politics-enterprise balance

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."

Joseph P. Kalt: The Practical Issues of Business Development - Some Things to Consider: Legal Structure

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Co-Director Joseph P. Kalt discusses the types of corporations that Native nations can charter and what they should consider when deciding which type to choose.

Resource Type
Citation

Kalt, Joseph P. "The Practical Issues of Business Development - Some Things to Consider: Legal Structure." 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.

"They've asked me to just say a few words here to kick off this session and talk about the kinds of entities and structures that we're seeing used out there and that are working or not working in Indian Country. And I guess it's our gig at the Harvard Project and at NNI is to try to focus on what's working, but we often start with what's not working. And I want to describe two -- I won't even name the two tribes I'm about to say something about -- but it's sort of a lesson in what not to do. And here's the way they're going about economic development and development of tribal enterprises. They have an economic development committee. The economic development committee is just appointed, it's unpaid, appointed by the tribal council, has its roots in the old U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grants. They ran out of the grant money, but they sort of kept the committee and the committee's job is to, number one, go out and find us some businesses to invest in. Number two, bring those investors to us, the tribal council, and sort of vet them and tell us whether we should invest in them. And this sort of strategy, and then the end result if they're successful, in one case one tribe actually has three enterprises, all of which are losing money rapidly and the tribe is trying to get out of [them]. If they're successful, this economic development committee, in finding a business, as if you're sort of, I don't know, looking for a four-leaf clover or something. If you're successful what happens is the tribal council basically buys a business, owns it, as if they were buying pencils for the office. It has no separate legal structure, it's just a tribal enterprise and the tribal council will appoint -- as if it were another grants program -- an enterprise manager. And again and again and again this, which is really, you can hear the way I'm telling the story, a holdover from the old grantsmanship days where getting an enterprise was just like landing a grant. You just sort of found one and then appointed someone to be the head of the grant or head of the enterprise. And time and again across Indian Country, this has been a recipe for failure.

You see at the other extreme -- and Diane Enos came in and did it, the other extreme -- which is to build the legal structures to protect yourselves, to put in place -- I thought she said it beautifully -- it's not that you're taking politics out of these enterprises, it's that you're structuring them within a rule of law. And that's critical here. There is a huge job to be performed in the management of tribal enterprises by the tribal politicians. Someone needs to sit there and filter and make those decisions. Is this the direction we want to go? Is this the strategic step we want to take with our nation's assets? But it's not the tribal council's job to go figure out who gets the contract for the pencils in the office and I've seen...it wasn't pencils in the office, it was the printing of envelopes, bring down a tribal chairman. The guy got himself impeached over the envelope contract. That is, the day-to-day meddling in the business end. The same goes for tribal administration. So there's a critical job to be played by the tribal politicians and that is to set in place the legal structures and to make the big strategic choices. Do we want -- you hear at Salt River in a beautiful way -- do we want the interior of this reservation developed or not? Or are we going to set up a nine-mile corridor out on the edge of Scottsdale? 'Oh, that makes more sense to us.' Those are the critical strategic decisions that you want your elected officials to make. We often get associated with this phrase 'get politics out of business.' Yes and no. Politics properly by the rules, setting the overall directions and it should properly stay out of the decision who gets the contracts to print the name 'Salt River Sand and Gravel' on the side of this pen. So what kind of structures are we seeing out there?

The first structure is what I mentioned, it's a failing structure, unfortunately -- many tribes are learning -- and that's just go buy a business and run it like it's a grant. The alternatives to that, there's three main families that I'll touch on briefly here. There are three main structures that we see tribes using. One is the federally chartered corporation, Section 17 typically. These are corporations chartered by the federal government and really chartered under essentially the laws of the United States Congress. These Section 17 corporations give the tribe a legal entity chartered by the federal government. There isn't an explicit waiver of sovereign immunity and indeed these entities can be subject to suit. But, you can't get at the core tribal assets of tribal land or other assets not being held outside of that entity. In fact you can hear Diane talking a little bit about this, they're not talking these so-called Section 17 federal corporations. In other words, if that corporation owns some pickup trucks, yeah, those could be taken from you in a lawsuit over these Section 17 federally chartered corporations. But the Section 17 corporation does not let that car dealer or whoever it might be get at core tribal assets away from and outside of this entity. Why do this? It's sort of weird in an era of sovereignty and either you follow the ones that Joan and others and I do, we keep saying, 'Look tribes, run it yourself, run it yourself, run it yourself.'

