economic diversification

Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project

Year

A strong economy is one of the foundations of a healthy community. Native nations use business profits and tax revenues to invest in areas such as health, education, culture, and public safety programs to meet the needs of tribal citizens. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a sudden economic decline in the early 2000s forced the nation to re-examine the way in which business was being conducted on the reservation. The tribal government responded by launching Project Pueblo, a full-scale planning initiative that took a hard look at all aspects of their economy and government to find a new path forward.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project." Honoring Nations: 2010 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2011. Report.

Good Native Governance Plenary 2: The Cutting Edge of Economic Development in Indian Country

Producer
UCLA School of Law
Year

UCLA School of Law "Good Native Governance" conference presenters, panelists and participants Miriam Jorgensen, Robert Miller, and Sherry Salway Black discuss economic research in Indian Country.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Jorgensen, Miriam. "The Cutting Edge of Economic Development in Indian Country." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Miller, Robert. "The Cutting Edge of Economic Development in Indian Country." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Salway Black, Sherry. "The Cutting Edge of Economic Development in Indian Country." Good Native Governance: Innovative Research in Law, Education, and Economic Development Conference. University of California Los Angeles School of Law, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2014. Presentation.

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Ysleta, Texas produced this 16-minute film in 2013 to demonstrate how a Native American tribe can work hard with business skills and tribal customs to shape a prosperous future through education for all levels of the Tigua Nation.

Native Nations
Citation

Riggs, Patricia. "Rebuilding The Tigua Nation." Honoring Nations, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Capstone Productions Inc. El Paso, Texas. February 27, 2013. Film.

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

June 13, 2011

[Sirens/gunshots]

Narrator:

“We are the People of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We came from the open lands of what became Central New Mexico and now we live in West Texas and our lands are surrounded by El Paso, Texas.”

Saint Anthony
Feast Day

[Gunshots]

Ysleta Mission

Narrator:

“In 1680 the Spaniards forced our ancestors to move here. They built this mission church in 1682.”

Javier Loera:

“In this display we have photographs and images of our mission, of our church, which we helped build. The oldest image, it’s actually a drawing, that we have of our mission is this one in the year 1881. It was a very simple structure without the added bell tower which was added a couple years later.”

Narrator:

“For more than 300 years our people have performed corn dances on June 13th at the Feast of St. Anthony.”

[Singing/bell ringing]

Carlos Hisa:

“It’s the way of life, it’s who we are, we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years and we just continue to do it. It’s who we are as a people.”

[Singing/bell ringing]

Narrator:

“The Tigua People honor our ancestors who kept the ceremonies and traditions, also the traditions of the elaborate feast preparations, which takes weeks to prepare for. Our people come together to share in the responsibilities to prepare for the feast, which is served after the rituals and blessings at the mission. These activities show that our tribe keeps the customs and practices that we have always valued. We now live in a modern world and must balance traditions with the present day needs. The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has proven strong willed and has persevered over the changes of time.

Tiguas have been faithful to our traditions, sometimes hiding our ceremonies to avoid punishments from non-Indians. Our people have proven to be resilient time and again in our extraordinary struggle for cultural preservation.

Our struggle continued into the 1960s when a lawyer named Tom Diamond helped us get federal and state recognition as a Native American tribe.

As a declaration of tribal sovereignty and economic development efforts, the Pueblo decided to enter into casino gaming in 1993 and our financial future brightened. The State of Texas fought our right to have gaming in Texas and through a federal lawsuit managed to shut the Pueblo’s Speaking Rock Casino in 2002. The casino was profitable while in operation and provided for better healthcare, housing and education of tribal members. The Pueblo still runs Speaking Rock, but now it operates as an entertainment center.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Speaking Rock has kept us afloat during this economic struggle, both money wise and also creating jobs for our tribal members. The success would have to be free concerts. We’ve used the concerts to draw people in to actually show people that Speaking Rock isn’t closed. A lot of people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s closed. It’s not a casino no more.’ Which it isn’t, it’s an entertainment center and we do provide quality entertainment for free to customers who come in here.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Well, when we look across Indian Country we see a consistent pattern of the tribes who get their act together and really worked successfully to improve the economic and social and political and even cultural conditions in their communities and Isleta del Sur Pueblo stands out as one of these examples. They show first what all these successful tribes have is a sovereignty attitude. Their idea is, ‘We’re going to do things ourselves. We are a sovereign nation and we can govern ourselves. We’re going to take those reins and we are going to put ourselves in control of absolutely everything we can.’

Secondly, and you see this at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, they recognize that you can talk the talk of sovereignty and nation building, but you’ve got to walk the walk and what that means is you’ve got to be able to govern yourselves and govern yourselves well. And Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is an Honoring Nations award winner because it has invested very systematically in building its governmental capacity, its laws, its ordinances, its regulations, its accounting systems, its personnel policies, its judicial system in a systematic way to say, ‘We’re going to put ourselves in position so we’re not dependent on any other governments.’”

Narrator:

“Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has been building the capacity for economic growth. It has established structure and policy such as a highly capable economic development department, a small business development program and tribal ordinances dealing with corporation establishment and tax laws. The Pueblo was restored as a federally recognized tribe in 1987. Our goals are to preserve our culture, sustain our community and raise the standards of living for tribal members. We have built capacity over the years and recently established our long term economic development and nation building goals. Our entire Pueblo had input on the process.”

Patricia Riggs:

“We started this process to change and transform our community and through economic development, through education and through services and infrastructure so it was a whole comprehensive strategy that took place at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Ysleta del Sur, what you see is another thing we see across Indian Country more and more and that’s an attention to culture, making what we call cultural match. The way they govern themselves here at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is under a traditional structure with no written constitution. There is no contradiction for the Tiguas between having their traditional cacique system, no written constitution and running a very good day-to-day government because it’s founded in that traditional system. And having that cultural foundation underneath your government is absolutely critical. If it isn’t there, you’re not legitimate in the eyes of your own people and Ysleta del Sur stands out for recognizing that in everything they do they’re doing it based on and flowing from their traditions, their culture, their traditional governance systems. And then lastly, Ysleta del Sur also shows a fourth thing that stands out with tribes that are successful—leadership. Leaders not only as decision makers, but leaders as educators and the leadership at Ysleta del Sur has systematically invested in everything from the broad community to the youth with education on what it means to be a self governing Tigua nation. And so Ysleta del Sur Pueblo stands out for that sovereignty attitude, for strong capable tribal government founded on the tribe’s culture with a leadership that understands it needs to educate the people as to what this sovereignty game is all about.”

Narrator:

“In order to become effective in the modern world, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is striving to become a self determined and self sufficient Pueblo while preserving our cultural foundation. With our economic development plans now in motion, we have taken the first steps in forging a prosperous and strong Tigua nation and we have established Tigua, Inc. that operates tribal businesses.”

John Baily:

“We are the business arm for the Pueblo itself. We manage and operate all the business functions that contribute to the success of the Pueblo. We’re able to focus on a long term strategy and build that for five, 10 years out and really start implementing plans as we go down. So our goal is to develop the long term stream of profit and revenue that is repeatable regardless of the environment we’re in. We’re for real. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Patient:

“Is it going to hurt?”

Dentist:

“No, you’ll be fine.”

Narrator:

“We have increased our administrative abilities and have created a grants management and program development branch of the Economic Development Department resulting in programs that provide health and other services.”

Al Joseph:

“And we’ve managed to build 63 new housing units last year after a big infrastructure project the year before so we’ve got a lot of projects going on to the total of about $20 million worth right now. The quality of life for the average Pueblo resident I think has been greatly enhanced by the combination of construction of new housing, very affordable housing and the rehabilitation of 160 houses on the reservation has definitely improved the quality of life for the residents that have been living in those houses, some of them for as long as 35 years. They now have modern, up-to-date housing that everything works and it’s a much nicer place to live.”

Narrator:

“One part of the economic development of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is the attention our tribe gives to educating tribal members on various subjects in order to improve individual quality of life and skills for all age groups.”

Christopher Gomez:

“Things are different now because we’ve gotten on the nation building path now where we’re doing a lot of long term visioning, we’re thinking beyond what’s coming ahead the next month, the next year and we’re thinking 20, 30, 40, even 100 years down the line. What do we want Tigua culture to be in a hundred years? Where do we want to see our community? That visioning has really put things into a different perspective.”

[Singing]

Narrator:

“With our Tigua youth, we stress tribal traditions and working together.”

Christopher Gomez: [to students]

“Here we have language, social dances, Pueblo arts, Tigua history, nation building, tutoring, traditional culture, Native American games, environmental issues…”

Christopher Gomez:

“We’re thinking about the next generations now. Just like we were left a legacy from the generations that came before us who established the Pueblo, we want to make sure that we’re continuing that legacy and that our people are able to in a changing world adapt and utilize new skills to be able to carry forward the Tigua legacy and really define what that Tigua legacy is.”

Narrator:

“Our younger children learn about computers and nature from tribal program experts. We have established new programs such as pre-K and modern care facilities where children are taught general education and tribal traditions through tribal arts and crafts. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo education for our people goes hand in hand with our economic development because as we increase our understanding of Native American heritage and strengthen the businesses of our tribe, we multiply the return to our people many times. It is a great time to be a Tigua as we graduate more members from college and create higher paying jobs. Outcomes include increased revenues and more programs and better tribal member services.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“One of the things that Ysleta del Sur has done in its nation building efforts is it’s bootstrapped itself into this little engine that could, is it’s invested in communication and you can…any of us can go to their website and in their economic development section you’ll find a systematic laying out of the many steps that they’ve taken from community education, youth programs, the development of their strategic plans, the development of their laws and ordinances, the development of their new institutions, even their financial development. So Ysleta del Sur is doing a service to all tribes by providing this information in an easily accessible way and I encourage anyone who’s interested in how Ysleta del Sur has bootstrapped itself in this way, it’s on their website and it’s just a tremendous resource for anyone engaging in this challenge of building native nations.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Recently we just got accepted by our brothers up north into the AIPC, the All Indian Pueblo Council and a lot of the Pueblos up there model themselves after us. They see that we’ve been a…I guess a big hitter here in our economy and the way we go after grants and the way our money is utilized, the housing that we do, the entertainment center the way it’s operated, our smoke shop. Everything that we do, it’s being looked at and dissected and I think that’s a huge feather in our cap to say that they’re looking at us to try to correct some things on their reservations.

The powwow enlightens a lot of people on the culture, the dance, the regalia, everything that has to do with a powwow let’s people know there is a tribe here in Texas and it’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”

Narrator:

“In May 2012 our Economic Development Department opened the Tigua Business Center on tribal land in a renovated building.”

[Cheering]

Frank Paiz:

“The Tigua Business Center demonstrates the will and spirit of the Tigua people to grow and prosper. The tribal journey began at the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which resulted in our migration to an establishment of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo 1682. Since, we have been determined to preserve and continue Tigua way of life and flourish as a community."

Narrator:

“As our Tigua nation becomes stronger, we will continue our traditions and our success in this modern world.”

Carlos Hisa:

“We are Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We are a community strong with tradition and culture. We have survived in the area for over 300 years and with economic development behind us, I can very easily say that we will continue to be here for hundreds of years.”

[Singing]

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

2012 Tribal Council
Cacique Frank Holguin
Governor Frank Paiz
Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa
War Captain Javier Loera
Aguacil Bernando Gonzales

Councilmen
Chris Gomez
David Gomez
Francisco Gomez
Trini Gonzalez

Saint Anthony Dancers
Feast Preparation
Trini Gonzales Tribal Councilmen
Adult Tribal Social Dancers
Joe Kalt Harvard University
Youth Nation Building
Youth Financial Literacy Class

Pat Riggs, Economic Development Director
John Baily, CEO of Tigua Inc.

Tigua Inc. Board
Ana Perez, chair
Chris Gomez
Rudy Cruz
George Candelaria
Al Joseph

Housing Director Al Joseph
Empowerment Director Christopher Gomez
Cultural Center Dance Group
Tuy Pathu Daycare children
Pre-School Dance Group
Pow Wow Dancers

Producer
Patricia Riggs

Director
Jackson Polk

Camera
Aaron Barnes
Fernie Apodaca
Jackson Polk

TV Facilities
Capstone Productions Inc.

Funding provided by Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Honoring Nations

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation © 2013 Yselta del Sur Pueblo

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."

John McCoy: The Tulalip Tribes: Building and Exercising the Rule of Law for Economic Growth

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Former Manager of Quil Ceda Village John McCoy discusses how the Tulalip Tribes have systematically strengthened their governance capacity and rule of law in order to foster economic diversification and growth. He also stresses the importance of Native nations building relationships with other governments and non-governmental partners in order to achieve their strategic goals.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

McCoy, John. "The Tulalip Tribes: Building and Exercising the Rule of Law for Economic Growth." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 18, 2009. Interview.

Ian Record:

“Well I’m here with John McCoy who is the general manager of Quil Ceda Village, which is an economic development entity of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, and he also serves as representative for District 38 in the State of Washington legislature. I’d like to thank you for being with us today.”

John McCoy:

“I’m very happy to be here.”

Ian Record:

“I’d like to start by asking you a question that I ask of virtually everyone I sit down and chat with and that is, how would you define Native nation building and what does it specifically involve for your nation?”

John McCoy:

“Native nation building is providing whatever particular tribe it is the tools in order for them to govern themselves and provide tools like economic development for self-sufficiency.”

Ian Record:

“How about for Tulalip, what does that involve for you, that process that you just described?”

John McCoy:

“Well, at Tulalip we began a number of years ago. In the ‘80s our chairman at the time, Stan Jones, was very instrumental in getting the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988. And so with that act then, tribes started to move to build these casinos so that they can get resources to do economic development. So at Tulalip, we opened our first casino in ‘92, but we had a bingo operation that opened in ‘82, then a casino that opened in ‘92 and we began the process of diversification. And so consequently, through that diversification, we created Quil Ceda Village, which is a federal city that we created with the help of the federal government. And so that established our economic base and the need to start diversifying, because gaming could go away at the stroke of a pen on any day, any time, so we needed to diversify. So we’ve been on a quest, if you will, of diversifying our economic base. Right now, the base is primarily retail and gaming, but we need to do other things, technical, biomed, biotech, anything along those lines. And so I am working to attract those type businesses to Tulalip. So this is a long-term process, that is our vision and our goal and every now and then we’ll meet to adjust the goal. We don’t change the goal, we adjust it, and then figure out what we need to do for the next five years to get to that goal.”

