economic development corporations

Economic Development Corporation: Ho-Chunk, Inc. Winnebego Tribe of Nebraska

Year

Chartered under the laws of the Winnebago Tribe and wholly owned by the Tribe, Ho-Chunk, Inc. was launched in 1994 to diversify the Tribe’s business interests while maintaining a separation between business and tribal government. The general purpose company promotes economic self-sufficiency and creates jobs through its actively managed enterprises, joint ventures and passive investments, which include hotels, convenience stores, websites and an order fulfillment center.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Economic Development Corporation: Ho-Chunk, Inc. Winnebego Tribe of Nebraska ." Honoring Nations: 2000 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2000. Report.

Richard Luarkie: Leadership and Nation Building at Pueblo of Laguna

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Governor Richard Luarkie of the Pueblo of Laguna discusses Laguna's approach to nation building, the roles their core values and time-tested process for cultivating effective leaders has played in that effort, and how and why Laguna has worked to systematically build a diversified, sustainable economy.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Luarkie, Richard. "Leadership and Nation Building at Pueblo of Laguna." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 1, 2012. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host, Ian Record. On today's program, we are honored to have with us Richard Luarkie. Since January of 2011, Richard has served as Governor of his nation, the Pueblo of Laguna. He previously served as First Lieutenant Governor of Laguna and as a village officer for several terms. He also is a former small business owner. Governor, welcome and good to have you with us today."

Richard Luarkie:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

"I've shared a few highlights about your impressive personal biography, but why don't we start out by having you tell us a little bit more about yourself. What did I leave out?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, again, thank you very much for allowing me to be here and interview with you today. As far as my background, my education, I did go to the tribal school systems there in Laguna, Laguna Elementary School through the high school and then went onto college, got a football scholarship, went on to play at a D-three [Division III] school in Ohio, eventually transferred back to New Mexico, graduated with my bachelor's in Economics from the University of New Mexico and then worked for our tribe, the tribal entity Laguna Industries at the time, and then the Pueblo itself, then returned to graduate school at New Mexico State University where I got my master's degree from New Mexico State. And my professional career, I've enjoyed opportunities working with private sector firms like AT&T Global Systems, American Management Systems, mainly IT, Indian Health Service, and I've had the privilege as you mentioned of owning my own firm. So that's just a little bit more about myself."

Ian Record:

"So we're here today to tap into your knowledge, your wisdom, your experience regarding a wide range of critical Native nation building and governance topics and let's start with nation building. How do you define nation building and what does it entail for the Pueblo Laguna?"

Richard Luarkie:

"It's a wonderful opportunity, I think, for many tribes to reinvent themselves. For the Pueblo of Laguna, nation building is about the embracing or re-embracing of core values and responsibility to those values, promotion of courage and capacity and exercising of resilience in a new way. And what I mean by that is resilience not in a survivor mode, but resilience of, ‘Now that we're in control, what are we going to do?' However, as a step towards that, in order for this to be relevant and practical for most a major effort must be put forth to change the mindset of our people that we are nations, not minority groups. We are nations not only in name but in responsibility. I had one of our former governors from one of the pueblos, pueblo nations there in New Mexico, he shared an experience with me that in the ‘60s he had the opportunity to meet Malcolm X. And Malcolm X, once he found out that the individual was Native American, he told the governor, the former governor, ‘I want what you have. You have the ability to make your own taxes, create your own laws, you have your own land base, you can determine your own membership, citizenship.' And for us as tribes, we have to take that...we have to embrace that responsibility, and I believe that with the United States recognizing us as tribes on the same level as they do states as domestic sovereigns, it's a tremendous opportunity to build and rebuild our nations. So nation building is critical for us in the fact that for not only as Laguna but as Native nations across the country, we have to embrace that responsibility for nation building."

Ian Record:

"The Native Nations Institute has worked with the Pueblo of Laguna for a number of years now, providing assistance in some respects, but more often than not just observing some of the amazing things that the government of the Pueblo of Laguna has been able to do. Can you...imagine you were in an elevator with someone and they asked you to describe in just the few minutes you had together what the Pueblo of Laguna government looks like and how it works, what would you tell them? I guess what would you highlight in terms of what makes that governance system unique and what makes it distinct?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, for me, my belief is that it's a government that is truly based on the desires of the people. The position that I currently serve in is not my position. The people, if they so chose, could have a meeting tomorrow and decide that, ‘Thank you for your services but you're going to go this far, we'll have someone finish the rest of the year.' It is truly in the control of the people. And to me, that definitely brings the responsibility for balance, for acknowledgement of our role, and so I think in a very short phrase we have a government that is truly based on the people and the authority of the people to place in positions and lead."

Ian Record:

"We were...before we sat down for this interview we had a chance to sit down with a group of folks from the Native Nations Institute and we got to talking about a wide array of governance topics, and one of the things that you touched on in describing your job is the challenges of your job, not just the professional challenges but the personal challenges and the amount of time that you have to dedicate in order to do your job well and to serve your people effectively. Can you talk about some of the challenges of being a leader of a Native nation and perhaps some of the more unique challenges of being a leader of a Native nation?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Sure. In most cases people that end up in these types of positions have ended up in these positions because they've pursued it, they campaigned, they declared candidacy, those kind of things, and in our tribe that's not our process. As I mentioned previously, it is the authority of the people to decide who will be nominated and ultimately who will be selected. But the responsibility that comes with this...mainstream society you hear Democrats and Republicans battling about who's right, who's wrong. They're focused on ideologies and egos and not the people. For us as Native nations leaders, in particular to Laguna, in our tribe the teaching is that the Governor also carries a traditional title which is Father, '[Laguna language].' And in that role, it is a tremendous responsibility. If you can liken...not only has the good Lord given the men the incredible privilege of using his name as Father, but he has placed upon the shoulders of fathers an incredible, incredible responsibility and that's the responsibility of caring for children. And in our teachings, the Governor is also the Father of our people, of our community. This is a humbling balance because the children, '[Laguna language],' I love them unconditionally and I respect them unconditionally, whether they agree with me or not and that is an incredible challenge. That aside from even my own children. I love them like my own children and when somebody challenges you and questions you, it is an incredible reach for strength to be able to not attack back but to say, ‘Thank you for your advice' whether I agreed with them or not to say, ‘Thank you' and move on. So it is those things that I think are uniquely challenging about a Native nation, because we're taught that our role is not about credibility, about visibility, about, ‘I'm better than anyone else', it's about humbly serving and doing the best for the wellbeing of our people."

Ian Record:

"So for a leader of Laguna to lead in the way that the core values of the people dictate, it's incumbent upon you and your fellow leaders to...you said love all of your people unconditionally. And doesn't that in practice in terms of the day-to-day operations of governance mean that you need to treat everyone the same and treat everyone equitably and fairly and essentially govern consistently so you're not playing favorites, you're not privileging one group over another group or one family over another family?"

Richard Luarkie:

"That’s absolutely the case, and I think that's the reason why you end up with challenge because some folks think that I'm not being...I'm not favoring them, so therefore I may have the perception that I'm not treating them the way I'm treating everybody else but that's not the case. I really...I think that in serving in these kind of roles, fairness is objective, it's...or not objective, subjective and I believe that I have to be consistent. I have to be...I have to be focused on the quality of my care, if you will, of our people. And so it is difficult to demonstrate love, to demonstrate respect when mud is thrown at you, but I think at the end of the day that's why prayer is so important, a reliance on the Higher Power is so important so that renewal can be given."

Ian Record:

"And doesn't part of that caring for your people unconditionally and caring for all of your people and treating them fairly across the board, doesn't that sometimes mean you have to say no for the betterment...you have to say 'no' to that one person for the betterment of all?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Absolutely, and that's why I used the analogy of a father. With our children, there are times that maybe they want to go to the movies, they want to go hang out with their friends, and you've got to say 'no' and they're going to be upset with you. It's no different in this environment. Sometimes our people may want a new facility, but we're going to have to say 'no' because we don't have the revenue to support it. It's not that we don't want it, it's that we need to make sure that we don't do things to just appease and gain favoritism. We have to do our actions with responsibility because when you take money from one source that means something else is impacted and you have to be aware of what the impact is going to be."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned earlier that the way that Pueblo of Laguna does things, particularly with respect to how it chooses its leaders that you don't campaign and that the sort of...the common understanding of the people of community is that people who are openly seeking the office of leadership, that's going to be frowned upon. Can you...and you mentioned in previous discussions that the common phrase translated to English is, ‘You don't chase it.' Can you talk a little bit more about that and how that came to be and perhaps its roots in traditional Laguna governance?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Sure. We're taught from very early stages, from the men folk that attend village meetings, that attend public...that we have responsibilities, obligations in our community to do our part to contribute. And it's during these times that the older men that have been in these positions remind that we should not chase these positions, we should not boast. A term they use is '[Laguna language].' It literally means, ‘Don't pound your chest, don't show off.' That it's literally up to the people to decide who should be in these positions. With communication, with sincerity, with prayer it is believed that our Creator will put the thought in our minds as to who might be the best person to lead at this time and so those individuals that are of consideration, their names are put forth by the people, not themselves. We do not have in our policy, in our ordinances at Laguna...individuals are not allowed to declare candidacy nor are they allowed to campaign. If they do either, they're disqualified. It is truly up to the people to decide. And so boasting is not something that is looked on kindly, and I believe that when those things are done, our community reminds, ‘Here's why you shouldn't do it,' whether it's in the village meeting, whether it's officials reminding, they remind that boasting is not an acceptable approach, that it is the people's authority to determine who will sit in those positions."

