities is the role of various parties and Peter you began to touch on this a little bit ago that it doesn’t all have to be tribal government, sometimes it can be. What are the various roles of various parties in the community? Whose job is it to help incentivize some of these programs and who can actually take up the challenge to do some of this work?"

Karen Edwards: "Iwas just going to say that I think what I’ve seen in tribal communities and some of the asset-building programs that have been created, it really does mirror what happened in the broader mainstream communities as assets began to…asset programs began to take hold in the '90s, in the early to mid-90s, and I think in Native communities it maybe started in the mid-90s and began to take hold. I think it really does mirror what happened in the mainstream community and that is that asset building ended up being kind of a grassroots effort. Because nothing was happening at the bigger policy level, I think that community-based organizations on the ground kind of took this idea and ran with it, and I think that’s also happened in tribal communities. Many --either a tribal housing authority or a tribal non-profit -- kind of took this idea and said, 'We can do this in our community,' and I think one actual big entre point was the earned income tax credit. There’s been a lot of movement in the private foundation world to help Indian Country get vita sites in the earned income tax credit campaign started in Native communities and they began to see that some wealth can actually be generated here. We could have some money to put in savings programs. We could have some money that people could build up to do home ownership. And that’s very similar to what happened I think across the country. There has to be that…there has to be something, though. You can’t really make something out of nothing. There has to be something there to start with."

Elsie Meeks: "Let me say though that the 48 community development financial institutions, CDFIs, that have started to date, I would say at least 90 percent of them were actually initiated by the tribal government, which is really important 'cause the tribal government actually started it, maybe provided some resources and in almost all cases have then spun them off to be separate from the tribal government, which is good because government shouldn’t be making decisions about loans. But then once these CDFIs got started, then they really understood the need to implement these asset-building strategies. It wasn’t just about making loans. It’s really about building the capacity of the potential home owner or the potential business owner. So they had to start implementing these strategies so savings programs, financial education programs, even earned income tax credit outreach and doing vita sites, some way to reach out into the community and get people thinking about their future a little bit."

Miriam Jorgensen: "So in a sense, there’s that convergence of the grassroots desire and pressuring for the program, plus the institutional creation and spinning off by the government to really make this thing go forward."

Elena Chavez Quezada: "Hey, can I just take that even outside Indian Country. The Aspen Institute -- as a think tank that kind of works at the federal level, I think there’s a role for organizations like us as well to really highlight some of the great work being done in Indian Country. We are still struggling today to convince people that low-income people can save and that they want to save and that they will save given the right structures and incentives and opportunities. So I think there’s a lot to be learned from some of the examples going on and I think there’s really a role for us and for people working at the federal level to take a close look at what’s being done and some of the successes that are already happening."

Miriam Jorgensen: "That leads me to one of the last things I wanted to ask each of you which is if you could just point to one or, if you can’t choose one, two, some of the most exciting things about asset building that you’ve seen going on in Indian Country that you just want to highlight and make sure that people know about. We could just kind of...people could offer those around the table or whoever wants to volunteer to go first."

Peter Morris: "I’ll offer two 'cause you didn’t make me offer one. I think there are two things. I think the first one is this integration that we’ve just been talking about, the fact that because of the challenges in Indian Country, because of the fact that some of these institutions are non-existent, because some of these policies that facilitate asset building outside of Indian Country are predicated on assumptions that there’ll be a non-profit on every corner and a bank on every corner, the fact that these institutions are called upon to do so many different things and to meet so many different needs means that there’s a real integration and strategic approach to the communities that they’re dealing with, citizens as whole individuals rather than kind of participants in single programs. And I think that’s something that’s been offered to Indian Country partially by the fact that some of the federal funding for asset building back in the '90s was structured in excluding tribal governments from applying for the money and so a lot of innovation took place there. I think the other one which other folks are willing to, are welcome to build on, is the fact that -- and I don’t think we can talk about this enough -- there’s a lot of negative press around per capita distributions to tribal members, particularly young people with this amazing revelation which is not really amazing at all or a revelation, that 18-year-olds with a lot of money and very little skills to manage that money aren’t going to make the best choices. And I think what we have on the flip side of that is communities that are really investing in their citizens in a way that is very unique and jurisdictions that are the only jurisdictions in the nation and one of the few jurisdictions in the world that offer universal accounts to their kids with money that they can manage, money that’s going to be there for their future, and these are the kind of policy innovations that are dreamed of at the national level, and yet I think because there’s so much reticence to think about Indian Country and what Indian Country has to offer outside of Indian Country, we’re not thinking enough about that at the national policy level. So I think those are the two most exciting things for me about asset building in Indian Country."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Karen, put you on the spot."