Ian Record:

“So you mentioned that Quil Ceda Village, which has become the economic engine along with gaming for the Tulalip Tribes and specifically moved it down this path of economic diversification, which as you mentioned is critical to sustainability because you don’t want to be in the situation where you have that one economy or that one industry that you’re relying solely on. How did Tulalip Tribes come to the point where it said, ‘Federally chartered city, this is the way to go,’ because as far as I know, you’re the only tribe that has a federally chartered city?”

John McCoy:

“Yes, we do. In fact, there are only two federal cities in the United States: Quil Ceda Village and Washington, D.C. We’re the only two. Back in ‘94, summer of ‘94, we had a general council meeting and out of that general council meeting they told the business manager, who was me, that I was not to do any development on the interior of the reservation, I could only do development in the northeast corner of the reservation along I-5. So with that in mind, I started looking around at the properties up there in the northeast corner of the reservation. Well, at the time, a very large chunk of it was taken up by Boeing. Boeing had their test facility out there where they tested engines, where they did the shooting the chicken into the windshield, testing the covers off missile silos; they did all kinds of interesting things out there. Well, that lease was to lapse in 2001, but they had the option, their option, to extend it out to 2011. So looking at everything that had been done, and I talked with the council and they basically told me, ‘Politely ask Boeing to leave, that we need that property for our economic development.’ So I began the discussion with Boeing and they agreed that they would leave in 2001. We actually...they started their cleanup and dismantling their facilities out there and they discovered that they actually could leave by 1999. So they actually left, but they still paid us for the two years left remaining on the lease, which was nice of them. And then we proceeded about the development of Quil Ceda Village. Well, a reservation attorney and I had been having numerous conversations about, ‘How should we structure this? What would be the most advantageous to the tribe?’ And our reservation attorney, a lot of folks know Mike Taylor, he’s quite an innovative guy. And so he came and he said, ‘Well, this has never been done before and I’ve done a lot of these business deals and structures and everything.’ He said, ‘Let’s try a federal city.’ And I had to think about that, right, because no other tribe had done it. The Navajo had done one, but it was purely within their own bounds and for their own reasons; ours was to attract off-reservation businesses on to the reservation. So our structure was totally different than the Navajo model. So we created this federal city. We had to get approval of the IRS [Internal Revenue Service], Department of Justice, and Department of Interior, and that’s a very long story, but anyway, we got it done. And so we created the city and we did that for a couple reasons: to position ourselves to be able to employ our own taxes -- and a lot of folks just don’t understand tribal governments. You say 'tribal government' and their eyes roll back in their heads. They just don’t get it. They don’t...whereas almost every tribal government in the United States is structured like a state government, everybody understands state government, but for some reason when you say tribal government, they just lose it. So we created the Consolidated Borough of Quil Ceda Village and called it a municipality. Then everybody was okay with that, they understood that. And so we created a charter, we created ordinances, and we put them all online. So anybody can go to the Quil Ceda Village website and see all our ordinances and our charter and our leasing procedures. Our leasing procedures were very important because then potential tenants could go online and see what the process was, have their attorneys look at it, and then we could work on a deal. So we had something that they could see and that it was a process and they understood the process. So there was no mystery there. The only hang up that we get is that we have a very aggressive -- progressive, not aggressive -- progressive court system and so any disputes we have in the contracts they’ll be done in tribal court. Well, a lot of them balk at that. We’ve had some tenants that we really wanted, wouldn’t come in just because of that fact, but I also reminded them that their court system was hostile to me. So it’s not a good environment. I said, ‘Our court system is very progressive.’ And in fact, in ‘94 I went to West Law and asked them if they would post tribal ordinances and opinions and court decisions and all that; [they] didn’t want to talk to me. Three years ago, they come to the door, ‘Would you join us?’ And I said, 'Naturally, we’ll join you.’ And so now our opinions, ordinances and decisions are posted on West Law so that everybody can see our track record. And a number of other tribes are doing that also, which is very good for Indian Country because now everyone can see how the courts are functioning and they can have a degree of basically a predictable outcome and that way tribes will then get full faith and credit. So that’s the big deal, full faith and credit.”

Ian Record:

“So you made reference to the charters, the codes, the ordinances, the procedures that you guys had to put in place to make this very innovative approach to economic development work. Can you speak to perhaps some of the other legal infrastructures, the other political infrastructures and perhaps the capacities that you guys had to put in place to really pull this thing off?”

John McCoy:

“It was very deliberative because we had to plan everything and put it in sequence. We had to come up with a ‘governmental structure’ for the Quil Ceda Village. And so what we did is that Quil Ceda Village is a political subdivision of the Tulalip Tribes, but it has three council members. Those three council members govern what goes on in Quil Ceda Village. And so once we established that, then we got our charter done and then we started employing our ordinances. Now we employed ordinances as we need them because me as a state legislator understand that too many ordinances become an encumbrance. And so I’m trying to address some of those issues in the state government. But in Quil Ceda Village, because I have some control over it, we only issue ordinances as we run into problems or if we anticipate a problem, we see something coming down and then we’ll create an ordinance and then we’ll post it. And it’s done...that process is just like any other municipality. They have to have two open meetings and then...before the passage of the ordinance. They are public meetings. All our meetings are posted online. So we put all those in place and we’re functioning like a government. We do everything else that any other municipality does. We take care of roads, traffic lights, street lights, water lines, sewer lines and we also have a state-of-the-art sewer plant.”

Ian Record:

“You mentioned your tribal court system and how progressive it is. We’ve had occasion to bring one of your judges, Theresa Pouley, down to some of our seminars with tribal leaders and she takes them through a very powerful overview of the incredible work that they’re doing there in the court system. Can you talk about that court system and specifically what prompted Tulalip to essentially reclaim the function of justice, providing justice to the tribes? Because previous to the establishment of the current court system that was something that the State of Washington largely had control of.”

John McCoy:

“Right. For a tribal government to operate effectively, they need all the tools in the tool bag in order to be effective in the protection of their sovereignty, the treaty protections and those issues. So in ‘94, Mike Taylor again, he said, ‘John, we need to get the state to retrocede.' So I took that up and I went to Olympia and created legislation. It took me a couple years to get it passed, but they finally passed it. I kept reminding them while I was lobbying them saying, ‘There’s seven other tribes that already retroceded so you’re just adding us.’ But there were some tense moments of some very conservative-viewed people that didn’t like that idea that law enforcement, tribal law enforcement could arrest somebody. So that happened on both sides of the aisles, it just wasn’t any one party. So that took a little bit of work on my part, but we got it done. So then that allowed us to open up and create our own law enforcement department. Well, when you’re going to be doing things in law enforcement, you need a court system. So we started building the court system along with the law enforcement. We built them together. And so our court system has gotten quite progressively, like I’ve said. They do the standard court proceedings, but we also do the one step further in bringing in our culture. We have an elders' panel that reviews and works with first time offenders. So these are non-violent crimes; violent crimes have got to do the normal process, but the non-violent crimes, the elder panel will do an intervention and they will work with them and hopefully help them to see the error of their ways and that they start making the appropriate decisions. So that’s actually been quite effective and so we’re quite proud of it. And so because of the notoriety we got from our court system being honored by the Honoring [Nations] Program, we’ve had tribes from around the nation come in to see our courts and we’ve also had Afghan come to our court to view it. And one of their...the professor that...the UW professor that brought them up, through his wife, who is a state legislator, had informed me that after the visit to our court system the Afghan judge said, ‘Well, your western law’s okay, but we like that tribal court better.’ So that was quite a feather in the hat.”

Ian Record:

“And your court system over the past several years has really begun to produce some pretty dramatic results in terms of its ability to combat crime through the alternative methods, through the restorative justice approach than the predecessor did it, and it’s the kind of standard western punitive approach to justice.”

John McCoy:

“Right.”

Ian Record:

“Isn’t that right?”

John McCoy:

“Yes. So that’s why I, down in the state legislature I talk about those things down there. Why, these first-time offenders, why do we got to throw them in jail? Why don’t we have an intervention program? So the state had been doing drug courts, which were good. Unfortunately, this last session there were some budget cuts and a few of the drug courts got cut. But we need to do more of that. Tribes know how to do it. They’ve been doing them for millenniums and that’s how they...that’s what their court system was, intervention and trying to show them the error of their ways and start making more appropriate decisions. So there’s...I say that our non-Indian friends, I tell them, I said, ‘Don’t you get a little envious that you don’t have any culture? You have none. Whereas we have some culture, we have some history that for millennium and we did things like that.’ So to me it’s the right approach. That’s how it should be done. Just take the first-time offender. Most of the time it’s a young person, young people they think they’re indestructible. The world is their playpen and basically they do the right things and then for maybe 30 seconds out of their life they did something wrong. If it’s non-violent, we should intervene and help them work through that, not throw them in jail because if you incarcerate them, where are they going? They’re going in with a bunch of other bad people that really do bad things and they give their stories to this person and they pick up some more bad things to do. So let’s keep them out, let’s intervene first. If it doesn’t work, then you do the other methods.”

Ian Record:

“So just how critical are tribal justice systems overall, which include the court, law enforcement, etc., just how critical a role do they play in rebuilding Native nations?”

John McCoy:

“That is all part of the structure. That is how you...how you use and deploy, implement your sovereignty. Those are tools. This is how it leads to self-sufficiency. You have control of your destiny. You are making tribal governments make the rules. They just need a court system to help them follow the rules that they wrote, which is only appropriate because that’s what everybody else does, so why not us? So law enforcement and court systems, health systems, family services, those are all integral parts of a tribal government in order to be self-sustaining and self-governing.”

Ian Record:

“A follow-up question to that about justice systems: what role do they play in terms of supporting a Native nation’s efforts to create a strong economy, a strong sustainable economy?”

John McCoy:

“Law enforcement gives your customer base a sense of safety, that there’s somebody here to protect me when I’m there. At Quil Ceda Village during the normal week, we get over 30,000 visitors a day. During the weekend, it’s over 50,000 a day. So the mere presence of the law enforcement vehicle cruising the parking lots and the streets and everything gives everybody a sense of safety, that they’re protected and that they can come here and enjoy whatever the amenities are and not have to worry about being harmed.”

Ian Record:

“The research of the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project has found that in fact, justice systems are a critical pivotal factor in whether a Native nation can create a strong economy, one that can stand the test of time and I’m curious to know, the Tulalip Tribes are one of those regarded as having a very strong, a very independent, empowered court system. And so from that experience, I was wondering if you could speak to what you feel are the requirements of a strong, independent court system. What does it look like, what does it require? Granted it may, because of cultural reasons, it may look a little bit different from place to place, it may employ different methods, but in terms of organizationally, functionally, institutionally, what does a strong independent court system require?”

John McCoy:

“Again, you hear me say tools a lot. This is a tool. Naturally you need your judges, experienced trained judges. You need your court clerks and that they know how to run the court so that the judges can do what they do and don’t have to worry about the administration; so you need a good strong administrative section. You also need public defenders because not everybody can afford an attorney; so you need public defenders. And then, we like to think all judges judge and sentence the same way. Well, they’re human beings and on occasion they make a mistake and so consequently you need an appeal system. So you have to have an appeal system in place so that something could be appealed. Now after that appeal, if you still don’t like it, well, then that’s when you move to the federal courts. So there is redress, you have protections of public defenders, you have your prosecutor and then they all are independent. They make their decisions, then you have the judge making their decision or the jury, yes, we have juries and we have an appeal system. So that’s what really makes it strong. You have all the elements, everybody knows what their job is and they just implement.”

Ian Record:

“And doesn’t that then require tribal leadership, particularly legislators who are setting a budget, to treat and fund those justice systems as a full arm of the government and not necessarily as a program? We often hear tribal judges for instance lament the fact that ‘Where I work, they treat us as just another program,’ versus something larger and something more encompassing.”

John McCoy:

“Right. They have to be independent. They have to be independent and not worry about political consequences. So consequently at Tulalip the court system comes in, here’s the budget. So normally, without hesitation they say, ‘Okay, here’s your money.’ They can’t tell them how to spend it, they just give them the money and then they...the court administration then takes care of the budget. So you have to give them that autonomy. Same with law enforcement, you’ve got to do the same with law enforcement. ‘Here’s your money, now you go do your job.’”

Ian Record:

“And I would assume that holds true for not just the justice systems, but the other critical functions of tribal government...”

John McCoy:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“...where leadership has to, at some point, say, ‘I’m going to delegate this authority to you to carry out the long-term goals of the nation.’”

John McCoy:

“Right. So that’s where the leadership, the elected leadership, their role is set policy, their role is not day-to-day administration. They set policy, then let their organizations function. Trust them, they’ll do the right thing.”

Ian Record:

“I want to turn back to economic development for a bit. And the NNI and Harvard Project research over the past few decades has clearly shown that rules are more important than resources when it comes to building strong economies. So for instance, you can be a nation with tremendous resources, perhaps natural resources, human resources, financial resources, but if you have a lousy set of institutions or rules, you’re going to be hampered in your ability to move your nation forward. Whereas, on the flip side, you may be a nation that has limited resources, but if you put in place a really good environment of rules you can really leverage those limited resources and begin to grow your nation and move it forward. Is that something you see and perhaps one of the reasons why Tulalip has paid such great attention to this issue of rules?”

John McCoy:

“That is correct. When I first came home in ‘94, I had gone off in the Air Force for 20 years and then I worked for a large computer firm for another 12 and then I came home. The rules and regulations and policies that were in place at the time were for a government of maybe 75 people or less. But when I came home in ‘94, we were up to just a little over 200 and so...and then policies, procedures and ordinances hadn’t been updated and so they were unwieldy, they were difficult to use for a larger organization. So we set about changing those. The first one we had to do, which was the most glaring, was a new human resources ordinance. That had to be done, it was accomplished, had input from lots of folks, and so it’s a good ordinance. The only issue that I might have with it, its management is guilty until proven innocent. Everything is on the employee. So anyway, it causes the managers to be really on their toes making sure that they’re doing things right. So in that process there’s also an employee grievance system, you need that. So you need some sort of dispute resolution in there so we have a very good dispute resolution process. So the rules are published and they’re out there for everybody to follow. When someone new comes onboard, they’re given a copy. ‘Here’s your copy of the human resources ordinance,’ and we make them sign a receipt for it so they acknowledge that they got it. Now we can’t make them read it, but it’s there for them. So then there was other ordinance, the ordinance of setting up the courts, the ordinance setting up the law enforcement, those had to be accomplished and then those things that they needed to make them function. So setting up strong policies is a necessity because you need predictability. Back running...when tribes were very small, employees of two, three, 10, 20, 30 people, well, you can run it like a mom-and-pop grocery store. Well, now, tribal governments are big business. They can’t be run like a mom-and-pop grocery store. You need processes in place to remove as much of the political atmosphere as possible so that they can function with reliability and respectability.”