Ian Record:

"So you...as I mentioned at the outset in the introduction, you've been Governor for going on two years now, but before that you served in other leadership positions within the Pueblo, and I'm sure that those previous positions that you held leading up to becoming Governor helped prepare you. And I think that's part of the process that Laguna has long had in place to sort of have people move up through the leadership system and ultimately assume the highest position there is, but looking back now are there certain things that you wish you knew...that you know now that you wish you knew back then before your first day as Governor or the things that kind of came as a surprise to you and said, ‘Wow, I didn't really expect this' or ‘If I had to do it over I'd maybe prepare a little bit more in this area'?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, in our Pueblo, in order to get into positions, there is a traditional process as you're referring to. The traditional process is that an individual normally will start out as a town crier. That's the individual that goes around and makes announcements to the village members that there's a meeting tonight, there's ditch work tomorrow, there's whatever the case may be. And so that role is not only for the messaging, but also to get to know the community for that individual. The second step up is the mayordomo, the village officer. That role the individual is responsible for land assignments, family disputes, those kind of things and that role obviously takes care of those functions but also is intended to...for the individual to learn a little more intimately the people. Then the next role up is the council role and that council role, because now you have these first two steps, you have a broader perspective, so now you're able to see a bigger picture. So maybe the people may consider you to go to the council. Then we have what we call a 'staff officer,' which is analogous to the mayor of the village and it's that staff that is I guess analogous to the cabinet of a Governor. And so...and at that point then, once you serve in that role then you have the opportunity if the people so see it may ask you to serve as Governor, secretary, treasurer, the broader positions. So that's the training ground and...I'm sorry I lost my train of thought on that."

Ian Record:

"That's good. I was talking about what do you wish you knew before you took office."

Richard Luarkie:

"And so those are the training steps to getting into these positions. Based on that, it gives you a great understanding and a great grounding for community. But one of the things I wish I knew more of before I got into office was the history, governmental history, policy and the implications of the impositions of federal policy and what has framed Public Law 93-638, what has framed the Indian Civil Rights Act, what has framed all these other elements that have come into play. It would have been much more I think enlightening to come into this office on day one having a better handle on those things, because you deal not only with local issues, but you're dealing with state and federal issues. And much of the state and federal issues are defined by federal policy, so it would have been great to have a better handle on that element."

Ian Record:

"And don't...following up on that, a colleague of mine once said that, ‘To be a leader you need to be as much an educator and a student as a decision maker.' How do you see that statement, that it's not just when you achieve that position of responsibility as governor, as chairman, as councilor, whatever it might be? That it's not just about making decisions at that point. It's about continuing to learn and continuing to teach the people in the community and learn from them and also learn these other things that you've alluded to, like the federal policies and what they mean for your nation in particular."

Richard Luarkie:

"I couldn't agree with that statement more. I believe it's absolutely critical to educate not only your community but your council. Your council needs to understand what they're deciding on so that they're able to articulate back to the community the whys of the decision. But also in those decisions that require community input, it's absolutely critical that your council's able to articulate to the community what they're needing and why. And so as that feeds back up to the ultimate decision, the Governor or leadership position needs to be able to frame that information in a manner that the council can understand, they can understand it to be able to articulate it, that the community can be able to take that articulation and make sense of it and make a recommendation back to the council, ultimately to the body that will make the decision. So it's absolutely important to be able to educate. But it's also important to be able to sit and take the time to ask the questions and that as a leader, ‘I don't understand. Can you explain to me a little bit more before I put it to my council? Is there some additional information that can be provided?' So in a leadership role, that's where I think the humbleness and humility come in to be able to make sure that I'm able to understand and I'm able to learn what the issues are so constant learning and constant educating are...they go hand-in-hand in this role."

Ian Record:

"And isn't it one of your core teachings, the core values of Laguna traditionally for their leaders to make sure that they don't make ill-informed, hasty decisions, that you actually take that time and you make sure you fully understand the issue before you decide upon it? And I would imagine that's more crucial than ever given the complexity of the governance challenges that Laguna faces in the 21st century."

Richard Luarkie:

"In our environment, in our council environment, you often hear the reminder '[Laguna language].' This means, ‘Do it properly, take your time, be diligent.' It doesn't mean sit there for six or eight months. It means be analytical, be objective in your decision making. Turn the stones that you need to turn but be...do it properly. And so I believe that for us, decision making and being able to frame decisions in a manner that is diligent is critical for us. So those are all very important elements for us in our decision making."

Ian Record:

"Isn't it difficult though for some leaders...I think there's a feeling among some leaders and perhaps some people in the community that if you happen to become a chairman of a tribe or a councilor of a nation that you're automatically supposed to have all the answers and so you shouldn't be asking questions, you should already know this stuff. Obviously, that's not the way things operate at Laguna, and from what you're saying it sounds like that there's not embarrassment with asking questions to get a better handle on, 'What's the issue we're facing and what's the best decision to choose?'"

Richard Luarkie:

"Yes. I very much agree that for Laguna that's why it's so important that those reminders go out, ‘Don't pound your chest, don't chase these things' because when you're of that type of a personality, arrogance, 'I know it all,' it's difficult for you to ask for help. But when you're humble and you serve with humility, then it's easier to say [Laguna language], ‘Help me. Guide me here, I need a little bit more information.' We also have a system that at Laguna where former leadership...it's not a situation where I go and try to undo everything the former governor did or previous governors. But instead I take what they've done and I continue building on it and I draw on them to help me keep moving it forward. So whoever comes behind me, I'm going to do the same to help them. So there's that perpetuation, that continuance of support from former leadership in moving our efforts forward."

Ian Record:

"In fact that's a good segue into one of my other questions about leadership and that is, what is Laguna's approach to mentoring the future leaders or people that are coming up that traditional leadership process pipeline, if you will? For mentoring them to be as prepared as possible for when they become governor one day or become lieutenant governor one day. What does Laguna do to mentor them, and then when there's that transition period, when one group of leaders is getting ready to give way to another group of leaders, is there a process for transferring of knowledge there?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, on the mentoring piece, one of the things that I think is really critical is that process I explained earlier with the town crier, the mayordomo, that's real important, because it gives you an understanding of community but also at those times when there's ditch work, when there's village work, the men are sharing information and that's one of the best times for young people, the young men in particular to get this information. But on a more formal side, one of the things we've been doing in particular to our administration has been...we've been including our young people in meetings, we've taken them on trips with us, not just for the fun of going on a trip but actually sitting in and engaging on presentations. As an example, we had some junior high students that went with us to Washington, D.C. and they presented to Congressman Udall, to Congressman Lujan on some very pertinent issues like housing, recreational facilities for our youth, suicide. So we're engaging them so they see the relevance of our work as well as the relevance of their education to the work. So it's very critical that we begin to expose our young people to the issues now as opposed to waiting to the point of time they're in office or whatever the case may be. And I think it's equally important that we grow these young people not to just be tribal leaders, but to be good people that are knowledgeable about their community and are respectful not only to their community but to themselves. So those are really critical elements. And so that is I think important on the mentoring side. On the transitioning of leadership, it's equally important to be able to sit with outgoing leadership, incoming leadership and to be able to develop that bond and that relationship that says, ‘As we go out of the way and you guys come in, we fill in the back to make sure we can continually help you.' So it's not a, ‘I got all the information from you now and I'm going to go lay on the beach.' That's not the case. It's, ‘Now I'm going to be able to help you from behind and I'll support you.' So it's a transition of support, and so that is very critical in how we develop our leadership, how we transition initiatives, continuity is critical for us."

Ian Record:

"And I'm assuming it does wonders for the government's institutional memory and the ability to sort of not only get things going, but sustain them as you mentioned where you're not...you're able to build upon the work of your predecessors because you're able to access their knowledge and their expertise in an ongoing way."

Richard Luarkie:

"Right. Right. We don't have a system that's made up of Republicans or Democrats or Independents or whatever. We have a system that's Laguna and we're Laguna and this is what we're supposed to do for our people. And so it's a system of continuity, a system of consistency, so it definitely helps in the continuation of initiatives."

Ian Record:

"And do you think that Laguna would have been able to develop the robust, diversified economy it has without that governance system in place?"

Richard Luarkie:

"I don't believe it would have been able to do that, because you need...you need not only the consistency in leadership, but you need to have trust from the government to the businesses and the economy that's being created and you can't get that with inconsistent leadership."

Ian Record:

"So you've touched on some of the keys of being an effective leader, of being a nation building leader if you will, things like not being afraid to ask questions, to make sure you make educated decisions, be an educator of your people so that they're onboard with what's going on. What are some other things from your experience that nation building leaders do, that effective leaders of nations do?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, one of the things that I think is so critical is back to that element of not being afraid to ask for help, whether it's from the Native Nations Institute, whether it's from tribal member Joe Blow, ‘Can you help me clean this ditch' to whoever, I think humbleness and humility is a major element in nation building. Education of self and community is critical. As I mentioned earlier, we're nations, we're not minority groups. We are nations and we need to understand the responsibility to being a nation and in order to do that, we have to know...we have to be educated. And I mean education, not just formal education with a degree, but education in identity, education in community, education in spirituality, education in language. Our language identifies who we are, it's so very critical that we have language. So all those elements combined together are pieces that lend to nation building and are pieces that we should continually ask for guidance in, that we should continually seek to strengthen, those are areas that as a nation builder we should have as cornerstones. But at the heart of it is our core values, the ability to respect, to love, to have discipline, to have obedience in how we conduct ourselves. Those are things that as nation builders we should not be afraid to ask our people to do. But the most important element of that is for us as leaders to demonstrate that desired behavior. So asking for help is one of the biggest things that I think we need to be able to do, then of course implement. Implementation is key, and I see many tribes...and Laguna we've done it as well, where we've done research, we've done analysis but when you don't implement, it's all for naught. We have to implement but with implementation comes responsibility. So it loops back around to who can help us best implement."

Ian Record:

"And with implementation you need capacity, don't you?"

Richard Luarkie:

"That's right."