Karen Edwards: "Well, I think of as an example CSD partnered with the Buder Center for American Indian Studies to do a study on EITC [earned income tax credit] outreach and EITC efforts in Native communities and the first study was…it took place in ten different communities all across the country. And we had a meeting, we brought the leaders of these EITC programs together and we asked them what they would want to use this research for in their own community and the one that really struck me was a woman from a reservation in Montana who said, 'The main thing I want to do is begin to show our neighboring communities that, you know what, we actually do earn money, we actually do have some economic power and some of this money is going into their community and we’re not just deadbeats. We actually do have an economy and potential for an economy.' And I think that’s the way that Indian communities are embracing this kind of concept. It all belongs under that same kind of umbrella of, 'We can do this, we did it for centuries, we can do this again and we can even play by the economic rules that are out there today.'"

Miriam Jorgensen: Elena."

Elena Chavez Quezada: "Well, Peter kind of…but I will say it again anyway. I think the fact that there’s already this existing platform for child trust funds is really unbelievable. So you have a bunch of converging things happening. You have this infrastructure that’s kind of already there and a lesson for federal policy as well, but you also have some revenues that can be targeted and you have financial people interested and excited about financial education and I think being able to connect all of these dots and figure out a way to really empower kids and give them an opportunity fund, there’s just enormous potential there."

Elsie Meeks: "Ihave to think about the way that federal policies have been and sort of the low-income housing that’s been created through HUD on the reservations and how a lot of times you see these really dilapidated houses, and yet through the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing, which is really promoting home ownership and allowing people to get mortgages for their own homes and really the sort of stark difference. The homes that are home ownership, that people own and have built themselves in some cases, were well kept, the yards are well kept and it’s really a very…it’s a big difference and it shows the pride that people have in owning something themselves and working towards that themselves. And so I think back…I think to that. And then I also think to one of the first loans that we made at the Lakota Fund, and actually I have it on a picture of a presentation in our sort of logo at the bottom or phrase, it’s 'Building Native Assets' and it really…I think it really depicts us as well as anything and it’s this guy, it was the first loan. He had a $10,000 loan to buy a belly dump gravel truck 'cause he had gotten the semi somehow or other, the tractor, and now he’s got a backhoe and a grater and all these things and you see him, these pictures of him in action and he has…he’s 8A certified, he’s bonded and he’s providing lots of employment. And so that’s really what...I see that and I think, yeah, that’s really what building Native assets is about."

Miriam Jorgensen: "Those are fabulous overall summaries of the kinds of things that asset building can do for a community and wonderful success stories as well, and I really appreciate this notion and I think that we really need to remind Indian Country of it, that there are great experiments and models and examples going on there that the rest of the world can learn from as well. Just in summary, to look back at the conversation we’ve been having, this has been about building permanent economic independence for individuals and families, that’s really what asset building means, and I think that as somebody who’s been interested in and engaged in and following economic develop in Indian Country for over 20 years, the thing to me that’s most exciting about this is that it’s not just turning to tribal government and saying, 'Whose responsibility is it for economic development in Indian Country?' It’s a way of saying, 'The responsibility is shared.' And by undertaking asset-building efforts, this is a way for citizens and families to really participate in the economic renaissance of Indian Country and there are just great examples of that happening and challenges ahead. And hopefully this roundtable discussion has provided leaders and students and community members with some more ideas about how to undertake asset building and inspire them to some of the kinds of changes that can take place in Indian Country as a result."