Ian Record:

“So from what you’re saying, those are essentially vital to the efforts of the Tulalip Tribes and other Native nations across Indian Country to move from the days when they largely relied on a dependent economy, if you will, where they’re heavily reliant on outsiders for instance for federal appropriations and transfers to get by to essentially a situation where Native nations themselves are in the driver’s seat of economic development. So it’s those codes, it’s those institutions that you talked about. Are there any other vital pieces to that puzzle of moving from that dependent economy to a productive self-sufficient economy that you can share with us?”

John McCoy:

“Sure and it’s quite simple, it’s education. One of the things that I helped Dr. Alan Parker set up, and there are a number of [them] like at the University of Arizona, that you have these classes where you put in tribal government like the Master's of Political or Public Administration. At Evergreen State there’s, I think it’s two weeks of total immersion into tribal government as part of public administration. So that way when a tribal member gets an MPA, not only do they get exposed to the non-Indian type processes, but they get exposed to good practices in Indian Country so that they understand what their role is. So education is extremely important. At Tulalip, any tribal member that wants to go onto continuing education, whether it’s into the trades, community college, four-year university, graduate school, we pay for it.”

Ian Record:

“I want to start off with a general question, which is how does collaboration or building those relationships that I just mentioned empower Native nations to advance their strategic priorities?”

John McCoy:

“Okay, as you remember your history, we’ve been here for millennia. So we’ve always been here and we’re not going anywhere. Well, they’re not going anywhere either. So we have to learn to work and play together and you do that through collaboration, by working with the surrounding communities in solving the common problems. And we do, we have common problems. So for it to be a successful endeavor, then we need these collaborations not, like I said, we’ve got our own law enforcement, we have our own courts, but we still because we interact with non-Indians, we still need their law enforcement and their court system because when we catch a bad guy on the reservation who’s non-Indian, well, we’ve got to turn them over to the state court. So we have an MOU in place between our law enforcement and the Snohomish County Sheriffs that says, if we apprehend a non-Indian, we turn them over and they have the full faith and credit of the law officer that did the apprehension that his testimony in court will be valid. So in that process if we have to put an Indian in jail, well, we don’t have our own jail so we need an agreement with the county to incarcerate our person their jail and pay for it. So court system, same thing, working with cities on water agreements, sewer agreements. So we have a lot of common issues that we need to address and being able to work so that we build a trustful relationship because if everybody around us hates us, then it’s going to be difficult for your economic engine to work. So you have to work hard. It’s okay to say, ‘I’m Indian and this is my land,’ but we need your help and support. So you have to educate them about yourself so they know who they’re working with and then you can build these collaborative relationships.”

Ian Record:

“We see the sentiment out there in Indian Country and I think we’re seeing it less and less, but that tribal sovereignty means you need to insulate yourself and you need to kind of be those islands within surrounding hostility and therefore if you enter into some of these MOUs for instance with the state jurisdiction or local municipality you’re somehow relinquishing your sovereignty by doing that or by compromising your ideal solution if you will. But aren’t in fact those sorts of initiatives that Tulalip Tribes and many other tribes are taking more and more, aren’t those in fact an expression of sovereignty because you as a tribal government, as a nation are making that sovereign choice to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to engage this group. We’re going to engage this group, we’re going to develop this relationship in order to advance our strategic priorities’?”

John McCoy:

“That’s correct. At Tulalip, we view these collaboration efforts as strengthening our sovereignty. We’re not creating... Yes, in essence we’ve created an island, but it’s a seamless border because we’ve cross-deputized our officers; they can go on and off the reservation. In fact, yesterday the Washington State Supreme Court, even without an agreement, a tribal law enforcement [officer] can continue a fresh pursuit off reservation and that was a decision yesterday by the Washington State Supreme Court. So yes, in essence, if you want to look at a political boundaries and things, yes, it’s an island, but it’s how you employ it by collaborations, agreements, then those are just lines that can be crossed easily back and forth. And in Tulalip’s opinion, it strengthens our sovereignty because we’re getting recognition of our borders, of our jurisdiction.”

Ian Record:

“And it’s ultimately about solving problems. And I know from my research on Tulalip that you’re undertaking these sorts of efforts not just with other jurisdictions, but with other parties in order to solve problems, other private interests and a great example of that is the anaerobic digester plant. I hope I pronounced that correctly. This project that you developed working with some traditional adversaries, the local dairy farmers, who you, previous to this project, had battled for years on the issue of water and water quality. Can you talk a little bit about that project and how it came about and how it’s serving the interests of the nation?”

John McCoy:

“Okay, well, the dairymen actually came to us through our Natural Resources Department and they came to us and to me and we began the discussion. And we put it together because it was the right thing to do. We didn’t want any more animal waste going into rivers and streams. Well, how do you do that? Well, your farm’s got to be big enough to where you put it out on the fields and plow it under and enrich the earth, but they had more dairy product than they had land. So what do we do with this? Well, so we decided to work with the dairymen on this project. So as what I had to do, we had to find some land near the dairymen. Well, out there near the dairymen is the Monroe State Penitentiary. Well, they had what they called an honor farm, which was the dairy farm that provided milk for the prison. Well, that turned out to be not as cost effective and so the Monroe honor farm was decommissioned. So what are we going to do with the land? Well, we went to the state and said, ‘The tribe...’ -- now this was before I was elected -- and asked, ‘Can we have the land because you’re getting ready to declare it excess and in the rules, state and federal, tribes are at the top of the list to get excess property and we would like to use it to build an anaerobic digester on it.’ So we take the cow manure out of the system and we create methane gas, which we’ll filter, which will drive a turbine engine to generate electricity.’ So we started that process. Then I got elected and helped pass the bill to make it happen. So as long as that property is used for alternative energy, we can have the land, but if we do something else with it then it reverts back to the state. And it just so happens, I was approached by students from Seattle University that want to go out and do some algae experiments, which is alternative energy. They don’t want to do the traditional turning algae into a bio diesel; they want to look at other processes for algae. That’s a great idea so I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that.’ So we’re setting that process up in place right now. But the anaerobic digester is up and running. I had to change map metering law that allows for a generation facility that’s not on the dairy farm, but the dairy farms still get credit for the electricity that’s generated and so we got that law changed. Naturally, it was for the entire state not just for Tulalip, it’s the entire state. So a number of jurisdictions have enjoyed that map metering process and they’re quite happy with it. So the dairymen reduced their electrical cost because they’re generating electricity, then we’re also creating from the solids that are left, we take out, mix it with a little dirt, bag it up and sell it as fertilizer. So it all gets used.”

Ian Record:

“And the revenue from that is, from my understanding, being plowed back into some of your natural resource restoration programs.”

John McCoy:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“Because the ultimate goal, from what I understand, is that you want to improve the water quality of the local watersheds in order to bring the salmon back or at least have them come back at a much greater rate.”

John McCoy:

“Right. We’re doing a number of infrastructure projects for salmon enhancement like the membrane sewer plant that we installed. We just had a study done that gave us a draft of it from the University of Washington and Western Washington University that the output does remove pharmaceuticals including disruptors, birth control pills. And so with these reports done, now we should be able, be permitted to discharge straight into streams and rivers because the output exceeds federal drinking water standards. It’s actually too warm for salmon and it’s actually too clean for salmon, so we’re going to put it into a wetland to cool down and get a little nutrients and then let it flow into streams and rivers. And because of that plant that we put in, we convinced the city of Seattle to change their Bright Water Project over to a membrane technology. And other jurisdictions around us have come and visited and looked at it and said, ‘This is great, we’re going to go this direction.’”

Ian Record:

“So you’re becoming a model not just for other tribes, but other governments everywhere.”

John McCoy:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“That’s fantastic. I wanted to finish up with a short discussion on your experiences, trials and travails, as a state legislator. Being a Native American and a state legislator you’re in a very small group, but a growing group.”

John McCoy:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“And I was curious to know, get your advice perhaps, on what Native nations and leaders can do to advance their priorities through the state legislative arena. You have experience on both ends of the spectrum, both as a tribal leader and as a state legislator. What advice can you give them in terms of perhaps advancing more effectively their priorities in that arena?”

John McCoy:

“Well, my advice to them all is to create a governmental affairs office to where these folks just work on policy, that they work with legislatures, with county governments, with other city governments because you need to touch them all because they pass laws that infringe on the tribal sovereignty. So you need to be there to educate them so that they modify their law to where it does no harm to the tribal sovereignty. They’re not doing, my personal opinion, 99 percent of them are these laws that infringe on tribal sovereignty is done out of ignorance, not maliciousness. It’s out of ignorance. Once you inform them, educate them on the issue, then they adjust their language to where they do no harm. So they need to be at the city level, the county level, the state level and we’ve always done the federal level. So we need to get down into the state level. This last year, New Mexico passed, codified their agreement between the governor and the tribes on how they’re to interface with one another, they codified it. And I was still in session and I got the email saying they codified it. I said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that because we’ve got the same thing.’ So this year I am going to try to move legislation to codify Washington State’s Centennial Accord, which is our version of the framework on how the governor and the tribes interface with one another. So I want to codify that. The only thing different that I’m going to do in my bill is that I’m going to add a legislative interface. New Mexico didn’t and I’ve talked to their New Mexico legislators and they say, ‘Yeah, on second thought maybe we should have added that,’ so they may add that at a later date. But I’m going to start off with the legislative interface and I want to set up a committee that meets during the interim, not during session, during interim on the tribal issues and what pieces of legislation they may see. Now this committee that I want to set up is only made up of chairs of committees because they control what legislation goes through. So if you get them indoctrinated, educated on what the tribal issues are and what legislation they’re going to move, then they’ll have the background on it, why it’s needed and so it should help move these things through. When I first went to the legislature and I went through freshmen orientation, it was five days long and at the end of it I raised my hand and I said, ‘Where’s your Indian Law 101? You’ve got 29 tribes in the State of Washington and you did not have one word about Indian Law 101.’ So, I convinced the chief clerk, ‘You need Indian Law 101 in your freshman orientation,’ and now it’s part of the freshmen orientation. It’s not on the Senate side. I’m still working on them, but I’ve got to get that one done over there, too.”

Ian Record:

“This sounds really fascinating what you’re talking about with this education of the decision makers, the outside decision-makers that make decisions that influence tribes in a variety of ways. Would you recommend as well though that Native nations begin to think more aggressively when it comes to cultivating members of their own nations to actually pursue the sorts of positions that you currently hold in the state legislature? Isn’t there a direct role that they can play as well?”

John McCoy:

“Oh, yes. Whenever I’m at NCAI [National Congress of American Indians], NIGA [National Indian Gaming Association], NIEA [National Indian Education Association], I’m talking to everybody. ‘You need to run for office. You need to get more people in the state legislature, on county commissions, need them there.’ So in Washington State in Whatcom County, there’s a Native American on that. There’s three of us in the state legislature. There’s one running for city council in Pierce County. So they’re starting to run, it’s coming up. When I got elected in 2002, there were only 23 of us nationwide. Today, there’s almost 80 of us. And I happen to be chair of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. So I am proud to see it grow. About 25 to 30 are very active in the caucus. This is a non-partisan caucus, so we have both parties are in there and we just talk about tribal issues and how do we work with our counterparts on getting legislation passed. And I think we’re becoming very effective at doing that. So we continue to grow. The organization also includes Native Hawaiians because they have the same issues that we do, but they don’t have their sovereignty yet. That’s being worked on. But anyway, so we’re interfacing, we’re helping each other with legislation and I personally believe it’s a valuable tool now and we need more.”

Ian Record:

“Well, John, I really appreciate your time. This has been quite an education and thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom and your perspectives with us.”

John McCoy:

“Yes, thank you. I really enjoyed it and everything connected with your organization, NNI and Honoring [Nations] Program. Great programs, I love them and I can’t speak high enough of them. You guys are doing a great job, too.”

Ian Record:

“Well, thank you.”

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Jamie Fullmer (Part 2)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer, former chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, shares what he wished he knew before he first took office, and offers some advice to up-and-coming leaders on how to prepare to tackle their leadership roles. He also discusses what he sees as some keys to Native nations developing diversified, self-sufficient economies that can be sustained over time.  

Ian Record:

"So, Jamie, you served two terms as chairman of your nation. I was wondering if you could share with us what you wish that you knew before you took office that first time."

Jamie Fullmer:

"That's a great question. There's a lot of things I wished I knew before I took office, but when it gets right down to it I think that politics is a unique and challenging role, because in essence you're a public servant to the community, but you also have responsibilities as a public figure. And so I think one of the initial challenges was not recognizing how much of both of those things took of my time and my life and so had I known that before I would have been able to prepare for it before getting into office. But it consumes you rather quickly and your time becomes very precious because you have few moments of time to yourself and you have few moments of time when you're not expected to be in the public setting. And so with that said, I think that's the first thing I wish I had known before taking office. I think the other thing is, having never been involved in politics, not really knowing the process of any of the formal processes of running government, and so it was kind of a 'learn and lead at the same time' process, and if I would have been able to know initially what kind of steps I could have taken I might have been able to do some homework and really have a good feel of how to move the legislative process forward, how to take advantage of team building opportunities early on, and then also I think learn more about how to better enhance the institutional framework of information sharing. Not only being able to have access to it, but having everybody else have access to it so that we were on the same page when we were dealing with political issues or community issues or economic development issues in that sense."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned time management and we've heard this from other tribal leaders that that's one thing that you just...you can't anticipate in many respects coming into the job. I remember Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of the Navajo Nation, said once that that really puts the onus on you as the tribal leader to first prioritize your work and then in those places where you can, delegate your work to those people that are within the administration of government who've been hired to do those sorts of things."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. The delegation issue is sometimes challenging, because even in the delegation process you have to meet and learn and get to know the staff and they may not be staff that you've chosen. And some political systems have a system where a new leader comes in and they're able to choose their executive team. Our system wasn't like that. The executive team that's in place is what you work with and it's really a council decision to choose those folks. Of course the chairman has a say, but if there are people already in existing positions you'd like to hope...especially in my case, I believed that the chairman before me had good sense of who they wanted. And so if they felt it was good for the nation, I respected that I could keep that same frame of thought. That challenging part though is getting to know who has the skill sets in different areas. They might have a certain title, but they might have skill sets in other areas that are a good fit for delegation of duties. And I think the other process in that is that there's the time management issue, it's also important to have good support staff to help manage the front end, the telephones, the documentation that comes in in stacks daily, and kind of arranging a schedule that helps you to meet not only your daily priorities, but also to address any of the community issues that come up where members want to have some time with the chairman in the office, and then arranging that with the travel that's necessary to do business on behalf of the tribe. So you live in a suitcase part of the time and then when you're home, you're really relying on others to keep you on track and on task."