Ian Record:

"And that means that...what a lot of Native nations struggle with is getting beyond this sort of legacy of colonialism if you will that the leaders are expected to do it all and so a lot of leaders have this mindset of, ‘If anything's going to get done in this nation, I've got to be involved in it' versus ‘I'm going to make sure as a leader that we build up our institutional capacity through qualified people with the skills and expertise that we need to get the job done.' Is that something that you wrestle with? It sounds like you guys deal with that relatively well, but is that still a challenge?"

Richard Luarkie:

"It definitely is a challenge and even for Laguna we've...since 1962 we've had a formal scholarship program, so many of our tribal members, we have had our bachelor's degrees paid for by the Pueblo because way back when our elders saw the importance of education and established a scholarship fund. So as a result of that, scholarships have been available. I'm a recipient of that. My bachelor's degree was paid for by our tribe and many others. And so capacity building was very, very important from an early stage and still is. But I think one of the things we're realizing now is that capacity building is not only important on the formal side and the technical aspects but on the community side. We have to not...we can't lose focus of who we are. We have to know who we are and if that means relearning pieces of who we are, we need to do that. So in...with the community education and formal education coupled together, that makes for a strong nation in our own capacity. And I think it also goes back to even those fundamental blessings that our Creator has bestowed on many of us as Native people and that's the blessing of competency. We have some smart people. We have intelligent people, but we have to get confident in our own competence. We have to be confident in each other. We have to respect each others' competencies and where there's weakness, let's help them get strong. And so that is a major element in nation building, being able to respect the competencies of one another and to draw on it. There's many instances that as opposed to going down the road and finding a consultant we may have it right here or if we don't, maybe the next tribe over does, but we don't seem to draw on one another and that's where I think it's going to be a major element as we go forward into the future for tribes to recognize that competency that we've been able to develop."

Ian Record:

"I want to draw together a couple of themes that you just alluded to. One is this confidence in competency, the competency of your own people and not just folks within...that are working within tribal government but people out in the community. And another thing you brought up was that you can't be afraid to ask your people for help and one of the things that we see a lot of tribes struggle with is...and this is really a legacy of the sort of dependency mentality that colonialism seeded in so many Native communities, where the government is expected to do everything and that in many instances they'll essentially subsume the role of what the community is supposed to be doing on its own. And so...what we've heard a growing number of tribal leaders advocate for is, 'We need to get back to an understanding of tribal civics,' if you will, 'that is rooted in the reality that the government is not the nation, the government of the nation is not the nation itself, but the government supports the nation as the nation acts as the nation, as it acts as a community.' I've heard you discuss, for instance, the dynamic of ditch work in your community, where citizens of your community are expected to contribute to the life of the nation and they're expected to play a valued role. Can you talk about how important that is and how empowering that is for you in your job?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Absolutely. Everybody needs to understand their role. Even I, serving currently as governor, when ditch work is called, the village officers, the mayordomos are in charge of ditch work. So when I go to ditch work, I'm under their authority. They tell me when to get out of the ditch, when to take a break along with everybody else. Just because I'm the governor doesn't give me the authority to jump out of the ditch whenever I want. I'm under their terms until they release us for the day. And so I think the understanding of role and where the authorities lie is absolutely critical, and I think that's empowering because we recognize and we understand how important community teaching comes back into play because you may have...in our community you might see a person at the local gas station that's pumping your gas and cleaning your windshield but in our community that may be a very high religious leader. So understanding and respecting role is critical, because you don't know who you're working with at times and you have to respect those that are in authority. And I think that brings empowerment to the community because it reminds about respect for leadership, it reminds respect for mother and father, for grandma and grandpa. So I think that it's definitely a key element to nation building because that's the part that gets forgotten. It's not about money, it's not about policy, it's not about law, it's about getting along. That's critical."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to touch on now a quote that I've heard you share a number of times -- watching you present to other tribal leaders and perhaps future leaders of Native nations -- and that is you say that when you were chosen to lead your nation that you were not given great power but you were given great responsibility. And that's a fundamental concept that I think a lot of not just leaders of Native nations but leaders of all nations struggle with is really conceiving in a proper way what it is that they were chosen to do, exercising responsibility versus exercising power. Can you explain what you meant by that comment and why it's critical for leaders of Native nations to approach their leadership authority with that mindset?"

Richard Luarkie:

"To me, when this world turns, when a deer runs, when a salmon swims, when we wake up in the morning, when our heart beats, all those things are powered by the same source, our Creator. To me, that's where the power lies. I am a human being. When the people put me in office, they didn't give me any power, but they gave me tremendous, incredible responsibility to take care of them, tremendous, incredible responsibility to protect them. That's my job. The power resides with our Creator and it resides with the people. The minute I start believing I have power, I've lost, I've gotten weak because that comes from selfish, ulterior motives and that is from...when you begin to lead and make decisions with selfish, ulterior motives, you leave your people behind, you leave your children behind and that is not the role of a leader."

Ian Record:

"So it sounds like from everything you've shared with us that the...through the existence and the practicing of Laguna core values, that there's pretty strong deterrents in place to prevent just that kind of behavior that you've talked about, those selfish, ulterior motives from influencing the decision making of a leader at Laguna. But if and when those issues do arise, when someone's leading in an unethical way for instance, how does Laguna deal with that? What's the process that's in place for sort of restoring that person to a place where they're acting in a good way or if necessary punishing them or removing them from office if that's the approach that you take? Can you talk a little bit about how Laguna deals with that issue?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Sure. Laguna is like any other Pueblo or any other tribe in this nation, we're not perfect. We have our challenges and we have those individuals that challenge. And for Laguna, one of the ways though that we deal with that type of a situation is that it is the responsibility of the leadership to remind of proper behavior, of proper conduct. In our community we have village meetings on Thursday evenings and at these village meetings the community also has the opportunity to remind, ‘Here's what we expect of you, here's what we don't expect of you in your behavior.' If the problem is serious enough, we have the ability to call what we call 'general meetings,' where we invite the whole community and we present the issue and it's the people then that have the authority to say, ‘Joe Blow, you've come this far, thank you for your service. We're going to relieve you at this point.' Or they can say, ‘Sit there and listen to us for the next several hours and we're going to remind you of why we put you there and what we expect of you.' And at Laguna, I don't think our system is a system of immediate penalty, ‘Let's throw the guy out, let's throw the gal out.' But instead, ‘Let's nurture them, let's correct them, let's remind them in hopes that they won't do it again.' And they include the community in those situations, so it's just not the officers and a couple people sitting there, it's the community. So not to...not meant to embarrass the individual, but so that the individual knows the community knows and the community helps them back to that teaching of, ‘It takes a village to raise a kid,' no different in this environment. When an official maybe has gotten out of line, it takes the community to remind them and get them back in line."

Ian Record:

"I want to switch gears now to the issue of strategic orientation which is one of the, what the NNI and Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Research has found is one of the five keys to effective nation building, this issue of having a long-term strategic vision of where you want to head as a nation and then governing towards that vision and not just governing from day to day. I had a chance in advance of this interview to sit down and go through the Pueblo of Laguna's website and I noticed that among other things that the Laguna tribal council is charged with advancing five strategic priorities aimed at enhancing the quality of life of the Laguna people and those included health, education, financial stability, infrastructure and workforce excellence. And I'm curious to learn from you, how did the tribal council arrive at those priorities and what role did the Laguna people play in determining those priorities?"

Richard Luarkie:

"In 2006, that was a transition year for us, the end of an administration. In 2007, we had a new administration come in and when that transition meeting happened, there was probably five, six pages of priorities and single spaced, 10-point font, and there was no way that we could accomplish or even make a dent in all those priorities. So what the Pueblo council did at the time is took a step back and said, ‘Okay, of these what are those common areas and how is it that we begin to group these elements so that it's more manageable?' And it's at that time that our tribal council had the first real interaction with the Native Nations Institute. The Native Nations Institute actually worked with us to frame, at a two-day retreat in Santa Ana Pueblo at the Tamaya, to frame what those priorities might look like and why we needed to prioritize. And so as a result of that we came up with our initial set of priorities which are the ones that you've just read off. And so that became our long-term target, and during that process to finalization we also had community meetings, one being a large meeting that was held at the Route 66 Casino, where we invited our tribal members and a large number of our people came and weighed in on these priorities, and as a result at the conclusion of the meeting, validated that these are the priorities and that they also indicated that these will be the priorities until there is a significant dent if you will made in the priority to where we can move it off and we can give emphasis to something else. It's been a great strategic process because...on a couple fronts because when we got to meet with our Congressional delegation, they don't see something brand new every time. We bring them the same thing but with an update. It's helped us in particular to infrastructure. Because we've put a big emphasis on infrastructure, we have a $70 million project under way right now, so as a result of that infrastructure has come off and now housing has been put on. So housing was a close tie with infrastructure in the initial go-around, but the logic came that, ‘Well, in order for us to have more homes, we need infrastructure. So if we put homes there first and we don't have the infrastructure to support it, it's a waste.' So now that we have these projects going in all six villages, it's huge for us. This is the first time our whole water and sewer system has not only been revamped, but it's been replaced, brand new piping and we're also running to two of our outlying villages that have never had natural gas. You would think in this day and age, 'Wow!' But...and as a tribe as progressive as Laguna, those two villages are just now getting natural gas. So infrastructure has had a significant impact. It's not that we're going to give it less attention, we're still going to give it attention, but this strategy of keeping focused on some core areas of development has definitely helped us."

Ian Record:

"And doesn't it make your job on one level easier, or more clear I should say, when you know you've got these strategic priorities in place, that these are points of emphasis above all others and that the community has signed off on this and they're clear on these as the most important things that we need to be doing, that when you deal with those day-to-day decisions and those fires, that it's a lens through which to say, ‘Is this going to get us closer to these five goals?'"

Richard Luarkie:

"Right. Absolutely and it not only helps us make significant impact and get community buy-in, but when new leadership comes in, new council members, new administrations, if they've been participating in the community, they know what the priorities are, so it lowers the learning curve for leadership coming in."