Native Nation Building TV: "Promoting Tribal Citizen Entrepreneurs"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Guests Joan Timeche and Elsie Meeks examine the pivotal role that citizen entrepreneurs can play in a Native nation's overarching effort to achieve sustainable community and economic development. It looks at the many different ways that Native nation governments actively and passively hinder citizen entrepreneurship, and the innovative approaches some Native nations are taking to cultivate citizen-owned businesses.

Citation

Native Nations Institute. "Promoting Tribal Citizen Entrepreneurs" (Episode 5). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2006. Television program.

Mary Kim Titla: "Welcome to Native Nation Building. I'm your host Mary Kim Titla. Contemporary Native nations face many daunting challenges including building effective governments, developing strong economies, solving difficult social problems and balancing cultural integrity and change. Native Nation Building explores these complex challenges and the ways Native nations are working to overcome them as they seek to make community and economic development a reality. Don't miss Native Nation Building next."

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[music]

Mary Kim Titla: "Often when the subject of economic development in Native communities comes up, people think first of businesses owned and operated by Native Nations themselves. But there is another important economic force at work on reservations: businesses owned and operated by Native entrepreneurs. Today's program examines the state of citizen entrepreneurship across Indian Country, including some common obstacles standing in the way of small businesses, as well as the importance of creating an environment for success. With me today to discuss small business development in Native communities are Elsie Meeks and Joan Timeche. Elsie Meeks, an enrolled citizen of the Oglala Lakota Tribe is Executive Director of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a subsidiary of First Nations Development Institute. She also serves as Chair of the Lakota Fund, a small business development loan fund on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Joan Timeche, a citizen of the Hopi Tribe, is Assistant Director of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. She also serves as a board member with the Tohono O'odham Economic Development Authority and the Hopi Tribe's Economic Development Corporation. Welcome and thanks for being with us today. Can you first talk about citizen entrepreneurship and what that really means?"

Elsie Meeks: "Currently, a lot of tribes themselves, the tribal government actually starts a business and runs it whereas in this case individual members of the tribe start their own businesses."

Mary Kim Titla: "And can you give some examples of that?"

Joan Timeche: "They range from very small to very large types of businesses. They are often what we call the underground economy that exists, the tailgaters, the people who sell food. These are people who are selling firewood, making tamales, all the way to the storefronts where you actually have a building, you have...maybe it's a gas station, maybe a video store, which is very common in rural, small communities. To ones -- as we're seeing our tribal economies become a little bit more sophisticated -- we're seeing things like individual owners, individual citizens who are building hotels and the bigger kinds of businesses that you find common...that are common in more of the metro areas."

Mary Kim Titla: "Really, this term 'entrepreneur' is something that we talk about today, but it really existed even before there were reservations. Can you explain that?"

Elsie Meeks: "Yeah, 'entrepreneur' is, for me, a term that means survival, that people figure out ways to survive. And we were always survivors, and we always made use of opportunities that were at hand. And today, that means we start our own businesses to figure out how we become self-sufficient. And so I think that really the concept -- we always were entrepreneurial-spirited. We may not have understood the principles of a formal business, but that's just the next step."

Mary Kim Titla: "So it's part of our traditions. But Joan, you say that, when we were talking earlier, that really this idea isn't common in all tribes."

Joan Timeche: "Yeah, I think the culture pays a lot of attention to whether or not an individual can be successful and whether it's acceptable within communities. There are cultures where it's more common, more acceptable for a community, and an individual maybe can't perhaps rise and although they may be a contributing member to the overall survival of the Nation or of that community, maybe perhaps it's not acceptable for him to go off and become -- in today's modern terms -- to become that business owner and accumulate personal wealth. So I think that plays a big difference. I believe that Elsie and I both come from communities and cultures where individual success is celebrated, we're taught to be self-sustaining members of the community. Across my reservation on Hopi, you'll see a lot of artisans, we have a lot of people who if they don't have a storefront, they have a portion of their living room that's dedicated to selling arts and crafts or whatever it may be that they're making. It varies across, but I know that there are tribes where that's not often the case, where they look to the chief, to the chair, to the government to be able to provide that kind of assistance and the services back out into the community. So I think culture plays a big role in determining whether entrepreneurship might be acceptable within a community."