Ian Record:

"What advice would you give them? It's somebody that's never served in an elected office before -- what advice would you give them as somebody who's either considering running for office or say they do get elected and are getting set to take office, what advice would you provide?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think the best advice I would give in starting out is [to] remember the promises that you make you have a responsibility to keep. And so I believe that part of the political process is one of the challenges we face, because there's so many promises made in the pursuit of getting elected -- both in Indian Country and we've seen a lot of promises going on right now during the election season at large -- but when you get into office you are only a part of something that's much bigger than one individual and you can play an important part and you can play a very important role in the advancement of your nation, but the advice I would give them is, "˜Be aware and take the time to learn what the struggles are, take the time to learn what the system needs to help it move forward, and before you make any promises to the community, take the time to learn if those promises can be met.' And I think that's an ongoing challenge, so that I thin, that's an important part. It's also valuable and what I would tell the person is, be ready to commit your time. You're raising your hand and swearing an oath to your people, to your nation, and to God that you're going to follow through to the best of your abilities and it's a challenge to give the best of your abilities all the time. And so I think you need to figure out at the front end how you deal with your down time and how you deal with your low moments so that you can keep a good presence about you as a leader."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned the fact that keeping promises is really important once you take office, the promises that you make maybe on a campaign trail or as part of your platform to get elected, and you began to touch on this. Doesn't that make it your job to be very careful about what promises you make and really think strategically about the promises in terms of are they promises to maybe just a certain portion of the citizenry or are they promises to the entire nation, because as an elected official are you not representing the entire nation?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"That's a challenging question, because I think that obviously you serve your entire nation, but many tribes are organized where there are clans and there are familial priorities that take place, there might be village priorities, and so you may be really wanting to get in to address those issues. And depending on if it's a council position, that might be your role as a district councilor or as a village councilor, and so you do go in on those points that you're prioritizing. So with that said, I think the way that I reached out to the community was through goals. I had set goals based on what I had heard that the community wanted and that I felt like could be achieved in the period of time of the term in office or at least get some headway on historical processes that had gone on that hadn't been completed. And so there were some things that were challenges that I felt that I had the skills to help address and to put closure to that other leaders and other councils long before me had established and put into place and then there were other issues that had been initiated over time that I felt like needed to be at least started to being addressed. And so, rather than making promises because it's too difficult to make a promise, it was goals that I had set for myself and for our nation that if I were elected I would work on those goals."

Ian Record:

"And those two different terms send very different messages to your citizens, to your constituents don't they?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so because the goal is something you work toward, a promise is something that you try and keep."

Ian Record:

"Yeah. And you also mentioned this approach that you took when you took office which was continuing the priorities and the initiatives of previous administrations and that's not an approach that every tribal elected official takes. In fact, we've seen many that take the exact opposite approach. And I was wondering if you could talk about the difficulties you ran into with that or if it made your job easier, the fact that you were building on the momentum that had been generated before you came along."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think there's a point that's important. Really for me it wasn't about having the credit for getting anything, it was having our nation have the credit. And so my role was as the chairman, in my opinion, was to go in and assess our government, assess our enterprises, assess our community, assess our programming and look for areas that I could help strengthen it. And it didn't matter whether I was to start it or if it had been started by somebody else. It was obviously a priority to the community if it was already in place. And so maybe those needed to be updated or changed or some of the structures needed to be adjusted, but the idea wasn't to do any of that with the intent of getting credit for it. It was doing that because it needed to be done and accepting on the challenges that the community had set upon me about getting...there were certain priorities that they wanted addressed and so I felt it important to address those that I could."

Ian Record:

"You've been working with a number of tribes across the country, particularly in the Southwest and Pacific regions, on diversifying their economies. In that capacity -- in working with other tribes and also based on your experience with your own nation -- I was wondering if you could paint a picture for us of what you believe a full-fledged Native nation economy looks like."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. One of the challenges, the initial challenge that I see is that people have a different viewpoint of what 'economy' means. There's a lot of different arenas that are placed around the idea of an economy, but from a governmental perspective and from a societal perspective, that economy is a tumbling effect whereby, when revenues come into the system, those revenues advance themselves throughout the system. And I'll give an example: money generated from gaming comes to run the government. There should be something...then the government pays its employees and then those employees use that money to buy goods and services or pay bills. And so from an economic point of view, your ambition is to keep the money that's generated in a nation in that nation as long as possible. And so from that point of view, the economies are built to create more opportunity and generate more cash flow and protect the money that has come into the nation and keep it there for awhile. With that said, economic development is the process by which tribes create those kinds of business enterprises that will generate that opportunity.

And a lot of times, what gets confused there is the idea of economy has taken on, at times, the viewpoint of small business development. And I am definitely for small business development, I think it's a central part of an economy, but there are also other ways that generate economy, like creating infrastructure creates a baseline to build small businesses on, building housing creates opportunities for people to stay in the community so that they can pay and live in the community, which creates another set of economic values. You also bring in your, you keep your talent pool localized when you have job and work opportunities for those folks; they don't have to move away to go get a decent job. And so there are a lot of things tied to economy but I think the...my idea as a strategist and what I do with my company is we really focus on where the tribe's at and its structure, because economies are really tied to strong structures and institutionalized systems. They're really planned out and thought because there's a lot of money at stake in any type of venture -- business venture, enterprise development venture, acquiring businesses -- and so government is usually a reactive type of system, most bureaucracies are reactive in nature because they're political and business is more proactive in nature because it's usually driven by goals and end-production processes. You want to reach a certain budget, you want to reach a certain level of profit, you want to reach a certain level of job creation. And so with that said, there's more planning that takes place at the front end.

So from a tribal perspective and looking at tribes as nations, as sovereigns with the ability to create whatever they'd like, economic development to me takes on a number of scenarios. One is developing a strong government of laws, which include economic development, commercial laws, corporate laws, zoning laws, taxing laws, any other kind of law that can benefit the nation as a government. With that said, then you also have to have the legal system that can enforce those laws. A solid legal system is another key component to a strong economy. Another piece to that as well as that is the ability to create opportunities for individual members within the tribe to build business and so creating programming that will raise the initiative to have small business and entrepreneurship in the community. Those are other opportunities. And the government itself being proactive in supporting and promoting business within the community really takes on another level of public relations and commitment to helping to share information about the tribe and the tribe's capabilities and abilities, because many times when tribes are trying to develop an economy they want income and finances from other places to come in to generate more income locally. And so if you're looking for investors or partners or joint venture opportunities, it's very important for a tribe to recognize that they're going to be scrutinized by outsiders if they choose to take that path."

Ian Record:

"So really what you're...within this discussion of laws and institutions and structures and infrastructure, you're really describing essentially an environment-based approach to economic development and not just a venture-based approach to economic development, where you as a tribal council are trying to figure out, "˜Well, what business are we going to get into?' But really what you're saying is that tribal leaders need to be focusing on, "˜Let's create this environment for economic opportunity, whatever that opportunity might encompass.'"

Jamie Fullmer:

"You are exactly right with that point of view, because the environment is where the government has the most control, creating the laws, creating the systems, creating the policies that guide the direction. With that proper environment, the tribe or its members or private investors who come in to do business in the tribe have an opportunity to actually be successful because the environment is an environment of success. And so with that thoughtful planning at that -- in the environmental process -- it allows your economic development arm or your planning arm or whatever a tribe calls it, some call them 'authorities' and some call them 'enterprises' or 'boards,' it allows that arm to really do a good and effective job, because first of all they have something that they can go and promote and secondly, it challenges them to stay strategic in their thinking. If you have a specific zone where commerce can happen, you know the limits and the boundaries of where to do the commerce. It's just one example."

Ian Record:

"I also wanted to follow up on another point from what you were just talking about and that is you were describing this tumbling effect that you should be building towards in terms of how you structure your economy and you mentioned this point where the tribal government, for instance, or the nation raises revenues through gaming or whatever other enterprises it may have. It may, for instance, collect taxes on sales by citizen-owned businesses, whatever the form of revenue might be, comes in the tribal government, it funds that government, it pays the salaries to those tribal employees and then you mentioned those employees go out and buy goods and services. And this is where the research shows, this is where that tumbling effect tends to stop in so many nations because there aren't places on reservation to spend money on goods and services. Isn't that really one of the biggest challenges that Native nations face is creating those on-reservation outlets for consumer spending?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"There is that challenge, but I think in that challenge there's also a broader challenge that we many times in Indian Country all over America don't view the value of us buying from each other, doing business with one another, purchasing goods and services from tribal members or Indian-owned businesses, because that's part of a larger economy, the Indian Country economy. And I believe that when Indian Country comes to terms with adding that type of value and seeing the value in really committing to ourselves and our own success that we will have the ability to create a very powerful economy, sub-economy in the United States. But breaking that down to the individual level and the individual tribe, if the money that is made from whatever enterprise the tribe has only comes in and it goes directly out, it only benefits the tribe in that one sense. If that money were to come in, for example...an example that's challenging, but that some tribes have done would be a valuable one is a bank where people, where the money's made and then they store their money in the tribal bank. Well, now the tribe has access to use that money to do other kinds of investment and lending and create another revenue stream. A mall that has groceries and services that the community and the employees of the tribe would use is another way because you create...the money stays in the community, people spend it there, and you create more jobs with the same original money that was brought in, but it has now doubled its value. And so the ambition of a tribe should always be to see how they can vertically integrate the economy so that it will...there's an opportunity for it to stay there and it can be broken down in a number of arenas. Tribes buy all kinds of different products and goods and services. It would seem reasonable that they are able to create business opportunities for themselves as a tribal government owning enterprises or for membership and buying and selling those goods and services from individual Indian tribal members or other tribal enterprises or their own tribal enterprise."

Ian Record:

"You're working with the American Indian Business Network, which is an initiative of the National Indian Gaming Association on this issue of Native nations and Native citizens 'buying Native,' and really on a more macro level where you're talking about an Indian country-wide proposition, where it's not just Native nations and people buying internally within their own nation but actually buying from other nations. So I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about the motivation behind that project and how it's taking shape so far."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. I'm real proud of National Indian Gaming Association's commitment to developing the American Indian Business Network firstly because they are very close to a very powerful economic tool for Indian Country -- which is gaming -- and they see the value in tribes diversifying their economies. With that said, the American Indian Business Network was created by NIGA as a separate entity owned and operated by NIGA to develop a network whereby tribes could partner and do business with one another, that they could promote and establish a way to sell their own products and services of their tribal-owned businesses that they have and then also to look at partnering with other Indian businesses and also really for the small business owner or the entrepreneur that tribes would consider purchasing goods and services from those Indian-owned businesses. And with that said, with all of those levels of involvement and investment, we're really ultimately helping Indian Country, all of Indian Country by doing that because all along that chain, that food chain, Indian households and Native American families are being fed. And so we're really being more self-serving and self-sufficient, but not only that, we're also able to help the non-Indian economy because many of our employees are non-Indians, many of the businesses that we have are in partnership with non-Indians, there's a lot of non-Indian investment in Indian Country, and so the idea is not to exclude people or to make it exclusive, but to make it inclusive where Indian tribes, their enterprises, their buying power and their selling power gives a value to sharing resources across the country in one form or another, which could lead to a number of different opportunities. But just the concept is a very powerful one where we're not just looking, we're not just saying, "˜I want to take care of my tribe.' We're saying, "˜We want to take care of all tribes,' not by saying we're going to have to spend all of our money on other tribes, but by saying that we're willing to commit to buying Indian goods and services when they're at the same quality and level of the non-Indian goods and services."

Ian Record:

"So it sounds like a rather immense, untapped economic opportunity that will have kind of transcendent benefits not just for Native nations, but for the larger economy."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so, yes."

Ian Record:

"I would like to talk about another topic, broach another topic that's rather sensitive in a lot of Native communities, particularly among those who have experienced this newfound wealth and prosperity through gaming, and that's the issue of per capita distributions of tribal revenues. Yavapai-Apache Nation has a per capita distribution policy where it distributes a certain portion of its revenues to individual citizens, I believe on an annual basis, is that right?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"Yeah, that's correct."

Ian Record:

"On an annual basis. And I was wondering if you could talk about how Yavapai-Apache Nation went about developing the policy, what it took into account when developing that policy, and how the policy and how the process of distribution actually takes place."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. The per capita distribution and obviously the tribe's process of distribution was created for the membership -- and I won't get into any details to that because it's not my place or my authority -- but the distribution process was established because the community itself, as shareholders of the casino enterprise, felt as though there should be some distributions of that wealth. And the leaders over time had made commitments to doing that. When I got into office, it was very apparent that that was one of the things that was a priority to the people to get done. And so I made it one of my top and I think it was my first major initiative to move forward in office. The idea behind it was is that if we viewed the tribal membership as owners or shareholders of a corporation or a major enterprise -- which they are -- we viewed it much like a stock program in a private corporation whereby every year when business enterprises do well they might give their shareholders a revenue, a dividend, where they're sharing the dividend and that's how we really viewed it, that there's a percentage taken from the casino revenues and distributed to members each year at the end of the year based on the profit. And so with that said, I think the challenges; there were a number of challenges.

The first one is that when we put it together, there's the challenge of going through the process with BIA, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs takes its time in approving these kind of things, and so that was a challenge. And then internally the debate was, "˜How do we treat the dollars with respect to the individuals? Do we just give it to the adult members, do we give it to all members, is there any parameters that we want to put around the money?' Because it's not a lot of money. The council members at the time said, "˜We'd like to get the program started and we'd like for it to be shared and provided to all members.' With that said, we had to create a minors' trust program and so in that trust, there's an accountability of the money that comes in each year and how it's preserved for the individuals until they turn 18, which is the age that we gave and those dollars are accounted for by a separate accounting system. And I think the protections that we put into place or the monies don't come in through the tribal government, they go directly from the casino to the per capita account and then the money is distributed from there. And so that is helpful, too, to protect the integrity of the separation because it was approved, it was agreed on in our revenue allocation plan with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and so we really stay steadfast to that. And at the time, when we rolled it out, I think the challenge was is the people I'm sure wished that it was more than what it was and then I think the next challenge is that as we moved along we learned more about it because we would say, we would just...when we started, we wanted to get it out. And then along the way over the years we would kind of adjust it as needed, but the first year, the first issue was, "˜What if you turn 18 in the middle of the year? Do you get the money at the end of the year or do you have to wait?' And so that was one challenge. And then the next...so we had to set some timeframes on. If you turn 18 by a certain time during the year you are eligible for the dollars at the end of the year. So that was one challenge.