Ian Record:

"I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about economic development, which of course is related to strategic orientation but as you know, Laguna is well known throughout Indian Country for its methodical development of a diversified economy, and I'm wondering if you can give us a little bit of background on how...what compelled Laguna to pursue the building of a diversified economy?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Laguna's economy's interesting...for me, it's one of the areas that has intrigued me and as I look back on it, from the 1950s we had one of our first large tastes of economic development, although prior to that we tasted economic development with the coming of the railroad in 1885 when our tribal leaders negotiated right of ways in exchange for jobs for our tribal members. So that was our entrance into the wage-earning era in 1885, so we entered that very early. In the 1950s, we entered into mining with the Anaconda Uranium Mine. We had the largest open-pit mine in the world, and that generated significant revenue royalties to the Pueblo. And the challenge for the tribe is that over those years they didn't diversify their economy. We were for almost 30 years at near full employment and then in 1981, the uranium prices fell out so we went from nearly full employment to almost 72 percent unemployment. And the only thing we had at the Pueblo was a Chevron gas station and a local store, so there was no way that could absorb the employment requirements. So there was a period of time that was very difficult for our community and as a result of that, the tribal leadership at the time -- not out of strategy but out of reaction and trying to get people back to work -- created a bunch of community make work projects, building walls, and fixing windows and those kind of things. But in that process, they also began the effort to build Laguna Industries, Laguna Construction Company, federal 8A companies that eventually grew to multi-million dollar firms. But it was out of reaction so that our people could get back to work. And so as a result of that, that laid the foundation for Laguna to get into the position that we will not allow this to happen again. So the diversification happened in a manner that said, ‘We need to look at different industries but we also need to be able to allow those businesses to grow.' So as a result of that, our Pueblo government took the position that we will not be engaged in the day-to-day operation, but instead we will structure a Section 17 corporation. So as a result of structuring a Section 17 corporation that allowed for the establishment of boards, board of directors, who served as the interface with the entity. The board works for the shareholder which is the government and they're the ones that oversee the entities for us so the government does not get involved in the day to day activity and interfere with the decision making of the business. So that allowed for expedited, more strategic growth of our companies. And right now we're at a point in time where diversifying of our economy is so very critical, where now we've put an emphasis on entrepreneurship, because it shouldn't be just the tribe creating businesses, we need to allow our community members to build businesses. Many tribal members say, ‘Governor, why is it that our tribal budget keeps increasing?' And my answer is, ‘Well, that's because when our economy's not strong there's more reliance on the government. When our economy is strong, the reliance comes down and our costs go down.' So we're working to build this piece, and so right now the Pueblo is focused on developing our entrepreneur base, looking at ways we can partner with other entities to help diversify our economy and find new revenue streams, but also be able to stabilize that in a manner that doesn't get us back to those early-1980 days."

Ian Record:

"Isn't the Laguna...the lesson that you learned, isn't that instructive for other nations who...many of whom are putting all of their eggs in one basket with gaming and the very real prospect that at some point down the road gaming may no longer be an option for them?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Absolutely, and for Laguna that is something that we're so very aware of right now because...and sensitive to because of that 1980s experience, but we realize from the gaming reports for New Mexico, the gaming compacts, they've pretty much stabilized, so you don't see any significant growth in any of the gaming venues there in New Mexico, so that tells us there's been some stabilization and the market's pretty much saturated. But we also have to be able to figure out, 'How do we use gaming as a tool to develop and diversify our economies and not make it just one basket?' And so that's where it's so important that tribes and tribal gaming establishments need to focus on, 'How do you build the shareholder equity?' But it's just as important from the shareholder, the tribal government to recognize when the revenue share comes that we don't just blow it, that we figure out how do we grow it, how do we...we have to focus on our balance sheet, not on our income statement. We have to be balance-sheet focused and building that asset base."

Ian Record:

"You alluded to the creation of a Section 17 corporation and the sort of policies that Laguna has put in place to keep the politics and the government side out of the day-to-day operations of the businesses. Can you talk about some other ways that Laguna government...some other things that Laguna government has done to create that positive commercial environment at Laguna?"

Richard Luarkie:

"One of the things that Laguna has been working on quite diligently has been the...we hope nobody ever ends up in it but the dispute resolution arena, tribal courts so that we're able to work with companies that come from the outside, but also there's companies internally that have disputes, that they can come to a competent court and be able to address those issues. So to know that there's going to be fairness and objectivity in dealing with their cases. But I think also beginning to look at how is it that we support local entrepreneurs at a real basic level. When there's tribal events going on, we have what...we've implemented a policy that says, ‘We will go to our tribal member-owned businesses first.' You must go to a tribal-owned business first for catering or those kind of things. So it's that kind of policy that we're developing to help promote entrepreneurship. We're looking at ways of investing in our own companies like our Laguna Development Corporation. We're looking at ways of investing in housing. How is it that we can get a return on investment by investing in our own housing department to construct homes? And because right now many homes at Laguna...people that qualify for homes, it's all based on low income. But when you have an economy that's growing and getting stronger, you may not qualify because your income is above the threshold and so that leaves many of our people out. The other piece that we see is many tribal members are now buying trailer homes because they don't qualify for low income and they're keeping their trailer homes, so that tells you they're paying their bills, their credit's good so that's a good thing. And so it's really important that we're able to start reinvesting in our own entities and our own organizations to help build our economy, because if we don't have homes there, people leave. When people leave, so do their paychecks, which means there's not that money coming back into our local economy. So it's important that we build homes there."

Ian Record:

"So switching gears, I'd like to discuss tribal administration, tribal bureaucracies and I'm curious from your well-informed perspective, what do tribal bureaucracies need to be effective? What makes Laguna's governmental bureaucracy work well?"

Richard Luarkie:

"I think for Laguna it's...we have a system that's based on...sorry I lost my thought."

Ian Record:

"So what makes Laguna's governmental bureaucracy work well?"

Richard Luarkie:

"For Laguna, I believe what makes our system work well, our bureaucracy work well is the ability to authorize those that are in decision-making roles like directors and supervisors to make certain levels of decisions. That way everything is not coming to the governor's office, everything's not coming to the chief of operations. And so when you can begin to build quality staff, great systems, the system will take care of itself and you don't have to sign off on every little document. So having that type of environment in place is very critical and I think definitely helps with the bureaucracy. On the tribal side, same thing with the...on the tribal government side, same scenario where the tribal council has delegated to the governor's office and to our staff officer level certain signing authority so we don't have to take everything in to tribal council. As an example, we just had a request for filming. There's a movie that's going to be filmed at Laguna starring Jennifer Aniston and they wanted to come and film for two days. And it was two hours per day, so as opposed to taking that into council, that's something that the Governor's office can just sign off on. So it allows the council to focus on the big issues and not have to worry about, ‘Do we authorize somebody to come film for two hours' and we end up debating that for two hours. So it becomes critical when you can begin to delegate certain responsibilities out. So that helps in our bureaucracy."

Ian Record:

"And doesn't that free you up then as Governor to focus on the bigger-picture stuff like those five priorities we mentioned earlier and really focus like a laser on those and not be sort of distracted by those smaller sorts of decisions that ultimately need to be carried out by those that you've hired to carry out those kinds of decisions?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Absolutely. Absolutely, because on those larger priorities, many times funding is required, large amounts of funding, so it allows me to spend my time with those funding agencies, with those congressional people, with the folks that can help us identify and capture funding as opposed to sitting in the office and signing off on a stack of access permits or whatever the case may be. It allows us to get out and do what we need to do as tribal leadership."

Ian Record:

"We talked earlier about this issue of fairness. How does a Native nation, how does Laguna achieve fairness in the delivery of programs and services to its citizens which as you know is the centerpiece of any tribal bureaucracy?"

Richard Luarkie:

"As I mentioned earlier, fairness is subjective. To me, what I think is so absolutely critical is the consistency and the quality of delivery of those services. I believe that for us, we have to be able to make sure that our people have a process they understand, they follow that process and the services are delivered within the context of that process. If we can do that consistently, then I think we've not only impacted the bureaucracy, but we've affected in a positive way the quality of service. One of the things that we're working to overcome is the reliance on tribal government, in getting our people to do some of the work themselves. We've had instances where tribal employees have called the tribal department, public works as an example, to have public works do basic changing a light bulb for them. And for us it's really critical that we educate our people on, ‘Here are the things that you can do yourself, here is what we can do to help you as a tribe. We need to meet one another halfway.' And so I think education, consistency in process, education of that process are key elements to being able to provide fairness, if you will, to our community members."

Ian Record:

"So consistency -- it sounds from your perspective -- is based in rules, it's based in processes that are clear, they're consistent, they don't change, right?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Right."

Ian Record:

"So I'm assuming like you don't...you don't find yourself spending a large part of your day dealing with personnel grievances, right? There's a process for that."

Richard Luarkie:

"There's a process, yep."

Ian Record:

"So can you perhaps take a minute or so and describe how that works at Laguna cause I know this is something that a lot of other elected officials in Indian Country spend their time on is deciding personnel disputes that perhaps is not the best use of their time."

Richard Luarkie:

"Right. For Laguna we have a process where if an individual personnel has a personnel issue, an individual disagrees with the decision, they can appeal to their director of that department. If the director upholds that decision, the individual can then appeal to the chief of operations. If the chief of operations upholds that decision, the final step is that person can appeal to the governor's office and the governor and the first and second lieutenant are the appellate team, if you will. And so they have three steps before it even gets to the governor's office and so if it gets to the governor's office...and those are few and far between. In my...in these two years, I've seen maybe three grievances and when it comes to us, it's understood that our decision's final. It doesn't go anywhere from there. But we also have the opportunity to sit with the individual or individuals, hear their case out, but at the end of the day when we make our decision, it's final. And so that's our process at Laguna and for us, we really emphasize for those employees within the context of a process we put in place called 'Workforce Excellence' to really be able to work within the context of our core values with their supervisor, with their directors in addressing the issue. And so in turn the supervisors, directors are directed in the same way. ‘Work with your employees in the context of our core values and within policy of course and try to address the issue there before you elevate it to the next level'. And so we've been pretty successful with that approach and we've not had to deal with many grievances up to the Governor's office."