Elsie Meeks: "But I think also -- culture aside -- I think some tribes have thought that economic development meant that they started their own business, and a lot of them haven't been successful even, and what's happened then is individuals have to find some way to make a living, so of course they start doing things like making and selling arts and crafts or selling goods or providing services. And so there is sometimes a tension between the tribe doing their business and the entrepreneur, and I can think of a lot of examples of where both have been done."

Mary Kim Titla: "What about just how critical these businesses are to helping their own communities thrive economically?"

Joan Timeche: "Well, for one thing, they provide a service or they can provide a product that is in demand at the local level. Another thing that they do -- which I think is very critical along the lines that Elsie was talking about -- is that it's no longer just the tribe that's doing the development. It also involves a greater number of people, because if you live in large communities like from where we both come from on expansive reservations, you know numbers count from one end of the reservation to the other, so it does that -- helps to keep the money on the reservation because as we all know...I think here in Arizona 80 cents of every dollar goes off the reservation. And so it's helping to keep that dollar to stay within the community."

Elsie Meeks: "Well, in particular at Pine Ridge, because we're very remote, and in truth the tribe has not done a good job at managing businesses...Businesses in my experience can't be run from a political viewpoint. They have to be run as a business. And I think we found that out in the Soviet Union. The whole economy failed because of the government being the one that ran the businesses. And so at Pine Ridge, really not one single [tribally owned] business has succeeded except the casino, and so individuals are the ones that are starting this tire repair shop or grocery store. Instead, before we were running a hundred miles to Rapid City and so it was very not efficient, it really got into our pocketbooks having to go outside. And so as you create one business and then another then you're keeping that flow of dollars in the community."

Joan Timeche: "And I think one other thing that we should probably add is that when tribes get into economic development, they're looking at job creation, jobs and dollars staying within the community, and this is what small businesses are good at, even if it's just a mom-and-pop store that's employing the husband and the wife -- that's two more jobs that have been created outside of federal dollars coming into the tribal government, transfer dollars. So I think that's the biggest asset to having a private sector within a reservation is the jobs that it can create over the long term."

Elsie Meeks: "Yeah, but I think there's also one other issue there that when the tribe creates a business and their main objective is to provide employment, we always hear our tribe at least saying, 'We have to do something to get jobs going.' You can provide a low-income job to an individual, but what does that really teach them? It may teach them how to work or whatever, but when you allow someone to get into business and manage their own business and reap the consequences for good decisions and for bad decisions, it teaches something about management and leadership and decision-making that just providing a low income job, which is what most of these businesses the tribes start do, that it really allows...I've seen people change completely at Pine Ridge when they had this ability to manage their own business, and that to me is the real key and the real reason why I believe that individual entrepreneurship, citizen entrepreneurship is the most important development tool we have at Pine Ridge."

Mary Kim Titla: "It's part of the American dream, right? Be your own boss, work for yourself and work hard at it. And of course, there's this whole learning process involved, and what we're talking about what's going on at Pine Ridge, this whole, in recent years anyway, this hotbed of small businesses and the development of that. Can you talk about what's been happening there and what do you think the key to success there has been?"

Elsie Meeks: "Well, in the first place it isn't so recent. We've been at this for 20 years at the Lakota Fund, and we really started with micro loans that allowed people to expand their businesses a little, buy more material for arts and crafts or buy a chain saw so they can cut firewood and sell to the Energy Assistance Program. So things like that is where it started, but as time has gone on and people have become more sophisticated about businesses and have sometimes failed, had to pay back loans when their business didn't work so well, but now they're at this point where they really are understanding. There's a group of people, enough, getting to be enough mass of people that understand that the only way they're going to make a living at Pine Ridge is to start their own business and for it to be successful, and that it's okay. I think that's a key thing, too, is that because there hadn't been a lot of businesses owned by tribal members, people really didn't know whether this was culturally appropriate or not, and I think people see now that we're all entrepreneurs and that if we can be successful, our families are going to be supported, too. So as a result of these 20 years, I don't think that there is, on Pine Ridge, I don't believe that there's not one non-Indian contractor for example on Pine Ridge, because they [the Oglala people] have understood that they can do this themselves."