And I think another challenge was in dealing with elderly issues, that it might affect their Social Security benefits, and so we did try and find ways to manage that as well. But because it's young -- I think it's only been in place around four years or so now, maybe five -- but it was, we knew that we would have to work out some kinks and I think when it will be an impactful decision making down the road will be for those very young people that were maybe not even born or born when we started it that they'll have 18 years worth of revenue saved for them and at that point they may want to start considering some...putting in some safeguards for the individual, some requirements for them to get their money and those kind of things. But I think all in all, there's a lot of different positions on whether per capita is good or whether it's not good. I think in our case, because we viewed it as a distribution based on a shareholding, we had a little different viewpoint on it. Our ambition wasn't to subsidize the individual's life, it was to share in the overall profit of the, in our case, the casino. And so my own self, I have my own mixed emotions about whether it's good or bad, because I'm more in line with that the funds could be better spent providing programming, but I also recognize that the whole idea of gaming was to create an opportunity for quality of life of members. And so as you know and as we all know, every little bit counts, especially these days with everything being so expensive. And so if we create job opportunities, we create education opportunities, we provide social programming, and we are able to give distributions to help enhance the quality of life, then it's a positive thing."

Ian Record:

"You touched on a couple of the issues that the Native Nations Institute -- which recently published a policy paper on per caps and what Native nations needs to be thinking about as they develop their policies -- you touched on a couple of these critical issues. One of which is, when you issue a per capita distribution -- for instance particularly one that may fluctuate based upon the performance of the businesses or the enterprises from which the revenue for those distributions is coming from -- you have to be careful about what that's going to do to the eligibility of certain of your citizens for programs that they rely very heavily upon like Social Security."

Jamie Fullmer:

"The other challenge to that is if you expect...if you receive this much the year before and you only receive this much the following year, nobody's really happy about that. So one of the challenges as well is just growth, population growth. If you have a set percentage that you give and even if you make more revenues, if you have more births or enrollments in the year, it's still going to decrease the total payout. And so sometimes people assume that we are making less money when in fact, we're making more money, but we're growing faster than the money's growing."

Ian Record:

"Yeah and that's...I believe Native Americans are the fastest-growing population in the United States. That's going to be a huge challenge for those nations that issue per capita distributions moving forward, is it not?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I would think so, and I'm not real privy to any other distributions and values, but I would think that just that natural growth, something's got to give. If you've got a limited amount and you're growing here, well, something's got to give, whether it's programming or actual dollar distributions or both. It really depends on how well the tribe is planning for the future and that growth."

Ian Record:

"And it really gets back to this issue that we talked about earlier in our discussion about citizen education really, that you have to...because these issues like per capita distributions, these governing decisions that you have to make or at least lead in as elective leaders that you have to educate the citizens about what exactly all of this means. For instance, why is the per capita distribution amount down this year, or what does it mean when we're doing a performance based per cap or a profit based per cap based on a percentage of the revenue versus a flat amount every year?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"That is again another struggle area because not everybody understands money, especially in the context of being one piece of a percentage. And it's challenging for those that understand money and so it's even more challenging for those that don't, and I'm talking about the percentages and how the common person in their thinking, they think about themselves and, "˜Hey, my check's less than it was last year. We must be making less.' That's the common sense approach to things, but when you look at the bigger picture and you realize and recognize that, as you said, if it's performance based, if the performance isn't as good, it's going to go down. If the performance is as good and you've grown and your membership has outgrown the dollar amount, it's still going to go down and so there might be two reasons that it's going down, two very different reasons. One is maybe a not so good of a reason, the other one is a good reason. Having great performance and growing as a nation is what we hope to do. So again that leads into the whole idea of diversifying where tribes should be considering, how do they create other opportunities, not just for per capita, but if the tribe itself is growing and continuing to grow then all of the programming is going to be effected: the education programming, the health care programming, the social programming, how the governments are staffed, staffing issues, the space allocations, the building sizes. You can go on down the list all the way down to the size of the pipes for sewage and water and it's not a bad thing to grow, but it's an expensive thing to grow and I believe that's one of the challenges, getting back to the challenge of the finances, is the common citizen doesn't take that into account. And sometimes when you lay it out there and it is statistically done and drawn out, it's hard for people to really connect to how those statistics affect the future growth."

Ian Record:

"So it seems to be two things that jump out of what you're saying about trying to meet that challenge or fight that struggle is strategic thinking and planning first of all: anticipating what the demands are going to be on tribal governance and tribal administration moving forward with the rapidly growing population, the strains that's going to put on programs, services, infrastructure, etc. And then it's the issue of not just citizen education, but education in laymen's terms, that most every citizen can understand."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Financial education is a very important next step for Indian Country, well, the whole country, but when we focus on Indian Country, that's a great next step because tribes have gone from over the last several decades, many of them were very poor and there was a lot of poverty. There still is a lot of poverty. I don't want to take away from that, but for those tribes that have been able to climb out of poverty, now they have to learn how to protect their wealth. It's not just a matter of generating it, but how do we protect it once we've generated it because it is very easy to spend. They always say, the more money you make, the more money you spend. It's very easy to spend the money when it comes in because there are always needs and there are always wants that people believe are needs and so there's a never-ending demand for services and programming and opportunities for members. But at some level, the institution, the government, the Native nation government needs to look at how do we prepare for our future growth. So they have to do some trending, they have to investigate their current size, they have to investigate their future needs, whether it's land needs or water needs or space needs, they have to look at the need for civic buildings and growth in that area and then they need to look at what kind of enterprises do we need to do. A couple of things: bring in more revenue to the tribe itself and bring in more opportunity for the tribal members. And so that isn't just increasing per capita, it's increasing the quality of life per individual. And that's I believe most of our goals as leaders is our ambition is to create a quality of life for our people that is comparable to what's around us."

Ian Record:

"And ultimately, as a nation, it's really about promoting independence and self-sufficiency not just as the collective, but among individuals."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. I think there's a little bit of I guess it would be backlash at times when a tribe becomes wealthy, people get angry about that. And it's really challenging in America that's supposed to be a country that is proud that people can go from poverty to wealth and they promote it in every other major arena and every other major setting, but when Indian tribes become wealthy, there seems to be a backlash that we don't deserve to be as wealthy as the other individuals that have wealth. I think that's another challenge that we face is we're still viewed as...that we may still carry on some of this second-class citizen status when we're well beyond that in the 21st century."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to wrap up with...first of all, I want to get your response to a quote and this is a quote that we heard first from, we've heard it from several tribal leaders, but we heard it from one in particular, Chief Helen Ben from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council up in Saskatchewan, and this really gets it back to this issue of governing institutions and she said, "˜My job as a leader is to make myself dispensable.' And really what she was getting at is, "˜My job as a leader,' and she expounded upon this, "˜is to put our nation in a situation where we have that infrastructure,' that you've been talking about, 'that environment in place of rules and policies and codes where when I leave office not everything falls apart.' There's a sense of stability and continuity there. And I was wondering if you could address that issue with respect to your own nation and what's going on in that respect."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think that my nation has been around for a long time, and there's been a lot of strong leaders and it's traditionally and culturally appropriate for us to have strong leaders. I think there's a balance between leadership and having a strong institution. Ultimately, I believe you need both because you can have a great institution, but if there isn't leadership steering it and keeping it moving and accepting the challenges that come up, then it can also stagnate. So I don't think that leadership is ever indispensable in my opinion. I think that leadership is a necessary part of everything that we do. With that said, a strong institution sure makes it a heck of a lot easier to be a strong leader and because you know what it is that you're wanting to accomplish and you know how to put to work the institution so that it can bring about the changes that the people want and need. And I think finally -- in my own nation as I said -- my ambition as the chairman was just to be a part of the growth, the ongoing growth, and I've never seen myself as anything more than that, never wanted to be more than that. That if I could say in my life that I contributed to my nation's growth in some way, then I feel like I have done my responsibility, and that holds true throughout my life. I feel like I can offer those same kinds of contributions to Indian Country as a whole and that's why I do what I do as the owner of Blue Stone Strategy Group. But back to the whole point of, I do believe that you have to have leadership, but I also believe that if you have a capable institution that you can plug folks into leadership roles, and as long as they have the necessary skills and ambition that there can be successes."

Ian Record:

"So in a nutshell what you're saying is that good governing institutions essentially empower the leaders to be effective."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so. And there are those magnanimous figures out there that can, they don't need all of that around them to make it tick, but most of the people that sure does empower them to make wise and thoughtful decisions as opposed to reactive and crisis-oriented decisions."

Ian Record:

"Well, Jamie, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us. I've certainly learned a lot and I think Native nations and leaders across Indian Country will learn a lot from your thoughts and perspectives on not only what your own nation has been doing, but what's going on in Indian Country. We'd like to thank Jamie Fullmer for joining us today on this episode of Leading Native Nations, a program, a radio program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit our website: nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us." 

Honoring Nations: Loren Bird Rattler, Ray Montoya and Jay St. Goddard: Siyeh Corporation

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Representatives from the Siyeh Corporation present an overview of the corporation's establishment and growth to the Honoring Nations Board of Governors in conjunction with the 2005 Honoring Nations Awards.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Bird Rattler, Loren, Ray Montoya, and Jay St. Goddard. "Siyeh Corporation." Honoring Nations Awards event. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Tulsa, Oklahoma. November 1, 2005. Presentation.

Loren Bird Rattler:

"Thank you, Amy. As she mentioned, my name is Loren Bird Rattler. I'm the Manager of the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery, a business line of the parent company Siyeh Corporation. I would like to first thank the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development for allowing us a forum to certainly showcase our successes that we've had at Siyeh Corporation back in Blackfeet Country.

With that said, I'd like to begin with the question, 'Why was Siyeh Corporation created?' First, a legal enterprise was needed to develop and operate business opportunities for the Blackfeet Tribe. This enterprise needed to be a for-profit entity that would provide an alternative source of revenue for the Blackfeet Tribe as well as create a source of revenue...I'm sorry, a source of revenue for the Blackfeet Tribe as well as create additional jobs for the local economy. But more specifically, it was to create an enterprise whose day-to-day business decisions and practices were separate from tribal politics and decision making. This process happened in four phases: analysis and bench marketing, petitioning the Secretary of Interior, the approval of that petition, and finally ratification by the Blackfeet Tribe.

In 1997 the Blackfeet Planning Department began to script plans for a for-profit company that would be semi-autonomous from tribal political influence and decision-making. The Planning Department embraced a new paradigm of thinking that would change the dynamic of how the Blackfeet Tribe would and could create and sustain profitable businesses. The first task was an analysis on the approach to economic development on the Blackfeet Reservation. During this analysis, the Planning Department began to benchmark other tribes to find out what types of infrastructure they were using in tribal enterprises and businesses. From this analysis, a new comprehensive economic development strategy was put in place to create a for-profit corporation. Many of the principles were taken directly from the concepts of 'Reloading the Dice, Improving Economic Development on American Indian Reservations,' which was found in the publication American Indian Economic Development from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

In early 1999 the Planning Department drafted the corporate charter for Siyeh Corporation under the framework of Section 17 of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Upon completion of the draft, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council passed resolution number 10899 and shortly thereafter petitioned the Secretary of Interior. Upon approval of the petition by the Deputy Commissioner of Indian Affairs on July 8th, 1999, the proposal was sent back to the Blackfeet Tribe for ratification. During this time, a new council had been elected and inaugurated and a referendum was passed changing the structure of terms for the council from two-year terms to staggered four-year terms. Of course this created a new problem for Siyeh. We had to re-lobby a new council, that some of them serving two years, some of them serving four years in 2000. After this lobbying effort was launched, we were able to convince the Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and therefore get the rest of the council on board. After that happened, of course the charter was ratified on January 3rd, 2001. Because of the language of Section 17 of the Indian Reorganization Act, once ratified by the tribe, it requires an act of Congress to dissolve, further limiting potential influence or potential political influence.

From the drafting of the charter to present day, Siyeh Corporation has and will continue to have struggles. In the beginning, it was very difficult getting local businessmen to serve on the board of directors simply because of the mistrust toward tribal enterprises following a number of failed business ventures. The tribal government and to a greater extent the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council's role is continually being defined and redefined with every incoming council. In the very beginning of course, there was problems with a lack of funding to get the corporation off the ground. The struggle with public perception and the old political philosophy that the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council should have the final say on all matters coupled with Siyeh Corporation's approach to problem solving presents a public relations challenge that Siyeh Corporation continues to address and remedy today.

Siyeh Corporation has five successful business lines. In 1999, the Blackfeet Tribe acquired Starling Cable Company, which was in jeopardy of losing programming. The company has increased subscriptions and offers a public access channel for community programming. In April 2000, under the threat of closure from the National Indian Gaming Commission, Siyeh inherited the Glacier Peaks Casino in Browning. Glacier Peaks Casino now operates seven days a week with exceptional revenue. Kimmie Water was created in late 2000 to deliver five-gallon water jugs to the community due to the poor quality of water with the present water system that exists on the reservation. And in 2002, Discovery Lodge Casino was created to tap into the eastern reservation gaming market. And finally, in mid-2002 with the acquisition of the inventory from the Northern Plains Arts Cooperative, Siyeh Corporation created the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery. The center provides an outlet for local artists, artisans, and crafts people to market their work as well as advocate through programming Blackfeet cultural and traditional preservation.

Currently, there are four future projects that are being developed under Siyeh Corporation. A grocery store has surpassed its planning stage and now has a site as well as a distributor identified. The design for the store has been completed. An expansion to the Glacier Peaks Casino is underway. Construction began on a new 30,000-square-foot facility that will house 300-plus class two gaming machines, a 250-seat Bingo hall and a restaurant, lounge and gift shop. Plans have just got underway for a wireless internet business that will bring wireless internet service to rural residents of the Blackfeet Reservation. A feasibility study and business plan are now underway. Siyeh Corporation has completed an SBA 80 application that will aid in marketing Kimmie Water and integrated information technology services and solutions. It may also help with future federal contracting.