Ian Record:

"So one of the...as we mentioned earlier one of the strategic priorities of Laguna is health and I'm curious, what are your administration's goals, what is the Laguna government's goals for creating a healthy Laguna community and what steps is it taking to make those goals a reality?"

Richard Luarkie:

"Well, for Laguna one of the things...and we're not unique to other tribes. One of the major challenges we have is diabetes and obesity. It's just rampant and so for us being able to do community activities that promote healthy activity, that promote healthy eating has been a major emphasis for us. From a policy side looking at how is it that we can begin to partner with other groups that will allow for us to offer better, higher quality health services. Those have been some of the major initiatives that we've tried to move forward. We've partnered with our local or our sister Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo in...through an MOU [memorandum of understanding] to address our health care issues. So trying to draw those partners in at a larger level has been important for us. And so those are some of the steps that we've taken to address the health care issues in Laguna. The other piece of that is again back to the economics and looking at how is it that we're able to create more jobs, we're able to create a diversified economy so that our people don't have to travel long distances for work, that they can be there at home and hopefully that contributes to their health as well, not only their own physical health but the community health."

Ian Record:

"So what do you see for the future of Laguna? What do you hope that all of your hard work will lead to down the road? What will your nation look like 25, 50 years from now?"

Richard Luarkie:

"That's a neat question. A lot of times I've seen people say that's hard to answer but to me, in 25 years I envision a community of hearing our language, I envision a community of collaboration, I envision a community of family and in my mind, it's not pie in the sky but those are things that are very practical that we're already doing, we just need to do it better and we will do it better. And I think if leadership can reinforce core values as the reason why, we will be experiencing those things. I see a community with more children, I see a community where our elders are once again engaged, but I also see our children being mentored by our elders. We're at a point in time where we see this thought process of when the governor or staff officers, officials call a meeting of the community, younger people say, ‘Well, how come I have to go? Why do I have to be there?' And then you have individuals like former Governor Daly who's 94 years old saying, ‘Governor, tell me what I need to do and I'll do it.' I see this piece becoming strong again and us recognizing what our responsibility to our contribution is. I see that in 25 years."

Ian Record:

"Well, Governor Luarkie, we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts, wisdom and experience with us. It's been certainly an enlightening experience for me and hopefully it will be for our viewers and listeners as well. Thank you."

Richard Luarkie:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

"That's all the time we have on today's episode of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations please visit NNI's new website, the Indigenous Governance Database, which can be found at IGovDatabase.com. Thank you for joining us."

Joan Timeche: The Practical Issues of Business Development - Some Things to Consider: Governing Body

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Native Nations Institute
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Native Nations Institute Executive Director Joan Timeche shares her experiences as a board member on two tribal economic development corporations, and identifies some key things that Native nations need to consider as they work to craft effective approaches to corporate governance.

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Citation

Timeche, Joan. "The Practical Issues of Business Development - Some Things to Consider: Governing Body." Building and Sustaining Tribal Enterprises seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 29, 2007. Presentation.

"I serve on two tribal corporations. One of them is a Section 17. It's the Hopi Tribe's Economic Development Corporation and we were much like Joe [Kalt] described. We went out and we bought businesses and started businesses and then had them running. They were the council-run model and then they established a new corporation, which they transferred all of those businesses over to us. So it's been a very challenging task for us. And then the other board that I sit on is with the Tohono O'odham Nation, which is just adjacent, an hour to the west of Tucson here. And they were structured very much like the Ho-Chunk, Inc. model that we put on your CD where they are a separated model. They got a large dollar, $10 million to start up their corporation, but all of their control is at the local level in their districts, political districts. So despite the fact that they have millions of acres of land for development, it's very difficult and we have yet to secure any land at all for our corporation development. So we also have many of these challenges.

I'm going to talk about these governing bodies because they are a very important key to moving forward. Basically when you look in terms of governing bodies, what we're looking at is whatever is specified in your charter. And today we heard many models of those. They're in a board of directors, but that board of directors may be the tribal council as we heard. They could be the business committee. And all of their duties and powers are defined in those charters. And you'll see some examples on that CD of the several that we gathered. They range the whole gamut from where you have minimal kinds of powers to ones where you end up having to have thresholds where at certain levels -- maybe it's purchases, maybe it's land, or whether the case may be -- it has to go back to council. So that can be all specified in there. But their whole job, this governing body -- whether it's a separate board, whether it's the business committee of the council, whatever it may be -- are responsible for the overall management of these businesses and the activities of them.

So let's talk a little bit about this board and how it should be organized. And some of the things you have to take, and these are all no-brainer stuff, I'm just going to cover examples of them. The composition: how many directors do we have? And of course you know that everyone tells you, you need to have an odd number. Five, seven, nine -- those seem to be common numbers. I sit on one that's seven but I prefer a five-member board because when you get down to the real logistics of trying to get to meetings and quorums, there's real practicality in getting, it's much easier to get three members together rather than five for a quorum.

Length, terms -- these are again all specified. One of the things that we would encourage you to do is when you're setting up these corporate terms that they not coincide with council election terms, because then it's seen that all you're doing is it's a political appointment and political elections. So you want to make sure that they're off, the terms are different than council's terms whether they're two-, three-year or four-. And just as we found in council terms, our research has indicated that the longer the terms are the more consistent stability, consistency you have and there's a more stable environment there too so we encourage you consider moving towards a longer term.

Qualifications: you heard [Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community] President [Diane] Enos talk this morning about the composition of her boards and you heard that from some of our panelists this morning about having the expertise of the people. And President Enos, she indicated that they always have somebody from the industry that sits on these boards. And this is something that we're seeing is increasingly common with some of the corporations that we work with. Where it's not just tribal citizens that are composing the board. It is combinations where you have some citizens -- and they might constitute the majority of those members or they can constitute a minority of it -- but you have to have these qualifications. In both the Hopi and the Tohono O'odham corporation charters, they require that all, well, Hopi requires that all of its members have successful business experience; that's the minimum criteria for that position. In the Tohono O'odham [charter], it specifies a certain number of people that have to be from a business field, who have had business experience or either have a profession in that area. So you can set up those criteria to meet the needs that you might have.

And again, back to this, I started talking about this, about the independent members. On the Tohono O'odham Nation for example, they have a seven-member board. Five of those members have to be citizens of that nation and they have two that can be non-tribal citizen members. I happen to be in one of those seats that is a non-tribal member sitting on that board. And one of the things that I have been able to find, just from my own personal experience, has been that I can say a lot of things that perhaps they can't say because I'm looking at them from the outside in. Sometimes because they know each other politically, it's a little bit more difficult for them to be realistic and to say what they might be thinking, but I can say those kinds of things from the outside. So that's one of the benefits to it. Sometimes they don't always like me saying what I do say, but I try to say it in a way that benefits the corporation overall.

The other question that also gets raised all the time is, ‘Can employees be eligible for these board seats?' And I'm talking about tribal government employees. Should they be eligible or not? This is a decision that you will end up having to make. Can an elected official be on this board? Some tribes will define elected official very broadly so that, I even know of one tribe where even if you sit on the school board, the public school board where you've been elected to a seat, you're defined as a public official so you cannot be a member on that board. So those are all considerations you have to take into place.

Then comes the big question -- council members. Can a council member sit on the board or not? When you open up Ho-Chunk, Inc.'s charter, you're going to find that it states that two members of their board should be from the governing body, the tribal council. There's pros and cons to it. We can argue about this all day but basically, I believe, I think it was [Meadow Lake Tribal Council] Chief [Helen] Ben who mentioned earlier about the competing interest that you have. If the chief is sitting on the board, are they wearing their chief hat? Are they wearing their employee hat? Or are they wearing their citizen hat? Are they wearing another hat of some sort? And it gets... there's a real fine line there, so it gets really difficult. But basically we found that it's just really difficult to keep those political considerations out of any kind of enterprise decision.

The other considerations that you need to make sure you have are sections that define how individual board members can be removed. Is this something that, do they serve at the pleasure of the council? Does the chief executive, the chairman, the president, the chief have the authority to remove these individuals? What is the process for removing them? Because this becomes very, a big issue as well as you move forward. Resignations, how do you fill vacancies? Does it have to go back to the council? Can the board itself then be able to fill these slots in the interim until the next council, maybe perhaps until the term expires? These are all things that need to be spelled out in procedures to move forward here.

Vacancies: one of the things that can be done is sometimes vacancies can be that blessing in disguise because it allows the board to take a look at themselves and determine, ‘Okay, who's sitting on our board? What skills, what talents, what areas are represented? Maybe we need to have...' I'll just take Hopi's development corporation. We have two vacancies. One of our vacancies was a person who knew the hotel and restaurant industries. Well, we have two hotels and two restaurants to run. Now we're lacking that kind of knowledge base on our board, and for us it's critical to find someone in there. We have three huge ranches. We don't have anybody with a ranching background. So for us that kind of a person is critical for us to find to fill that kind of a seat because the rest of us may know business in general because three of us have MBAs, but we know business concepts in general but we don't know the industry specifically.

So those are things that you can take a look at and you'll see some of the ideas up there that have worked for other entities. They're all ones that you can take a look at. The following slide is just basically a matrix that you can utilize to do this analysis of what is your board [consist of]? Each individual member: now this is all...one of the things I always encourage people to do is each individual member of the board fill this out for themselves and how they view each other and then hopefully the relationships within the board is one where they can be open and frank and honest with each other and that they don't take any of these -- if there was a negative answer on there -- that they would not take it personally because it's all being done in a constructive manner to be able to improve the board.