Mary Kim Titla: "And Joan, you've worked with a lot of small businesses. Can you tell me about some of your experiences and what the trends have been lately?"

Joan Timeche: "It really builds self-esteem and self-confidence. I think that's one of the best outcomes out of individuals owning and operating their own business. Not only do they gain the management skills, but I've just seen, worked with individuals...I happened to be visiting the Warm Springs Reservation recently and we were looking at their small business development program and visited with a couple of entrepreneurs who had started their business underneath the program, and this young lady was a single mother and she had entered in the program and she was running a thrift shop and the pride that this woman had. Her business wasn't making millions and not even hundreds of dollars, but that pride that she had, that here she is an individual mother who can then contribute to her own family situation, to the children, and was providing a service within her community. It was just tremendous, and that's I think one other thing that I've been able to see out there. But some of the trends that we've been seeing as we've talked about is -- and Elsie eluded to them already -- you've gone from those who are doing it on a part-time basis who then decide that, 'I can do this, I can really do this, and maybe I need to expand beyond my living room, beyond my garage. Maybe I can start moving out.' But there are risks that are taken in here and some people get burned and they pull back a little bit and then they try again."

Elsie Meeks: "But that's part of life."

Joan Timeche: "Yeah, it is all part of life. But they're moving forward. So we're seeing greater services, but there's still a lot of work to be done out there."

Mary Kim Titla: "So you learn from your mistakes."

Joan Timeche: "Yes."

Mary Kim Titla: "A lot of people who are entrepreneurs and are successful now had very humble beginnings at some point, right?"

Elsie Meeks: "The one thing that I think people...because I was with the Lakota Fund for so many years and they say, 'Well, how many people failed?' And to me, that was not really the cas. That no one failed. They talk about successful people across the nation. How many times were they in a failed business? I think it was something like three-and-a-half times or something on average, and so you learn from your mistakes and you keep moving. I can think of one man at Pine Ridge who -- his first loan with the Lakota Fund was to buy a belly dump gravel truck and he had the money somehow, he had already bought the semi tractor. And so he just started out hauling gravel for the housing authority or whoever and now, I think the last I heard he was...his gross revenue was like over $2 million, he'd become AA certified. So it's just a matter of process and a matter of learning and pursuing this."

Mary Kim Titla: "There are going to be people out there listening to this and watching this wondering, 'Okay, I want to become an entrepreneur.' What are some obstacles they're going to face? I know that the business plan is a very important part of that process and a lot of people maybe don't always think that through, but in your experiences what have you seen?"

Elsie Meeks: "Well, because I was a lender at the Lakota Fund and I think I learned a lot about what really does create a failure and that is, it's management. And so the better you can be prepared to be committed to that business and learn from your mistakes. The business plan is important, but I myself started a business and I can tell you that the business plan is just a guess and it's once you get in business, businesses are about a thousand details and every detail you don't attend to costs you money. And so you have to be prepared to make as small a mistake as possible and dig deep every time. It just requires so much commitment. We've learned at the Lakota Fund that we actually have to know how committed that person is before we'll even give them a loan. The business plan -- almost any business there will work because there aren't many businesses. It's really in whether someone manages it well enough to make it work."

Mary Kim Titla: "And if they have a passion for it. They have to believe in what they're doing. Otherwise how are you going to convince potential clients, right?"

Elsie Meeks: "Right. And I don't want to hog the conversation, but I know when we first started the Lakota Fund, because people hadn't even had a chance to work in a business let alone run one, is people's concept of business was really, 'Oh, I can work for myself so I can work whatever hours I want, yeah, I'll have cash in my pocket.'"

Mary Kim Titla: "Flexibility, yeah."

Elsie Meeks: "That's right, and there isn't any flexibility and there isn't a lot of money. In fact some people would get out of business saying, 'I have more free time at a job than I do at a business and I make more money,' and that's especially true in the first three to five years. So it's helping to teach people those concepts and those principles that business isn't easy, it's just something that, it can get you, it can help you be self-sufficient and some people really do like working for themselves."