Siyeh Corporation has been instrumental in the development of the local economy. In 2004, Siyeh's five business lines paid out over one million dollars in payroll and disbursed $963,173 in dividends to corporate shareholders, the Blackfeet Tribe. Siyeh assets in the year 2000 were around $300,000 compared to nearly $800,000 today. These assets include real property, equipment, vehicles and inventory. Vicariously through its business lines, Siyeh Corporation aids in community development. By providing bottled water to community members, elders and diabetics, Kimmie Water provides a necessary resource that was lacking before. Starling Cable Television, through its community access channel number 37, provides local programming, including Blackfeet Tribal Business Council meetings, public forums, high school sports, and Blackfeet cultural and educational programming. Siyeh also helps with the cultural preservation by purchasing, marketing and exposing Blackfeet artists, artisans and crafts peoples' work. This practice in turn will allow the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery to conduct educational workshops on traditional artistic practices. This venue, which includes Blackfeet culture and history teaches both non-Natives as well as our own youth about ourselves.

Siyeh Corporation was named after the Blackfeet warrior Siyeh or Mad Wolf. The spirit of Siyeh in the telling of tribal elders embodies independent thinking, shouldering responsibility for the work that has to be done, and taking bold action. Because of this inspiration, Siyeh Corporation will continue in its efforts to span strategically while protecting the environment, culture and tradition and will continue to be fearless, independent and true, as their motto states."

Alfreda Mitre:

"Congratulations. I had formulated three questions and during your presentation you answered all three of them, so I'll just take this time and say thank you for a wonderful presentation and I'll let the others if they have any questions to go ahead and do so."

Loren Bird Rattler:

"Thank you."

Elsie Meeks:

"So I would imagine that this was fairly controversial in incorporating a Section 17 corporation."

Loren Bird Rattler:

"Yes, it was."

Elsie Meeks:

"Well, that's an issue that I think a lot of tribes would struggle with. I guess if you could talk a little bit more about the reason that you decided to do that, because I know that that must have been a hard decision for you all to make but there must have been a good reason why you did it, and I'd just like you to expand on that a little bit because I think there's some good lessons here."

Loren Bird Rattler:

"Certainly and I'll defer that question to the economic development coordinator Ray Montoya."

Ray Montoya:

"Okay, I'll try to shed a little light on that question. One of the reasons we went with a federally chartered corporation was because in the past and up to that point in time most of the businesses were under the auspices of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council directly under tribal government and unfortunately under that structure the Blackfeet Tribe hasn't had one successful business as a tribal-owned business directly under the tribal government. And so we saw this as a way of changing that lack of success and then allowing a business to grow as it should without the lack of governmental interference."

Brian C. McK. Henderson:

"I would like to ask a follow-up question. You've basically created what in effect is a tribal holding company with a variety of different businesses underneath this one structure and if you could project out into the future and given the challenges that the tribe actually has in economic development and getting businesses going. Do you see the structure on the...under the Section 17 format helping you in the future or do you see it at some point something that you may want to actually change?"

Jay St. Goddard:

"Speaking on behalf of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and the experience I've had as a previous board member on the Siyeh Corporation, it is a model and we expand on it and we want to keep it because it does help us for future businesses and that's one of the main reasons it was put into place. And from past experience and being a leader on the council and knowing what goes on in the political realm and views you get from your membership, I feel it's important it stays in place because it does help our economic future, because changeover in Indian Country as everyone knows happens so regularly and each time there's a change, although we're elected officials, some of them come in thinking they know every answer to economic development or there's that certain money savior out there that's going to come in and save the tribe but that doesn't happen. And with this charter being in place, I think it helps the corporation sustain its ability to prove to the community -- slowly in some ways but fast in other ways -- that this is what we needed in place for a long time, to help us be a successful tribe and business-minded people we have. We have a lot of management people under this corporation that are helping us move these projects along. But it will definitely be a future need and as a tribal leader I hope this would stay in place and it's not taken away, it stays out of the realm of politics. I'm one of the tribal leaders that fight for this corporation every day and help the other tribal leaders understand that this is needed, it's not to be tossed around every time it's brought up to vote it down again. I use that because it's...the charter under the government or wherever it's...however it was created was a great idea. It just makes it harder for a simple motion or resolution for a new council to come in and dissolve this company. That's what'll keep it successful."

Honoring Nations: Tom Hampson: ONABEN: A Native American Business Network

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Former Executive Director of ONABEN Tom Hampson presents an overview of the organization's work to the Honoring Nations Board of Governors in conjunction with the 2005 Honoring Nations Awards.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Hampson, Tom. "ONABEN: A Native American Business Network." Honoring Nations Awards event. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Tulsa, Oklahoma. November 1, 2005. Presentation.

Tom Hampson:

"It's a great privilege and an honor to be here. My name is Tom Hampson. I'm Executive Director of ONABEN, a Native American Business Network. I want to thank the Harvard Indian Economic Development Project Honoring Nations, but particularly Amy [Besaw] and Jackie [Old Coyote] and the site review team of Jonathan Taylor and Joan Timeche. One of the most unexpected outcomes of this process was the fact that you guys were so professional as both counselors and cheerleaders and colleagues and now friends that as we work on projects together I'm sure in the future that this has been a real exciting process for us. [Thank you.] We'd not be here if it were not for the support of the guidance of our board of directors, who believe in our mission. Of course we would not be here at all if it had not been for the opportunity to serve Indian people as chartered by the sovereign nations that we serve. I'd like to list those: Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Colville and Cowlitz and some ten other tribes that we have done programs and associates with. I'd like to recognized Chairman Dolores Pigsley of Siletz who is here in the audience, Board of Trustees Chairman Antone Minthorn of Umatilla, Colville Business Council Chairman Harvey Moses, Jr., Sal Sahme of Warm Springs Economic Development Department and David Tovey of the Coquille Tribe and Umatilla enrollee. Dave is also a former ONABEN board member and represents the Economic Development Corporation of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and ATNI itself is the mother ship, which has been a very important and critical strategic partner for us as ONABEN has grown.

The evolution of ONABEN over the last 14 years represents a mix, a mix of opportunities, of Indians, of non-Indians, of tribal leaders and entrepreneurs, of technocrats and hundreds and hundreds of wonderful people and those of the Native American entrepreneurs, or as we have corned the term "Indianpreneurs." It is a mix that mirrors that marketplace in which we all must participate and in which we all must compete. ONABEN was chartered in 1991 by a guy named Mitch Connelly, who at the time was the Director for the Spirit Mountain Community Development Corporation, or Economic Development Corporation, for the Grand Ronde Tribe. And Mitch persuaded four Oregon tribes that it was in their interest to integrate their economic development strategy to include the kind of diversification and energy that can only come from creating a private sector on the reservation. And thus, the coalition of tribes was born in Oregon with the mission to enable Native Americans to realize their dreams for a better quality of life through owning and operating a small business, to strengthen Native American communities by building Native American confidence in their abilities to start and run businesses, to create comfortable and safe environments in which people can explore their dreams, to foster relationships which increase business survivability, and to contribute to the well being of the Native and non-Native communities around the area. That's an expansive and a very integrative kind of mission for an organization. And it was -- as you might think in the pre-gaming era -- a time in which discretionary income with tribes was very scarce and yet those tribes chose to make an investment not only in an intertribal organization, but most importantly in the creation of a small business center on their reservation, which was a prerequisite for joining the organization.

The organization has a service delivery model that is simple in concept, but very complex in operation as all intertribal organizations are. It features a network of...a small network staff to provide curriculum, provide expertise and support services to tribally run and operate its small business centers on the reservation. Over the years, we've discovered a number of principles that we think any Indianpreneurship program ought to have: that we need to provide services at the local level to match the entrepreneurs in that economy, in that place, in those industries and at that level wherever they are, given their level of aspirations, given their level of expertise, meet them where they are and provide environments in which they can explore their ideas, whether it's home-based businesses, expanding businesses, high-growth businesses, artists to engineers, contractors to inventors. The whole notion is to build a community around the entrepreneur and to integrate the tribe's economic development program with the individual private sector development. This all puts a lot of pressure on the network to make all of those forces happen, and because it comes down to building relationships that transcend these boundaries.

At the network level we are a content provider, a bridge builder, a product and service innovator and policy advocates to the tribes. Our classes are taught by entrepreneurs, independent business owners themselves from the local level that are selected by and in concert with the local tribe. These folks are local bridge builders to the local economy. In most recent years, we have focused our efforts on curriculum development for all levels of entrepreneurship and we're very proud to announce that as of November the 15th when we hold our annual conference Trading at the River, we are going to unveil our "Indianpreneurship: A Native American Journey into Business," our own branded curriculum based upon the stories of ONABEN clients. We support small business center managers in the tribe in evaluating and developing the most appropriate support systems for their private sector. We scan the environment for the best ideas and help the tribal managers apply them if it's appropriate to them. We bring federal, state, intertribal foundation, private sector resources to these collaborations.

So what has changed since ONABEN has been around? When I first came to the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation in 1972, it was just after a grand economic development plan to utilize the land claim settlement money for tribal enterprises had been thoroughly trashed by the electorate in favor of disbursements to per capita payments. The confidence level by the people was very low in the tribe and in themselves to pull themselves up by anything, bootstraps, moccasin ties and let alone an economic development plan. But as a student of my mentors, I listened to the stories of the prosperous times before contact and even into the early reservation period where rich traditions of trade and economic gardening supported the people. We went to work to recreate in some modern form the prosperity of those days. Visionaries like Antone [Minthorn], planners like Mike Farrell and project managers like Dave Tovey and hundreds more like them across the country went to work and sustained this renaissance for the last 30 years.

There were very few small businesses on the reservation in the 1970s when we started, but that began to change as the tribe's prospects began to change and I'm sure it's the same where you come from. As the more the tribe has succeeded, the more the confidence is built, the more you see people going into business for themselves. The length between tribal economic development and individual private sector hold the next key to this renaissance. We believe that organizations like ONABEN, the Lakota Fund, Oweesta, Four Bands, all represents opportunities to play an important part in foraging these linkages, individual entrepreneur to tribal enterprise to local, regional, global marketplace. I think...but we got to do it I guess by going back is the other thing that we have discovered and I think Bill Yellowtail, who will be a speaker at our conference this coming in November says it best. He says, 'It is only circling back to the ancient and the most crucial of Indian values and understanding that the power of the tribal community is founded upon the collective energy of strong, self-sufficient, self-initiating entrepreneurial, independent, healthful and therefore powerful individual persons, human beings, Indians.' We exist to celebrate the accomplishments of these Indian business owners, their enterprise managers and the tribal councils that support them.

Trading at the River embodies the philosophy that we can look back to go forward, we can listen to stories from people like Mike Marchant who can talk about the collection of salmon at Kettle Falls, the drawing and bundling of those fish and the transportation over to the Buffalo Country, to stories from Antone and others about the berry fields of Mt. Adams, the fishing platforms of Celilo, where people met and traded and made connections that lasted forever. Trading at the River allows us to come together and ask the difficult questions of how we can move forward. At Trading at the River, we dedicate ourselves to the question that Antone has asked for the last 30 years of 'what is an Indian economy? What is Indian economic development? What does that mean?' We don't know the answer to that question, but we know the people who will and those are the entrepreneurs, the tribal leaders, the enterprise managers. Our role is to keep the conversation going, to disseminate knowledge, and to keep the magic of the network alive, vital and growing. Our job is to help build a community of traders, people of commerce, Indian entrepreneurs. The journey has been going for a long time and we are looking forward to the next stage and we want to share it with you. The people of the Harvard Project have affirmed our work, your recognition has humbled and inspired us. Thank you very much."

Amy Besaw:

"We'll have a few minutes of question and answers. As we're doing the question and answers, if Flandreau would come up here and join us at the side of the stage that would be great. Thank you."

Elsie Meeks:

"My whole career and life and work has been about supporting entrepreneurship and allowing Natives to become entrepreneurs, and at the same time I really feel like it's important that through this there starts to be changes made at the local level in a real, systematic way. And my only real question about ONABEN, and I'm very familiar and you guys work really hard and you've done really good things, but how rooted in the community and how much difference does it make at each tribal level, and I guess the other kind of question around that is how much ownership do the tribes feel to this or is this just a regional organization that serves tribes?"

Tom Hampson:

"That's the essence of the question, I mean that's the essence of our management challenges, and it's true for every network kind of organization, 'cause there's always the natural tension between the intertribal network and the individual members of that network and how much autonomy does each one have, and so it's all about relationship building. And there's no question that just like business development or economies in general, they vary from place to place. We've had extremely positive and strong relationships and support at say for example the Grand Ronde Tribe, and then as inevitably happens, you get the winds of political change, bring a new council with new priorities and some programs are favored and some are not. That program was completely terminated about three years ago at the tribal level. We maintained our relationship with the tribe to provide the same classes and counseling using the same people actually as a contract basis, and we're seeing the Grand Ronde tribe's interest in that program rekindle and we see cycles like that all through Indian Country. The most critical part of that is that, and this is why if all we're doing is just putting on classes to whoever asks us to put on classes or send out workshops consultants or whatever, is to insist that the tribe make the investment in creating a small business development center of its own. Now those folks, they do all kinds of things. They just don't counsel entrepreneurs. They inevitably get drawn into, based upon whatever department they're located in, into the priorities of those departments and the priorities of that tribe so the small business center manager Kathleen Flanagan at Umatilla is working on a small business incubator program. She's doing cash-flow analysis for an enterprise for Wild Horse Resort. So she'll split her time as directed by the tribe. And so the ONABEN programs in entrepreneurship are only a partial priority but most importantly though they are a priority and sometimes it's lower and sometimes it's higher. Our job is in a diplomatic way as possible to try to encourage those tribes to elevate those priorities and that's what we've seen. I think more lately what we've seen the power of something like Trading at the River to do is to get in the policy makers' heads the importance of entrepreneurship as a tribal economic development strategy not just as a bunch of individual businesses that are always harassing them at council meetings about not getting enough tribal work. So we're seeing a change in that perspective at the policy level. But as you all know it's a very delicate walk to take."

David Gipp:

"Dave Gipp here. I had a question. What distinguishes ONABEN's efforts from other regional, tribal or even state strategies toward successful economic development? What makes your project and your strategies distinctive I should say compared to other regional or tribal or even state strategies?"