In terms of who selects or appoints the board, the shareholder has generally all of those responsibilities. I've seen... I don't know of any right off the top of my head where it's delegated to another entity. And the shareholder in many cases is the governing body of the nation who is the tribal council in many options. And sometimes the shareholder may decide, 'Okay, we're going to start on this new enterprise and we're going to appoint you, you and you to be on this board.' It can be done and I've seen it done that way. Or they can say, 'We're going to go through a formal nomination process,' and they advertise, they put it out and so on. And there's processes to follow, which I'll cover in the next slide. Or there can be an application process where it's much like a job. Whatever the case may be, you're going to want to make sure that you do have the information that you need on each of these potential board members because you're entrusting them with major responsibilities and sometimes just like a council they are making multi-million dollar decisions, the kinds of decisions that end up having to have long-term impact on not just the nation but its future as a whole. So these are very important.

The next slide just gives you some examples, and some of the ones that are real common or what I call standard. Most people will advertise, they ask for a letter of interest and a resume. Sometimes they'll do a reference chart, sometimes they won't. Hopi, look at Hopi's example here. This is what's happening now, but when we got acquainted we were under that first one, the first initial board of directors, we were just asked to submit a letter of interest and nobody even interviewed us and it wasn't until quite some time afterward that we were required to undergo an extensive background check. I think that background checks are going to be very critical, because again financial institutions are going to look at the composition of the board, can these people make sound decisions, these people have been running businesses but they've bankrupted each time, these are all very important kinds of things to take a look at. The Tohono O'odham Nation probably has one of the most comprehensive processes for recruiting or filling these four vacancies and I included a sample of their last announcement on that CD. I had to go through three interviews, two of them at the legislative committee level, and I first saw my first background check. I couldn't believe how extensive it was. It was just totally unbelievable. I passed. I had to go to a formal interview for the council. It was very much like a job. I was basically applying for the job of being on this board. I was asked business questions. Do I know what a business plan consists of? It was very much like a job and they screened them very well and I thought that that was one of the things that has helped me contribute to make the board much more powerful and helping us to be on the same page as we move forward in making some of these decisions.

Just a couple of other slides -- that you're making sure that you have these people and sometimes you can get these people to join your board: the banker, maybe a professor, you think of marketing people, maybe a business person, somebody out in the community who has been working, has been a friend of the tribe for years, someone like that, those are all valuable assets for you. And just some last suggestions, that you want to make sure that your enterprise board has this clear definition of its role in relationship to the council. You heard that over and over again from all of these enterprises that spoke this morning. And that also needs to go down to the CEO level as well and does it schedule reports to council. You heard this over and over again, communication, communication, communication, not just with the shareholder but with the citizens of the nation, because they're the ones as we've heard that are going to have those questions about 'where is all of that money going that you guys are earning? You guys just go and travel and do whatever,' and they're the ones that need to know what's being done and it needs to be stated to them very simply. These are all...Hopi's coming up to their first shareholder meeting next...the fifth of April, so it's going to be an historic moment for us because it's the first time that the Hopi people have ever heard about all of its five enterprises that have been existence for years, so this is going to be very historic.

Have conflict of interest rules spelled out and one of the things that's very common is to have members, board members sign a code of ethics or a code of standard that they would agree as being on the board. Have clear compensation rules, again because this is another big area that often gets raised over and over and over again. And then of course making sure that the board's chair, because they're going to be the ones out being the front face for you, and your CEO is going to be insulated from the council by the board. You have to make sure you act as one as you move forward."

Jerry Smith: Building and Sustaining Nation-Owned Enterprises (2009)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Laguna Development Corporation President and CEO Jerry Smith shares the lessons he has learned about building and sustaining Native nation-owned enterprises, in particular the critical step of creating a formal separation between tribal politics and the day-to-day management of those enterprises.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Smith, Jerry. "Building and Sustaining Nation-Owned Enterprises." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25-26, 2009. Presentation.

"Good afternoon everyone. Again, thank you for the introduction. Again, I appreciate with all humbleness the introduction, because I definitely have had a lot of good and bad experiences in the arena that I've been in. But I want to say for the nation-building program -- and I'm asked to participate in a lot of activities and I've had to be selective in some of those that I do involve myself in, because there's a lot going on in terms of what's happening out there -- but I choose nation building because I believe in what they're doing. And they're doing, and it's about capacity building. It's about trying to communicate best practices, so that you don't have to go do the things and make the same mistakes I made. And I definitely made a lot of mistakes in my career as it begins to evolve. I wish that I was in a position that you're in to have an institution to go to, to talk about it. Because in the early 80s, when I started doing this, I didn't have any place to go; I had to do a lot of figuring out by myself. And some of you who work in tribal offices know that's a lonely feeling in there sometimes, sitting there and just trying to figure out what the heck are you going to do. I call myself a rez boy. I'm a rez boy raised on the rez, spent a little time away from the rez going to college but, and then came back to the rez. So definitely I'm home grown and I've tried to understand and tried to do what's best for our community.

I want to start off by a couple of sayings just to give you some idea of how we need to think about this or how I'd like to frame my presentation. One saying is, ‘Success is the point that preparation and opportunity meet.' That's been a very important thing for me in my career, because you don't have success without preparation. And whether you're an individual or whether you're in a tribal environment, you have to continue to prepare yourself to be in a position so that when opportunity presents itself you can grab that opportunity. So if you get an opportunity today to do a partnership in a big business deal, if you're not prepared for that, that thing's going to go by you because as we all know, setting up businesses isn't an overnight thing. It takes a lot of evolution. So if you're not in the process of preparing yourself for that opportunity...I've missed many opportunities in my lifetime because I just wasn't ready for them. And some of these opportunities have never presented themselves again. And so we miss a lot of opportunity. The stimulus package coming down -- how many of us are prepared to take advantage of that opportunity? I think we're all trying to figure it out, right? But the reality of it is that those that are prepared are going to benefit from it.

The other saying I like to say -- and this is something that [is] mainly for youth -- that we need to keep in perspective is that, ‘If you're chasing money, you are not necessarily chasing success.' Give yourself success and money will shadow you, wealth will shadow you. So as we try to achieve...and you would think that this came from a Donald Trump or this came from one of the big Wall Street guys. And they're in trouble now, right? But this really came from a basketball coach, Rick Pitino. And I've enjoyed reading about his story and how he's prepared his career, because there's a lot of things that we do in athletics as teams that are very applicable in business. So I recommend his book. His book is called Rebound and it's a story of leadership.

The other book I recommend is a book that was written by a guy by the name of Marshall and I just finished his book and the book is entitled The Power of Four: Leadership Lessons of Crazy Horse -- the great Lakota Sioux warrior -- and is written by Joseph M. Marshall III. And he talks about a lot of the things that are very applicable in tribal cultures that are very important in insuring that you maintain a good business structure.

So in that regard, I just want to share those with you. I have a limited time so I'm going to go through my presentation here. Again, my name is Jerry Smith and I'm president and CEO of Laguna Development Corporation. Laguna Development Corporation has to be...we have to start with the Laguna economic story. In the 1950s, we were an agriculture-based economy. And then we evolved into in the '50s to the 1980s we were very fortunate, it was very fortunate that a resource was found on our reservation called uranium. In its peak production, the Jackpile Mine was the world's largest open-pit uranium mine, and the Pueblo of Laguna benefited significantly in terms of royalty income from that mine. And I was fortunate to have my education paid for as a result of that resource. But one of the things that has been interesting in that evolution is it brought wealth to the Pueblo Laguna and I'll tell you why that's important.

In the early 1980s, late 1970s, the mine shut down and we went into a very serious period of having to refigure our economy. Unemployment rate went up to about 86 percent and the worst thing or the best thing that happened to me is I got hired as the tribal administrator in the early 1980s, just out of business school. [I] walked into my tribal council -- I was working at construction at the time, I was working with James Hamilton Construction out of Silver City -- and I was called home and asked to show up Monday morning at tribal council meeting. I said, ‘Okay, I'll be there.' I walked in with my cleanest pair of blue jeans and a borrowed shirt from my dad, polo shirt. And I didn't realize that I was there as an interview in front of the tribal council for the position of tribal administrator. And so I walked in to the interview and everybody was in suits, everybody was in ties, everybody looked very pretty and I was in my cleanest pair of blue jeans. And I went through the process of the interview and was asked, ‘What are you going to do to get me a job?' by 90 percent of the tribal council members who were unemployed. And I looked at them and said, ‘Well, all I can do is the best I can and I'll figure it out.' I went home and my mom -- who was then, knew what was going on -- asked me, ‘Well, how did it go?' She was all excited about it. I said, ‘I blew it. I didn't have any answers.' I couldn't commit to them. I couldn't lie to them to tell them I had the solution. So I'm headed back to Silver City, start packing my stuff. Twenty minutes later, I get a call from the personnel officer of the Pueblo telling me I was hired. So you talk about someone learning from the grassroots, from ground zero.

So what we began to do -- because of that impact -- we began to take a look at how to develop the economy, how to reinvent the economy of the Pueblo of Laguna. Again, wealth was not the issue. We had wealth as a result of the uranium mine. We had to develop an economy of employment and continued development of wealth. So we began to develop -- and a lot of the theme of this session that you heard is the need to develop businesses to give its best opportunity for success -- so what we did and what we decided to do -- and again this is a young rookie out of business school. I had to go into my tribal council and get them to understand that you're dealing with two different environments.