Joan Timeche: "I worked for eight years or actually ten years at Northern Arizona University, and I ran the Center for American Indian Economic Development there and one of my jobs was to help tribal citizens who were thinking about starting a business go through that whole process of -- basically I was a technical assistance provider, helping them -- matching them up with potential loans or banks who might be able to lend to them. Well, what I found was that people, one, didn't fully understand what it was that they were getting into, so you have to do this education process about, 'Are you really, do you really understand what starting a business means?' But the other was understanding the tribal political environment and the tribal processes. Where do you go to start? And if you live in communities where it's decentralized and the power's at the local level -- like on Hopi, on Navajo, on Tohono O'odham, and I would imagine on Oglala Reservation as well -- you have local controls and approvals that you have to go through. If you have clan systems like in my community, we have clan holdings so now we have to get approval from our clan matriarchs and patriarchs, we've got to go to our village, before the tribal government even comes into play. So processes is one, understanding that and if you have...I know of one tribe in Arizona that has more than 100 steps to even start a business and it takes, it was taking my clients an average of two years. You could get through in one year but an average was about two years to even start a business and that just is outrageous. Then the other thing, the obstacle that they had to overcome was securing a land base, particularly if they were going to start a storefront [business]. And this is why people opt to go to doing the vending type of businesses where it's mobile and you don't have to worry about land base. Well, again, if you come from traditional families like I do, we have clans to go through first again. Navajo, it's chapters, on Tohono O'odham, it's district approvals and all of the land is tied up and very few communities have land-use plans in existence. They practiced it traditionally, but they don't have it on paper, which is now required for all of the right-of-ways that you have to get for electrical, infrastructure and all that. Then the next problem they had was, well, we're on raw land in many cases, so then you have the infrastructure issues to have to deal with, which can double the cost of starting a business. Those are just some of the basic obstacles that I think entrepreneurs have to face on the reservations. Then when they get to the loans, then they're on federal trust land and you can't encumber the loan, your area, you can't leverage it."

Elsie Meeks: "Which is, I think, almost on any reservation, land will be probably the number-one obstacle, but the next I think is financing because a lot of the people that we work with at Pine Ridge -- and First Nations Oweesta Corporation is now helping 70-plus tribes start organizations like the Lakota Fund to allow entrepreneurs to get financing. You can't finance someone if they don't have the experience in a business, and so that's where community development financial institutions like the Lakota Fund had come about, is that they're willing to take that risk. But financing is the second key issue for an entrepreneur and then these policy issues around land. So at Pine Ridge we actually, we've had 20 years at this now to kind of solve some problems or at least understand the process for solving them, is how do you build that capacity with the entrepreneur? And we started Wawokiye Business Institute, which is really client-centered. It just focuses completely on the entrepreneur and Oglala Lakota College has been a partner in that. And then they started the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, which try to work with the tribe in dealing with some of these land issues and some other tribal policies and then the Lakota Fund for the financing. So it's, I think, looking at it in a sort of systematic way and that's what we've begun to do at Pine Ridge. After 20 years, I think we've finally figured this out a little bit. But the obstacles are hard to get through and it takes a lot of effort from a lot of people and I think entrepreneurship really is in the beginning stages."

Mary Kim Titla: "You really have to persevere. I guess you could look at it as an outsider. It's very unique in that there are a lot of similar situations to a non-Native trying to start a business, but you have also unique circumstances that you have to deal with. So I appreciate you sharing all of that. You talked about as long as a year to two years starting a business on a reservation. But really tribal governments want to see you succeed, right? So why don't we talk about that a little bit, what some tribal governments are doing to try to help private citizens become successful."