Tom Hampson:

"I think it's that process that we've just described. The metaphor for that process is or the catch phrase is Walking the Talk. Because we don't staff up, there's only four of us in the central office, sometimes three, sometimes five depending upon our funding sources. We have to depend on independent contractors to provide the bulk of the services and the tribal centers and so we have to facilitate a relationship between an instructor, for example Lou Blake, an MBA, Stanford MBA, ex-entrepreneur, sold out his company, moved from Seattle to Matheau on the Colville Indian Reservation, now drives over three mountain passes to teach classes at Nespelem. Lou represents an individual in a marketplace and another culture and a whole body of knowledge that he brings to that place, to those people and a whole new perspective. If he were a tribal employee, if he were our employee, he would not be the same person, he would not bring the same perspectives, and I think that's one of the unique factors. The other factor about that is from just a pure survival point of view has an organization is if our funding sources are reduced, we reduce the number of independent contractors we use and the number of classes that we can provide. So we can flex up and down and I think that...we try not to build empires, we try to build relationships and strategic alliances so we get the work done. We do a lot of work...it used to be that the small business development centers in Oregon particularly didn't serve Indians at all. And now when we go into a community like at Coquille, Coos Bay, Southern Oregon, we will immediately contact the SBDC, have them help us hire instructors, get them to co-sponsor our classes so that our constituents know that they have a whole group of resources that are available to them. So we try very much to walk our talk in terms of boundary expanding as well." 

Diane Enos: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Economic Development

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) President Diane Enos provides an overview of SRPMIC's effortto build a diversified economy, the institutional keys to make that effort a success, and the cultural principles SRPMIC abides by as it engages in economic development.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Enos, Diane. "Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Economic Development." 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. 

"Thank you for inviting me, Joan [Timeche]. I'm really honored to be here to be able to talk to your conference or seminar. By way of background, a little bit of what Ms. Timeche just said that I am an attorney. And sometimes that's a blessing and sometimes it's a curse, because today it's a blessing, because as you all know attorneys never lack for anything to say. I have a lot to say, but I'm not so sure that I've got it in order so please bear with me. What I like to do when I speak to groups such as this and actually any group and even to myself is sometimes I have to say a prayer and I ask for help that I may say something that's relevant, something that's helpful, and certainly most of all something that you can remember and take home and use. Joan had asked me... before I get started I've got to mind my manners here. I would like to acknowledge some of our staff that are here today and some of our community people.

Ruben Guerrero is seated at the table. Mr. Guerrero is a young community member. He works with [Congressional] Representative Raul Grijalva's office here in Tucson and he is going to be a future leader of our community and he's been a friend of mine for years and a vital part of the community and a good example of what our youth is. Next to him is Michelle Clark. Ms. Clark is also a community member. She works with our Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs for the community. She also works with the Community Manager, she also works with me, the president, and the vice president. She is new back to the community. While an enrolled member of the community, also seated next to her left is her sister Cindy Clark; they did not grow up in the community. But like a lot of people did not have the opportunity to do that, but are coming back to the community and offering themselves to help us out. And we anxiously look forward to having membership like the Clark sisters. We're anxious to have them come back to where they came from and help us out and become part of us again. So again I wanted to acknowledge them. We also have some staff people here today. Ms. LaFrance is with the Salt River Financial Services Institution. It's our ninth enterprise and what they do is they're in the business of loaning money to membership in terms of small business loans, home loans, and we're working on developing all the loan possibilities. With her are her staff members. I know Ms. Deer is here and I forgot your other name. Mauri, how could I forget? Are there any other staff people with you? That's it. We're well represented here today. I also wanted to acknowledge Cecil Antone who is a brother, he's related to us. He's from the Gila River Indian Community, a fellow O'odham, as well as Mary Thomas, who is also a fellow O'odham from Gila River.

Joan had asked me to talk about basically about the idea, the concept of keeping politics out of enterprises and in order to even begin to address that question what I wanted to do is tell you a little bit about our enterprises. As Joan mentioned, we are close to the City of Scottsdale. We're also a door to the City of Mesa and the town of Fountain Hills. So we're very surrounded -- in fact we're landlocked -- but what that has done is, it has it's challenges, but what it has done is offered us significant, a very, very significant development opportunities. And what Salt River has had to do over the years is attune itself to our location, and again that's another example of a blessing and a curse, because while we've had to endure the problems of the metropolitan area such as the drugs, the crime, the traffic, the smog, all the negative things, we've also had a blessing to be in a most, most opportune place for economic development, which is we're next to the City of Scottsdale. There's a nine-mile corridor which the community has termed the economic development corridor, and we've done that because the community has wanted to not let development encroach in the interior of the community. We're rural, we have a rural lifestyle, we live in the open area where there are a lot of fields or desert, and so people have decided that they wanted to keep it that way, and in doing so we've dedicated the western portion of the reservation, which is again the nine-mile strip to economic development. But also in doing economic development, what we have done is had to create enterprises which are tribally run businesses. We have nine of them today, the SRSFI is the ninth one, and we started diversifying a long time ago.

Before I get further into my discussion about what we've done in terms of economic development, I want to tell you a little bit about Salt River, about who we are as a people, because that's really important and those of you that come from tribal communities know that we cannot be anything but tribal people if we intend to survive as sovereign nations. A little bit about the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community: we have been here since time immemorial. The O'odham people -- as Cecil and Mary know -- have lived here, we have mountains that we have songs about, we have origin stories, we have migration stories that play into the location that you are in right now because this is all our territory. The four southern tribes of today the Tohono O'odham, and the lady sitting at the table here is from Tohono O'odham, I forgot your name already, but you're our relative as well. Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community as well as Salt River today comprise the four tribes and we've lived here forever in our history. And what we have done in terms of dealing with the Europeans is we've never fought a war with the white man, we've never fought a war with the invaders. And some people can look at that and not think well of that, but for us what it basically says about us as a people is that we have learned over the centuries that one of our methodologies to survival is negotiation. That's a value to us, it's a value in our way of living, which is referred to as the Himdag. And I know we have two tribes, now we are Maricopa and Pima, O'odham and Peeposh. And the Peeposh people came and joined the Pima people both at Gila River and Salt River around 1800. They migrated here because they too wanted to be peaceful and they wanted to avoid warfare and those sorts of activities. But we never fought a war with the United States. What we did instead was sell them...here you go, economic development way back then. We sold wheat to the army, we sold wheat to the Mormon battalion, we traded with the Spanish people when they came through to set up the missions and we got some of our most prized food from them like peaches, figs, pomegranates, those sorts of things, but we also helped them survive. So our opportunities and our taking advantage of economic opportunities began historically a long time ago and it began with the Europeans coming here. But again, it's in keeping with what we value as a people in terms of our survival. But it's more than it, it's how we not only survive but thrive, and that's to take advantage of an opportunity for the people.

Now getting back to keeping politics out of our enterprises, as I indicated, way back when before gaming even came up. We have to acknowledge gaming because it's a reality for a lot of our tribes and again it's a blessing and a curse, because right now it affords us the opportunity to do things that we only even could even dream about years ago. I've been in tribal government for 16 years. I was part of tribal government before gaming came into the picture and as all of you know, those of you that are gaming tribes, know that it has changed our communities sometimes for the better, sometimes for not so good. But back then what we had to do before gaming was we had to diversify. Salt River knew that it had to diversify if it was going to continue to provide services to its membership. And I'm talking about services like police protection, fire department, sanitation, tribal government itself, housing needs -- all kinds of normal services that tribal governments provide to its membership. And the only way we're going to do that was to make money. We knew that we could not rely on the government or the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] or anybody for our livelihood and being in the location that we are we again took opportunity of it, we created enterprises. And what we did way back then, and I think it was fairly new at the time, one of the first things that we did was set up what's called the Salt River Sand and Rock and the Phoenix Cement Company today. Back then it was Phoenix Cement Company and I would say back in 1987 the community bought Phoenix Cement. We took out a huge loan. For us it was breathtakingly huge, today it isn't. It was $78 million to purchase the Phoenix Cement Company. Today that is one of our most successful enterprises. And just because we've gotten into gaming we haven't ignored the need to maintain those enterprises and to keep them flourishing. The main reason for that is because we know that gaming is not guaranteed forever. It's just an opportunity and it's a sure opportunity for us to continue to diversify as I'm indicating here.

We have several enterprises, and I will say right now that you cannot keep politics out of enterprises. You cannot keep politics out of anything and I say that from experience having been in tribal government for 16 years. But I'm not so sure that that's a bad thing. Politics, if you really think about it in terms of well, what does politics mean? Politics really means a personal desire to see something done your way and that's not anything new to human nature, but it's how you go about achieving that. How do I go about getting what I want to have happen? Am I going to step on people to get there? Am I going to hurt somebody to get there? Those are challenges that leadership always has and I think that the membership of any tribal government, any tribal entity in itself has to think about that. But we're coming into a time -- at least at Salt River I believe -- we're coming into a time where we're starting to say, "˜Why am I voting for this person? Why am I voting for that person?' and it's something that leadership has to remember and it has to stay focused on because when you talk about politics, politics as I'm saying today is never going to go away, it's never ever going to go away, so the best thing that we can do again is to negotiate with the situation, take the best that we can from it because...And I was talking to some of the membership this morning, you're always going to have that, you're always going to have somebody opposing your ideas but that's a good thing. That's only a positive thing if you can eventually be able to work it out with them and come up with the best solution.

I think that's what really Joan was asking, how do you keep things legal and keep things working well? So what we have done for our enterprises, we've done several things and I wanted to show you just as a matter of demonstration what I brought today. I'm not going to go into this book; I'm not going to read it. This is called Our Enterprise Ordinances. This book is full of all the ordinances that Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community had to create in order to monitor, in order to manage, in order to help all of our enterprises grow and flourish, and this book is tabulated, full of the rules. I just want to tell you some of the rules that we've had to adopt and to establish and further to keep things legal, to keep things moving along, to help things flourish. Some of the things that our enterprises have been enabled to do are limited waivers of sovereign immunity, and those of you that are in tribal governments understand that the waiver of sovereign immunity is something that tribal councils themselves only have for the most part, I'm sure there are exceptions, but for the most part, Salt River tribal council is the only one that can waive sovereign immunity even on a limited basis. But what we've started to do for our enterprises is allow them to contract. The only thing that they cannot do is encumber land. They can encumber property, they can encumber equipment, and they can take out all these loans and to that degree they have the opportunity to do a limited waiver of sovereign immunity. And that's a scary thing because what you're doing as a tribal government is you're giving up some of your power and some of your authority. But you have to monitor those enterprises. You have to make sure that what they're doing is in compliance with your ordinances and you have to be really critical and careful when you create those ordinances to begin with. So if you want to keep things legal, you've got to keep an eye on it. The other thing that our enterprises are able to do is that they can, they have the authority to...the boards have the...I've written down some things here and I can't even read it 'cause it's dark over here. The council doesn't micromanage, but the boards do have autonomy for the most part, and again that's the giving up of some of your power as a tribal government. For instance, they can contract, technically speaking, the enterprises are able to contract. They have disclosure requirements. If I have a contract or if I have a relationship with a provider, I must disclose that and I must sign a form if I'm on a board. We have all these boards that disclose any potential conflict that I might have. The other unique thing about our boards is what we've done is we've made them up of not only professional membership. For instance, Salt River Sand and Rock we have people that are in the industry that know something about the cement business or the sand and gravel business, about commerce, people that are generally for the most part non-Indian because they have that expertise. But the other part of that is we also have to make sure the boards are made up of the membership, and these may be people who have no business experience, but they've got a desire to serve the community and they've got a track record or they've got an experience where people understand who they are, people understand that they will do the best that they can, and that doesn't always work out well. Sometimes you can have the nicest people, the most honest people, and they're totally ineffective as board members. So again, you have to go back as a tribal government and monitor what they're doing, make sure that they are performing and doing things to the best of their ability to serve not only government but the board. And the other thing that the community has done is it's unleashed these enterprises to some degree and their sole reason for being is to make profit, their sole reason for existence and doing what they do and for us having some degree of arm's length from them is so they can make a profit for the community. Again, because we understand that in the future we may not have gaming to rely on, we may not have that huge cushion that we have. So while we're socking away the money and putting it into investments and other safekeeping, taking other safekeeping measures, we still know that we have to make money in the future. So setting up these enterprises is one way to do that.

Now again, back to Joan's question, how do we keep politics out? How do we keep things legal? And I mentioned a little bit ago, like if I wanted to appoint...as tribal council they select the board members. If there was an individual that I wanted to put on that board just because I was friends with that person or I had business dealings with them or they're my second cousin, you know, all the wrong reasons, well, let me say maybe not the best reasons, that can still happen because if you're able to convince other people to vote for this person you can put somebody on there. But the proof is, how are they going to perform as a board member? And that's the responsibility that tribal governments have not only to make sure things are legal but to make sure that they're performing. And if we don't monitor these board members and make sure that what they're doing is what they're supposed to be doing then we're going to lose as a government and again that goes to responsibility of leadership.

What I'm describing to you, there is a lot, a lot of concepts that go with being in office, with being in tribal leadership. But I also wanted to tell you that one of the best things that I find now as being the president and supposed to be a council member, and I was mentioning this to Mary just a little bit ago, is that you can do a lot more now. You have a lot more flexibility, like coming here today and being with you and being with some of the membership of my community and spending time with Dr. [Joseph] Kalt and talking to him is an opportunity that I might not have had if I were a council person. I could have chosen to do something else. Today I could be sitting at my desk or I could be doing something else. But leadership really has the opportunity to do what you think you need to do. And one of our young attorneys with our Office of General Counsel, who gave me some of these notes to keep in mind when I talked to you today, said that it's important and I want to say that it really is important, what we've done as a community is establish what's called a vision statement for our community.

Years and years ago, I would say probably about 15 years ago, we started having meetings with our membership and we started asking them, 'What do you want to see for the future?' Now remember, this is all pre-gaming, there's no big money in the picture. We simply said, 'What do you want as people that live in the community, as people that are membership have rights to vote, people that have membership rights to have a say in tribal government, people whose children will inherit land in the community, people whose children and grandchildren will continue to be part of our community forever, hopefully?' We asked them, "˜What do you want to see? What do you want your community to look like?' And we had a series of meetings with all the districts and this went on for probably about maybe a year and a half or so. And what came out of those meetings and those discussions is what's called a vision statement. And they told tribal government, I'd say we told tribal government, we all sat down and talked and came up with the vision of what we want for the future. And what I talked about a little bit earlier in terms of the economic corridor was one of those concepts that came out. We said, the people said to tribal government, we do not want development in the interior part of the community. We want tribal government to make them money but we want to have a say in it. And that's one of the reasons that our enterprises have developed the way that they have because the people told us that that's what they wanted us to do. You cannot have a government, you cannot, we cannot continue to exist and flourish as a government unless we communicate with our membership, unless we take into consideration what our membership says and why they say it. We at Salt River hopefully in the future for the most part the tribe, at least I tried, my administration to work like that, to listen to the people and to try to take into consideration what they have to say. Not only is it very smart politically, but it's very smart in terms of the long-range view for our people.