When you're talking about governance on one side and you're talking about business on the other side of the table, and there's that line -- that's kind of like this black line on this floor -- there's a line between the two. And it's about -- as I tell people -- it's about learning how to play Monopoly© by Monopoly© rules, and then over here learning how to play Chess by Chess rules. You can't play both sides of the thing by the same set of rules. And there's a whole history and sophistication on how business works compared to how governments work. And so each has to have their ability to operate effectively within those two environments. So I went in and said, ‘You're going to have to give me the authority to separate business from government. You're going to have to give me the authority to allow our development, our business, the environment that it needs to give it the best opportunity to succeed.' And it was great because if I was to go into my tribal council today, I don't know if I could get that decision because of the wealth. As a result of what we're doing now, one of the things that always, is the issue of control and tribal government wants to control. What we're trying to do now with our tribal leadership is try to show them how to control without micromanaging. And the techniques that as owners of a business is different than a governance of a community and a people. So we're having to go through processes of educating them. We've used nation building and our tribal council has been through nation-building sessions. The nation-building folks have been out to our tribal community, have taken our tribal council through facilitation sessions on developing that capacity and competency, so that we can from the business side -- when we walk into a tribal council meeting to report as a business entity -- they deal with us as owners of a business should deal with management and the corporate boards.

So what we did is we created three corporations since then. We created Laguna Industries, which is a manufacturing corporation. We developed Laguna Construction Company, who presently is in Baghdad doing a lot of the reclamation [and] revitalization of Baghdad right now. And then the company I manage called Laguna Development Corporation. We do have somewhat of a non-profit corporation called Laguna Rainbow Corporation and that corporation provides elderly service to community members.

The Laguna entity business structure or model, it's the separation: it's the government model versus the business model. Government and its role and its model provides governance for tribal membership. It's not profit motivated. It's the fiduciary custodian of tribal wealth. The business model is a model where we have to work within the governance of the tribe, which means that if you run a private business in the State of New Mexico you can't divorce yourself from government. Government has a role to play in everything you do. But they provide you regulatory oversight, not day-to-day oversight of your business. So the tribe has to get involved in developing all the infrastructure it needs to be able to provide that oversight. We're profit motive and we're a huge investment of capital in risk-based ventures. We're also the revenue and tax base to the tribe. We're the economic engine that pays probably at this point probably 80 percent of tribal governmental operating needs. And in most tribes, especially with casinos, that number ranges from 80 to 95 percent of revenue that goes to the tribe normally comes out of those kind of activities.

We've explored a number of business structures in our evolution. We started out as a tribal enterprise and chartered under the constitution of the Pueblo Laguna. Then we evolved to a state-chartered corporation. That evolution really was the result of the challenges of the state of New Mexico to tax our income. There were legal opinions coming down that says if you're a tribal enterprise at that time that you would be taxable. So we went to a state-chartered corporation. And then later we got an IRS ruling saying that's not good enough. So then we went to a Section 17 corporation, which then we basically resolved that taxation issue. But as things have evolved, we have also been able to...those other areas have cleaned up in terms of taxation. So I believe today, now you can do any of the three and still be secured in your taxation on income.

But the other thing that, reason that we did that is that...from a tribal environment, not very many people out there -- especially if you're looking for business partners -- understand how you work as a government. And you have 500-some-odd Indian tribes across the country with all unique forms of government. How do you expect a Microsoft or how do you expect a financial institution and investors to try to understand how all 500 of us work? So what we have to do is create an intermediary corporation that they're used to dealing with -- they understand the nature of corporations, they understand the nature of how corporations work. So when we apply and we introduce ourselves to people, they don't need to go back and try to understand how our constitution works and all those things. They understand how corporations work and we can talk at the same level and in the same language. So that was one thing.

But from internally to the tribe, what was important to us was the insurance of protection of tribal wealth. Remember, Laguna had wealth. Laguna had wealth as a result of the uranium mine. And we had to go understand why Donald Trump declares bankruptcy probably every other year but he's still wealthy. And the way he does that, and business is as a foundation a risk-proposition environment. You have to take risk. But you don't want to risk the tribal wealth. In my operations, I could say within the five years of our new property, we've had probably about three people die on our property. And so what you have to be very careful about is the claims that can come at you from people who do things on your property and the liabilities you assume by allowing them to come onto your property. So you're at risk every day. You're at risk for a lot of different things but you don't want to put the tribal wealth at risk as result of that.

So what we were able to do was separate the two through the corporate veil and that's why people set up corporations is they protect their individual wealth from the business wealth and the business risk. So you have this corporate veil that prevents you from doing that, from putting tribal assets at risk. So that was another major reason is that we didn't want to put the tribal treasury at risk. And so if anybody sues Laguna Development Corporation, it's only within the limits of what the corporation owns. They cannot touch tribal assets.

The state of the industry: Las Vegas is down 8.7 percent; Nevada casinos are down 68 percent at the net-income level. Fitch -- who's a rating company that comes in and evaluates your capacity -- tells us that Native American operatives are feeling the same kind of pressures Nevada is feeling and those businesses that operate to a conservative operating file will survive this pressure. You've got numerous retail and F&B closures. Who would imagine that Mervyn's© was going to close? Who was going to imagine that Circuit City© was going to close? You've got a lot of businesses going out of business. And then in New Mexico, we've had a huge expansion in gaming properties with the Ysleta Pueblo property expanding, with Buffalo Thunder and then now the Navajo Nation has gotten into gaming. So there's expansion in the market when 2008 the economy is coming down. So what's ultimately result of that is only the fittest are going to survive. Because you can run an operation and some gaming operations at a 65 percent gross profit level. It's easy to run a business that way. But if things that are happening with your economy are attacking that and now you're having to operate at a 30 percent or a 40 percent gross profit level, it's a whole different ballgame, which means that you have to be a lot more efficient in the way you run your business.

Our success at Laguna Development Corporation -- in a period of time when Las Vegas is dropping 28 percent in '08, we grew our revenue by 15-16 percent. We improved our total company gross revenue. We just don't do casinos. More than 50 percent of our revenue comes from non-gaming activities -- we're in travel centers, we run restaurants, we run...name it, we run those kind of operations. 23.4 percent growth in our EBIDA [earnings before interest, depreciation, and amortization] in '08. We had 115 percent growth in our revenue in food and beverage. We had a 33 percent return on an equity. You ask any investor whether that's good or bad and they'll tell you. Our debt service coverage ratio, our leverage ratios are very good. We actually increased payments to the tribe by 47 percent during this period of time. And again, we're rated from Fitch standpoint as being a very stable company. So as you can see, structure and having your proper environment in place is very good.

I cannot recruit executives today. Let me say, it's very difficult to recruit executives today in our industry, especially in the Indian community. The people I want, the first question they ask me is, ‘Is there a separation between tribal government and the business.' And if you say no, they're not coming, because there's been too many experiences...the average tenure of somebody that sits in my position in New Mexico is one year. That's the turnover for someone that sits in my position in New Mexico -- one year. So there's a huge turnover and the number-one reason why that occurs in their opinion is because of tribal politics' intervention into the business and that they have to worry about, on a day-to-day basis, whether a tribal council family member is going to come up and shoot them. Where in our operation, we do have very much respect for our council and our government and our governor, who's the president or chairman of our tribe, but the governor has no authority to hire or fire anybody in the corporation. And so we have control over day-to-day operations through this model.

Keys to success -- tribal council understood the need to release day-to-day management over day-to-day control. We killed a lot of businesses before 1980 because of day-to-day intervention from political people into day-to-day operations. So the second thing we did is we formalized all our relationships between tribal government and the entity. For example, we have the charters, we have the bylaws, all reported transparency is there -- we provide financial statements monthly, quarterly, all those kind of things -- we also have a formula that basically defines how cash gets transferred. A lot of my counterparts in New Mexico at the end of the month, all excess cash gets transferred over to the tribal government. In our environment we go through a very diligent process of closing the year, closing the books, evaluating performance and we've negotiated a cashiering agreement with the tribal council whereby it's all formula-based. So no politics, nothing can enter into the picture and all the needs of the business are there in terms of supporting the business before any money goes over to the tribe. So from that standpoint, we can get the favorable ratings from the rating companies.

We also have had to help tribal government understand and set up their own infrastructure to handle these kind of entities. For example, we have to make sure that administratively they know how to read the reports -- they know what they're getting, they know how to read it, they know what it's telling them. We also have to make sure from a legal standpoint you have all the things like codes in place -- there's things like building codes, there's things like commercial codes. So if there's a dispute between me and one of my suppliers, they don't need to go run to tribal council. They go through the judicial process and they file as any other community, metropolitan does; they go through the court systems to get their problems resolved. So it keeps a lot of calls from going into the chairman's office from people who don't necessarily, when you find yourself in dispute with. And that happens every day folks and we all know that. We also have to look at capitalization needs and all the way down to things like tribal preference. So we've taken the time to insure that we formalized and put everything in rules so that it's not discretionary or arbitrarily determined based on who knows who and who knows what, that it's consistent. Because one of the things that we have to develop is consistency in applications so we get trust.

The last thing is definitely is adherence to the rules through visions and missions and core values of the corporation. Now as a corporation...I listened to the session before lunch and they were talking about, how do you operate in the business world? Like I can put on a suit and do I have to give up my tribal heritage and my tribal ways for that? I can tell you that my father is one of the top religious leaders in my pueblo. And as one person, he was the one that encouraged me to go on to college. And after I came out of college, I tried to figure out why you sent me there. And then when I come home I get a lot of criticisms about losing my ways from community members. 'You're educated, you lost your ways, you joined the other guys' kind of thing. And one of the things that he helped me understand is that in order to survive, we have to understand and have the knowledge to survive. So we have to go out into this other world and do the things necessary to provide for our families and our community. But you should not have to give up your heart in the process and where your heart values are coming from are from your tribal core values. In our language, we have basically four core values that we're told every day from community leaders, religious leaders is -- and I'll use my language -- it's [Laguna Pueblo language]. And those four things are love one another, respect one another, understand what the way is, understand what the truth is, and live your life by them. And when you begin to run business, when you begin to take opportunities of kickbacks, they present themselves to you. I don't think anybody in this room that's run a business hasn't been given the opportunity to take a kickback. But your core values of right and wrong will tell you not to do those things. So it's very important for our young people to understand that they can be successful, they can be successful in athletics, they can be successful in their careers by using their core values that each tribe, everyone of us has as tribal communities, because you can connect the two. You don't have to give up your heart to survive.