Joan Timeche: "What we're beginning to see and hear a lot more about are tribes who've taken this two-pronged approach to development. One, where it's not just a -- Elsie talked about this earlier -- where it's tribal enterprises that are owned and operated by the nation itself and then there's private sector development, citizen entrepreneurship. But it requires some things, things like making sure you have sensible regulation, even having a standard process, a basic process of, if you want to start a business on our reservation, here are the steps, here's where you start at, here are some forms you need to know about, here are the rules within which you have to learn. We have a code that addresses maybe signage. We have a code that addresses land use and the process and so on, codes there and making sure that they have a uniform commercial code in existence. There are very few nations across the country that have that, because then it levels that playing ground for outside investors to be able to come in to help finance. If you don't have your own local CDFI [community development financial institution], then you're going to look to outside investors. Things like making sure infrastructure is addressed as well. And again because that's an insurmountable cost that has to be borne by an individual, sometimes it's a whole lot easier if the nation itself can -- in its land use plan -- set aside pieces of property that can be designated for commercial development, and then it's easy for the government to go after those grants to then build the water, the wastewater, the electrical, all of those things, even to do the paving of it and so on, and so all they're doing is then leasing out space to individual entrepreneurs."

Elsie Meeks: "When the Lakota Fund was started, we weren't started by the tribe. We were started by a group of tribal members, tribal citizens. But now there are a number of tribes that have actually helped to form these community development financial institutions like Cheyenne River in South Dakota, Gila River is working on this in Arizona. At Cheyenne River, they funded that to get that started, they provided the funding, but then they spun it off as an independent entity, because financing entities really need to be independent from the tribal government so they can be free to make good loan decisions and all of that and bring in outside money. So there's a number of tribes that are now seeing entrepreneurship as an important tool in economic development, that they don't have to do it all, that individuals can play a role."

Joan Timeche: "There's one other thing, too, that I think is real critical as your tribes begin to get into development at the private sector and it's making sure that you have this efficient and effective dispute resolution mechanism in place, whether it's through traditional courts or through a formal court or whatever, because there are surely going to be more business types of court decisions that have to be made or disputes that have to be addressed and you don't want to always be in court all of the time. So there has to be a mechanism in place and that's something that the government can help set up and create, to create this conducive environment."

Elsie Meeks: "And many of the tribes' court systems really are not efficient and they're not separated from the executive board or whatever. And at Pine Ridge that's true. There are plenty of obstacles at Pine Ridge. Entrepreneurs find a way to deal with that usually but I do think -- through all the businesses that are getting started -- they see now that the tribal court system isn't adequate and so now they're really at this point where they're starting to address that and talk to the judicial committee about that. And it hasn't changed yet, but I absolutely think it will over time and it's because of these businesses and the effect that the current system has on their businesses. So I think it's had a real good practical outcome."

Mary Kim Titla: "And creating a business environment is really crucial I think to the success of entrepreneurship on Indian reservations. I know that at least on the San Carlos [Apache] Reservation, the tribe built a strip mall with the idea of private individuals coming in to lease these spaces, office spaces or retail spaces, which I thought was very smart because a lot of people...just starting up a business is hard enough and then to have to create and build your own building makes it, I think, even more challenging. So I think that with tribes trying to do that more helps that whole positive environment. Are you seeing that more?"

Elsie Meeks: "Yes, absolutely. And the businesses at Pine Ridge helped to start the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce as I said. To date when we start a business, we lease a piece of ground, we put the water and sewer on it and build the building, even though the tribe may own the piece of ground. So over the last few years, there's been a lot of businesses start on tribal ground and the tribe decided it was time to look at what their commercial rates were, which was fine except that they based it on something that was totally on a per-square[-foot] lease rate in Rapid City and it was totally...it would raise people's rates 1,500 percent or something, and because these businesses, through the Chamber of Commerce then went to work and lobbied their council members, when it came to the council floor, the council members got up and said, 'This is really anti-business.' And so that was just a wonderful outcome of the businesses themselves making, addressing some of those barriers."

Mary Kim Titla: "We really appreciate you joining us today. We've gone through some I think wonderful examples of what's out there and given a little bit of advice and some tips to people who might be wanting to start their own businesses. Thank you so much for being with us today, appreciate again your being here and your thoughts. I'm sure that it was helpful to a lot of people who are listening. Elsie Meeks and Joan Timeche, I'd like to thank you once again for appearing on today's edition of Native Nation Building. Native Nation Building is a program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Native Nation Building and the issues discussed on today's program, please visit the Native Nation's Institute's website at www.nni.arizona.edu/nativetv. Thank you for joining us and please tune in for the next edition of Native Nation Building."