I also wanted to leave with you today, and I touched a little bit on it, in talking about a visionary type of leadership that one of our attorneys reminded me that I should talk about. I wanted to say to you also that it's really important for us at Salt River -- and I think those of you that are tribal leaders -- to remember that we have to be who we are not just in a business sense, not just in a government sense but as far as a cultural sense. And I hate to use, I kind of squirm every time I have to use that word cultural. I was talking to Dr. Kalt this morning just a little bit. What I mean is who are we? Who are we as O'odham people? Who are we as Peeposh people? And that goes again to what I started out when I started talking to you when I mentioned about remembering who we are. Why are we here in this particular location at this particular point in time? And it goes back to where did we come from? Who came before us? And when you start thinking about that, you've got to think about who's coming ahead of us. And that's what makes us separate, that's what makes us separate from other governments, and what we were talking about was the concept of separation between church and state and state government and county government, city governments, you have that clear division that you do not respect any particular established religion and I think for the most part they're talking about established religions. We don't have that concept in tribes. How come we don't have it? Because who we are is very tied into what we believe in and once we get away from that, we're not going to be a people anymore, we're not going to be a tribe anymore, we're not going to be a viable reservation anymore because the federal government in my opinion -- and here I am talking as a lawyer again -- is going to say, 'What right do you have to have this land? What right do you base your claim on to have sovereignty? What right do you claim to have to have courts if you're just brown people living there?' The only way that we're going to continue as Native people, as tribal people, is to remember who we are and why we are what we are.

And I'm going to leave you with a little quote today. It goes to the concept of really what I'm talking about when I say, "˜Who are we?' It goes again to why do we do what we do? Why do we run for office? Why do we set up these enterprises? Why do we have all these employees? Why did we get into gaming? Why am I here today? Why, why, why? Unless we go back to who we are. A thing that I want to say, too, is not only who are we, but why do we further that, why do we want to keep being tribal people? Isn't it easier to just go out somewhere and maybe make a nice living and hang out in resorts like this and have all the things that America has to offer if you're successful economic-wise? Why do we want to even be tribal people? Why do we want to stay who we are? I will tell you that we can't do it unless we love who we are, we cannot do it unless we love the land that we live on, and we cannot continue to do this unless we truly love our people. And unless your tribal government comes from that angle, it's not going to be really helpful to you in the future, so we must demand that of leadership.

The quote that I wanted to leave you with here, and it goes to again economic development; it also goes to what I've been talking to you about today. And it's a quote we have...it's a hero, it's almost a mythological hero, but this was a man that lived who knows when. His name was [O'odham language], and he's part of what I'm wearing today. He's part of what Mary Thomas and Cecil know about, and it's this maze here that is our tribal seal. He was a magician so to speak. He did a lot of things for the people, he was a hero and saved the people at various times and a lot of times was himself criticized, people tried to kill him, very much like a human being, very much like the lives of some politicians. Anyway, he was going away and he was going away and the thing that he said -- it's a prophecy -- he said to the people was, and I'm going to quote from him, he says, "˜And they will kill the staying earth. You will see it but you must not do it and you will be feeling just fine.' Now what that says to me as a tribal leader and as somebody that's involved in economic development, it says that we should never do anything to harm the earth because it's our sustenance, it's our substance, it's where we came from. And we're going to see it, we're going to see it happening, we're seeing it happening with global warming, we're seeing it happening with all the pollution that's occurring in this world. But we're not supposed to participate in it if we're going to survive and he says that you will see it and you will be feeling just fine. In other words, this is coming and it's already here, but if we're going to continue to love ourselves and love each other as tribal people, we're going to survive it, but the thing we have to remember is not to kill the staying earth. So all of our economic development ventures that we go into we must keep that concept in mind. Thank you. That's all I have today."

Brian Titus: Nation-Owned Enterprises: Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation (OIBDC) Chief Operating Officer Brian Titus provides an overview of OIBDC and the reasons for its success, notably the great lengths it goes to educate Osoyoos citizens about the corporation's activities and overall health.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Titus, Brian. "Nation-Owned Enterprises: Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation." 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.

"This is our motto: ‘Join the people on the move.' We used to have a vision statement called ‘Be self-supporting by 2005' but we've already passed that. We became self-supporting in 2003. What that means is that we generated more revenue from our businesses than we received from the government and we were quite proud of that. A little bit about the Osooyoos Indian Band: we're located in South Okanagan in British Columbia. Right along there's the border. Our reserve is 32,000 acres. We have 450 band members. We're also a major player in the South Okanagan economy. We produce a number of jobs, a lot of jobs. We also produce, 25 percent of wine grapes that are produced in British Columbia are produced on our reserve.

Late last summer, last June we opened up the Desert Center -- it doesn't show up very well on here -- but this is our resort. There's the winery, there's the golf course and down below here we have our campground. This is a little bit better picture. The whole South Okanagan have basically adopted the adobe style in their architecture over the last 15 years or so. This is a poster, a close up of what the Nk'Mip Cellar looks like today. We serve food there. It's aboriginally themed. You can go there, have a few muskocks, bison, moose, deer. Also just to mention again that we're one of the hosts aligned for the 2010 Olympics. We're very proud of that. We're associated with, it said Vincor International but now it is Constellation, which is out of Rochester, New York, who produce, who is the largest wine producer in the world today. This is what the desert center looks like in the back. This is rammed earth. It's one of the biggest pieces of rammed earth in North America. It's what the Great Wall of China is made of. And one of our statues. The golf course that's at the Spirit Ridge area right now, we have actually two golf courses on reserve. This one is a nine-hole executive. This is a picture of the campground. We have a facility there that holds up to 200 people. It has a swimming pool, workout area, things like that. Camping's not even camping anymore. Half of these people that come in they live in half million-dollar RVs. They ask for direct line telephones to their units, TV. You name it, they ask for it and they get it; they get wi-fi. This is a picture of the vineyards. This is the oldest company of all our companies. It was first established in 1968. We produce a number of winning wines throughout the whole region, in the Okanagan. Our winery is actually Nk'Mip Cellar's winery, has won over 350 awards in the last five years. We've won a couple of New World awards. We like when we go to Napa Valley and we beat them, that's what we like. Don't tell people in Napa Valley that though. Our construction company: we do residential, commercial, industrial. They've been around for quite some time also. This is one of our first off-reserve purchases that we did make. We actually moved it on reserve for tax purposes. It's Oliver Readi-Mix. It's finally doing well. It's a tricky business to get into. This is our golf course that's down in the Oliver area. Again, the southwestern look, our store.

This is really the money maker for us is land leases and holdings. We have Vincor International. We actually own our building. Right now we're in the process of doing a $4 million expansion. It'll be 175,000-square-foot building. Right now, it's 125,000, so we're adding 50,000 square feet. Vincor leases that from us at a very good rate. They also lease land from us for agriculture for producing grapes. But we're kicking it to a different level now. We're basically no longer becoming the landlords. We're going to become the owners of a lot of these leases, of a lot of these vineyards. We do management contract. We basically four-fold our return on that. Basically we've got some residential developments, other residential developments. Things like that. Out of this company, this allows us to basically purchase land, go into other business opportunities off reserve, things like that. This is where we make a lot of money. This is one of the projects that we've been working on; I was talking about the vineyards. We're going to be doing about 200 vineyards in the next while. This is also, this one here is the second phase of Spirit Ridge we're going to do. We're starting later this year and it's 130 acres. This here is an industrial park that we're working on. This year we'll be putting in about $1 million worth of infrastructure into the building. We have a... it looks like we're going to be having another anchor come in to, that are willing to do business with us. It's a mobile home manufacturing type of business. We're quite excited about that. Right now, right there, that's where Vincor is. So we're basically have a residential, we're going to actually have a section there for residential for low-cost housing to provide housing for people that are going to be working there. Housing's a big problem in South Okanagan. We're going through a huge economic boom in Alberta and BC. The rest of Canada is not, but the reason why is because the oil and BC is almost seen as Alberta's playground, especially in South Okanagan. This particular project that we have going on here it's also going to be green friendly. This is something that you have to start thinking about in the future because of all the things that have been happening. It'll have geothermal heating, it'll have corridors for animals, it'll have space to have plant life, things like that for the animals to live on.

Basically what makes OIBDC successful? Well, I'd say it's our organizational structure, policies and practices, communication with the membership, perseverance, access to financing, and relationship with neighbors. Our organizational structure, we're actually in the midst of really changing it now. Like Chief [Helen] Ben was talking about, the limited partnership. We're going into that direction as we speak over the last year or so. The main reason why we're doing that is for taxation purposes. So I'll show you what our corporate policy, not corporate policy but our organizational structure looks like. We have the Osoyoos Indian Band general membership, chief and council, policy committee, then we have the band governance, education and we have OIBDC. All report to, the OIDBC board reported to the chief council, the OIBDC report to the board and advisors and then our companies. We have committees on our boards. One is basically we have subcommittees for some of these companies. We also had the finance committee, which is; I would say is probably, I'll talk about that in a little while. This is what our structure looks like, generally how it operates. We have our OIBDC council that's going to change in the next while but we have our human resources, our chief operating officer, which is Chris Gott, who is a very bright individual but not as bright as I am. [Laughter] He's very astute. He's been in the business for close to probably 35 years. He has a number of big projects under his belt. These are the companies that we operate underneath, what I was talking about, and that's myself.

This is the new structure. This is the first time we've shown it. It's in draft form. This is what our limited partnership will look like. Basically we have the membership, we have council, we have each individual company. They're the general partners. Together they'll make a limited partnership. The reason why we did that is because we were becoming so exposed in the media. When you have your chief going and telling the media how much we're paying dividends to community members and things like that, it was just a matter of time for us to become a flagship for somebody in Canada Customs Revenue Agency. We got audited a few years back from the provincial government and it wasn't fun. And after that meeting Clarence [Louie] says, 'I don't want to be paying any more taxes, find a solution.' So this is the solution that came up. It allows each company to be in the limited partnership, the Osoyoos Indian Band is 99.9 percent limited owners of that particular limited partnership. So when revenues come into these companies, say $1 million, okay. Out of that $1 million one tenth of a percent goes back to the company and the 99.9 percent goes into the limited partners. Under the structure of the provincial taxes and the federal taxes these companies, the limited partner is tax exempt on taxation for dividend, for corporate taxes, provincial taxes and we're quite happy about that. And a lot of First Nations are going that direction in Canada right now.

Policies practices, our main practice: If you want to do business with us, be prepared about our due diligence process for practices that we do. Don't be surprised if we'll ask you if you've been sued before or you're being sued or have you broken any environmental bylaws. We'll look at your feasibility studies, we'll look at your environmental screenings, we'll ask for bios on your key players. We'll also ask, we want to see your financial statements for the last five years. Internal controls, we have a number of internal controls. We have policies on internal rate of return, debt to equity. We have a finance committee. Our finance committee is probably the most powerful committee that we have on the whole organization. The finance committee has, basically has pretty much almost the final say. If it takes it to council eventually, council basically, if it goes through and it's vetted through and follows the policies, council will always, nine times out of ten, will say 'yes' to our recommendations. Human resources management practices: we have a human resources committee that we work with. She looks after all the heart aches with the employees. And a business practice: we have a really good reputation right now with a lot of businesses. We deal with some of the biggest companies in the world. We're starting to deal with Jimmy Patterson out of Vancouver, who has businesses throughout Canada, he's everywhere: Constellation, Vincor, Bell Star.

And another success is communications. Basically all I can say communicate, communicate, communicate. You've got to communicate to your membership what you're doing, what you're working on, be accountable, be transparent. These are some examples of past reports that we have done. Basically just the chief talks about what we've done in the past... how results were for the year, what we're doing, what to look for, basically show our past performances statements and we make it really simple. Clarence always calls it 'rez language.' Put it in the rez language and the reason why is 'cause 99 percent of your population are not accountants.

This basically, we also show this to the community. Since we started doing business, you've seen the growth in our revenue and that's all from businesses. We take money from here; we transfer it to there for social programs, things like that, education. Basically this shows our net worth over the last, from 1991 to 2006. And you can see the real growth started when our businesses started happening. And we produce this once a year. This is full-time jobs, full-time jobs on the reserve. Last year was 501. We're doing the numbers, now it's going to be around 600-650 range, I believe. Overall part-time jobs, we include part-time jobs in there, we're looking at roughly around 900 to 1,000 jobs produced each year. Each year we also put out a dividend report to the community. Basically how the company's produced, how they produced the year before, what their contribution, what they contribute to the dividend and basically what this does also is it makes the managers accountable to the community. Sorry I'm rushing through this but I was given five minutes like 10 minutes ago. [Laughter] Perseverance is another one. You've got to have really good workers. Myself, Clarence and Chris, we probably work 60-hour weeks, that's probably what we do. The work is only half of it; they have to have really good work ethics. Sure, we're not perfect; we'll have employees that we'll have problems with. Access to financing, we have a very good relationship with the bank. We actually have two banks we deal with. We receive favorable rates. We receive actually prime minus now. Term loans, the best and we don't need the security actually anymore.

What doesn't work for us is Band politics. It comes in basically three different forms. The problem is we're a small community, 450 community members, 300 roughly on the reserve. It's hard for us to separate that, it is really hard. It comes from us from council, members and employees. For council members, if you've got a council member who's really passionate about one particular business and he basically goes and if something's not working right for him or you do something that he doesn't agree with, he'll often cause problems in the management team. He'll go to the manager, micromanage, try to micromanage, it causes problems there. Members, everybody thinks that they're the perfect businessperson out there often, tell us how we should do it, things like that. We've had members in the past who write letters to the government trying to reverse decisions on non-designation votes, but the thing was it's the government that actually did it and they said that we were the one that was doing it wrong. It's just all about education. Employees: if you have a Band member who's an employee, it's often, sometimes they get political. They always try to take that extra...they ignore the whole process, the organizational chart and jump to the Chief. And the Chief always, he's a politician also, so he has to make sure that he's looking after his members. But that's one of the problems that we really face.

What I'm trying to say is that politics, you can't get away from it. Not with us, we're small. We face it on day-to-day basis, we deal with it like someone was saying this morning, ‘How are we going to deal with this annual report?' We did that not last...a few months ago we threw out our annual report. At the same time the new election was coming through but I was working on this report prior to. And the opposition was saying, ‘Oh, the Band's broke, they don't know what they're doing.' It was really funny. I didn't know about it. The next day I threw out my report and the guy changed his whole strategy on the elections. Just a summary: have an organizational structure that works for you, have sound policies in place, finance and personnel, be accountable and show your transparency through communications, perseverance, access to financing -- and politics is a reality that we have to work with."