So we run our business on those tribal core values. In fact, the core values of our corporation are tribal core values. And everybody who has gone through a strategic planning session know you have vision, mission and then you set core values. So we didn't see the need to create new core values because we've had core values that our ancestors have given us through time. Why do we need anymore and how can I be more creative than those people? They've given us the menu to success if we just follow it in whatever we experience.

Keys to success from a business responsibility standpoint: you have to hire the most competent executive team you can find. These people have to have the knowledge, they have to have the experience and most importantly they have to have the character. And you have to make sure you insist on knowing the character of a person. So what do I do when I hire executives? I just don't take their resume and a one-hour interview. Not only do I use my gaming commission's authority to go check their background, their criminal, their financial, I want to know everything, as much as I can about the person. So I use those mechanisms to find out as much as I can about the person. I've got my internal networks where I do evaluations on every one of these individuals.

Anybody heard about DISC? It's a tool that you can use to determine whether or not you have an individual that's a driver, somebody that's task oriented; or an I, which is somebody that's an intelligent thinker; or an S, who's a supporter; or a C, who's a communicator. So I want to know 'cause I have to have everyone of those characteristics on my leadership team and I use that tool to tell me what kind of people I have. When I first used the tool, I found out that 90 percent of my managers, my executive team, were Ds. They were all direct, they were kind of like me, go get it, get it done. And so, and it's the nature that you kind of lean towards hiring people like you, but it's not always the best thing to do. What I found out was a lot of people didn't understand what we were doing even though we were doing great things [because] we weren't great communicators. We weren't able to go out and tell people what we were doing [because] that wasn't our nature. So now I make sure I have Cs on my leadership team.

So there's tools that you can use to help you understand who these people are and what you're hiring and what you need in your leadership team. The second thing I do is I send all my people up to a place called Professional Decision-Making, Inc. in Denver, PDI, and they do a complete assessment of that individual to tell you whether or not that person is really an executive quality person. Because for many years we as tribal people have been sucked into thinking that because I can put on a suit and tie that's an executive. You've got to know more about that person because you're entrusting that person with a tremendous amount of resources and decision-making. So you've got to know as much as you can about that person and make sure that person fits your organization. My leadership team I've had with me for about seven to eight years now, and there are not very many people that leave me because of these principles. So it helps your retention, it helps you keep people because they definitely understand a lot of these principles in which you're operating by.

The other thing you have to do is make sure you have the business systems in place that operate in financial human resources systems. You have to make sure that you have transparent reporting not only to...I report to a five-member board that's appointed by the tribal council. So I make sure that the reports I give to them are very, can be verified and validated at any time. And the last thing is that we focus on developing and growing the business not on tribal politics. So many tribes and many of my colleagues at the end of the year that are in positions like me worry about who's running for the chairmanship position and what's going to happen to them. And a lot of them are sending out resumes in that process. In our situation we honor the change in administration, the change in leadership but we don't have to worry about our jobs the next day as a result of that.

Lessons learned -- the first lesson I learned is the maintenance of the separation of tribal governance and business is a very delicate balance. For example, tribal membership's demand for per capita could definitely effect you as a business. And given the hands of people in a tribal governance role, they may have an agenda to get more money out of you. And from a business standpoint, we can only give what we can afford to give to the tribe. And so political factors can come in and wipe you out. We don't go promote ourselves and sell ourselves as a service to anybody, because in my opinion we're still learning how to do this. And if anybody tells you they're expert at it, I'd like to meet them. I really would like to meet them.

But what we continue to try to do is help when we're asked to help, and we've had tribes come to us and ask for help to do this. And the biggest challenge that I've run into in trying to help those tribes is the issue of control, and government does not want to give up that control, especially in tribes that already have ongoing gaming operations. And so they'll commit to the idea of doing it, but once they understand that they can't go in and fire the manager tomorrow or go in there and do the things that they're used to doing, they don't like it. So you have to manage that every day. It's something that I have to manage every day. The governor doesn't have any authority to come in and take any actions within the operation on a day-to-day basis. But everybody knows that when the governor shows up on any one of our properties I need to know immediately and we have somebody there to make sure that he's seeing, he's getting what he needs. So you've got to manage that. You have to recognize who the owner is. And so again, that's a delicate balance.

Due diligence -- I went through this. You have to hire the best you can afford and sometimes you have to hire the person you can't afford. That's one of the 201 business lessons when I went to New Mexico State and went to my first business management class, that's the thing that I remember hearing out of that class is that you've got to...in order for you to be successful, you've got to hire successful people. You've got to surround yourself with successful people. And so it's been my agenda to always hire the best. And not only stop at hiring what I can afford, but I've actually had people that I couldn't afford but I made sure that within a year I could afford them because then they grew my revenue. They grew my EBIDA.

Setting up tribal government and business infrastructure is very critical. The government needs to understand how to interact with this new animal that you created. And that's kind of been one of the struggles of Section 17 and business entities is government not necessarily having the infrastructure to know how to deal with this new animal. One of the ones that kills you a lot is personnel issues. I am the final say. My board does not even have a say as to what the final conclusion of a personnel action internally within the corporation is. That's my decision as CEO of the corporation. If a tribal member does not agree with that, they take me to tribal court. And tribal court through a wrongful termination hearing then determines whether I did the right thing or the wrong thing. So that's an example of infrastructure. So that the council doesn't have to be tied up with that issue because tribal members are complaining about...

And it always happens that they only hear one side of the story. I have grandmothers calling me, I have mom and dad's calling me and these are for people that are probably 40-50 years old some of them. Grandma's still calling me and saying, ‘How come you fired or how come you took this action on my grandson,' or, ‘How come you took that action on my child?' And I will say, ‘I wish I could talk to you about it, but there's something called the Privacy Act. And you take this form; you take it home to your child or your grandchild and have them sign this document. Then I'll tell you what's really in your grandson and your son's file.' I have not gotten one of those back yet because only one side of the story is told and we love the opportunity to tell the other side of the story.

This is a weakness is that tribes normally set up these operations without adequate capital. Most of the business ventures, you're expected to put at least 30 percent equity into a business start-up and tribes notoriously don't want to do that. So that's always been a weakness in tribal economies. The diversification, the economic base, we learned that through the Jackpile Mine when you have all your eggs in one basket. And there's a risk in a lot of tribes [because] the only economic engine a lot of tribes have right now are your casinos. And you're seeing right now that these casinos are not recession proof. There was a fallacy out there that gaming casinos were recession proof. Just look at what's going on in Nevada with the big ones. And then the other thing is that we also have to make sure that we stay business vision and mission focused. It's important for us to maintain that vision focus because if we don't who else is going to do it?"

Rosebud Sioux Tribe boosts local economy

Author
Year

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, located in the second poorest country in South Dakota, is making moves to create a way to not only save money for the tribal membership, but also create jobs.

"We live in an economically depressed area, so we have to find every small way we can to help people locally," said Wizipan (Garriot) Little Elk, CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO).

REDCO is a politically neutral entity whose main function is to promote the best and fullest utilization of tribal resources through planning, implementing, and managing economic development projects on the Rosebud Reservation...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Eagle, Karin. "Rosebud Sioux Tribe boosts local economy." Native Sun News. August 30, 2013. Article. (http://www.indianz.com/News/2013/010961.asp, accessed November 6, 2023)

Hatching Success: Ak-Chin Indian Community's Industrial Park Home to Only Egg Producer in Arizona

Author
Producer
Indian Country Today
Year

Finally, an answer to that age-old question: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” To get to the Ak-Chin Indian Community’s Industrial Park–the site of Hickman’s Family Farms with enough hens to generate 4.3 million eggs per day. In 2002, the egg producer built a ranch at the Ak-Chin Industrial Park, leasing nearly a third of the park’s 110 acres...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Allen, Lee. "Hatching Success: Ak-Chin Indian Community’s Industrial Park Home to Only Egg Producer in Arizona." Indian Country Today, October 17, 2012. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/hatching-success-ak-chin-indian-communitys-industrial-park-home-to-only-egg-producer-in-arizona, accessed May 31, 2023)

Indian Pride: Episode 112: Tribal Government Structure

Producer
Prairie Public
Year

This episode of the "Indian Pride" television series, aired in 2007, chronicles the governance structures of several Native nations in an effort to show the diversity of governance systems across Indian Country. It also features an interview with then-chairman Harold "Gus" Frank of the Forest County Potawatomi (FCP) in Wisconsin, who provides a detailed overview of FCP's constitution and governance system, including how it determines who its citizens are.

Resource Type
Citation

Prairie Public. "Indian Pride (Episode 112): Tribal Government Structure." Indian Pride television series. Prairie Public. Fargo, North Dakota. 2007. Video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEGf_AI19to, accessed July 24, 2023)

Ho-Chunk Village

Year

Through the creation of new job opportunities at Ho-Chunk, Inc., there came the need for additional housing on the Winnebago Reservation. The Ho-Chunk Village concept was developed to fulfill that void. Upon its completion, the Ho-Chunk Village's residential area will include over 110 housing units featuring single home ownership, multi-family rental and live-work units. The Ho-Chunk Village Plan site features a description of how the village was developed, the master plan, an interactive map, and a Ho-Chunk Village video tour...

Citation

Ho-Chunk, Inc. "Ho-Chunk Village." Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Winnebago, Nebraska. 2013. Website. (http://www.hochunkinc.com/village-tour.php, accessed September 11, 2013)