Why do a Section 17 federal? Well, I was sort of surprised. We had one very interesting case out there, the Blackfeet in Montana have a corporation called Siyeh Corporation, S-I-Y-E-H, it's like the name. And it's very interesting, you ask Blackfeet, 'Why'd you go have the feds set up your corporation?' And they said, 'Look, to us it was an act of sovereignty and a little bit of desperation.' Many of you have heard about some of the Blackfeet Enterprises, Blackfeet Writing Instruments, the pencils and so forth that we used to get in grade school and so forth, Blackfeet National Bank. It had trouble, it had trouble finding that balance between politics that sets direction versus politics that constitutes meddling in the daily affairs. And they said, as a community, 'Look, we're having problems with our political systems and we're a little bit unstable, but at least as a community we can agree we'd like to get these enterprises in a way that they're insulated in terms of day-to-day meddling.' And so it's very interesting. It shocked me cause I've been Mr. Pro-Sovereignty. This is a case in which a tribe said, 'As a sovereign, we're going to ask another sovereign to charter this corporation to try to give us some time to work on our own political system over here at the same time we're trying to get some enterprises going.' So it's an interesting strategy, and one that as I say it sort of shocked me because we've been so hard on this horse of charter them yourselves, set them up yourselves, etc. So there are some cases apparently where a sovereign nation, in this case the Blackfeet, might make a choice to go with a federally chartered corporation.

The next layer down, of course, are state-chartered corporations, and for many tribes this is the quick way to get a corporation chartered. The owner of the enterprise is the tribe, but you get a corporation chartered under the laws of either Delaware, where everyone does the national corporations, or perhaps your own state. Under these state-chartered corporations typically, and I'm not a lawyer so don't take me as legal advice, but typically these state-chartered corporations do not provide for sovereign immunity but they essentially build a shell around the assets of the enterprise so that what can be sued is the enterprise, not the entire tribe. More and more tribes are moving to now a new model, after the federally chartered, the state chartered, more and more tribes are moving to a new model, which is tribally chartered corporations. And to us I think this represents the wave of the present and the future indeed, to Mike Taylor who has been very instrumental actually in developing a lot of this and that's partly what Salt River is doing. Under tribally chartered corporations, they typically involve a five-step, at least a five-step process. First, the tribe will pass a law of corporations establishing the rules, procedures, etc., under which tribes as an entity, individual tribal citizens, and even non-citizens can charter new businesses within the jurisdiction of the tribe. So just like here in the State of Arizona, if I want to go open a McDonald's or something I'll probably charter a corporation under the State of Arizona. More and more tribes are adopting the equivalent of the State of Arizona's laws of incorporation and they become Colville Tribe's laws of incorporations or Eastern Cherokee Tribe's laws of incorporation, and so forth. And that's critical because it sets down the framework, you've got to establish enterprises, but it's basically laying down all those rules, how board of directors will be created, what will their responsibilities be, what will their liabilities be, all these kinds of things.

The second layer that actually has to happen at the same time...Typically the law gets passed if you will and almost at the same time if not before tribes work on building up their own tribal court's capacities to handle business law. And so you find cases where tribes are simultaneously creating laws of incorporation and some tribes, for example, have begun to create a business court. So many tribal courts are buried as are everybody's courts with the family law cases, the juvenile cases, the drug cases, assault and so on and so forth that tribal judges just like the judges of Pima County are so often unschooled in and not ready for that really handling business law. And so you'll find tribes beginning to do things like create a tribal business court. Often it doesn't mean a whole lot other than we designate you as our business judge and we'll send you to some training, but at least you're trying to start that process of saying, 'We will adjudicate our own laws and our own laws of incorporation.'

After that there's a set of, a third, a next layer, third layer of laws. Those laws often deal with the business environment, adopting some version of a commercial code. It doesn't have to be the uniform commercial code of all, actually I think about 47 states are uniform now, but some version of laws that provide for garnishment, for the rules under 'if I need to repossess your truck, how long do I have to give you to repay?' and all of the... what are the procedures for taking you to tribal court and so forth so some form of a commercial code. In addition, as tribes create enterprises, either tribally owned or tribal member-owned corporations under their own laws, tribes find they need to do what most other governments in the world do, things like registration.

There's a very interesting case going on right now. Crow, in fact they may have done it this week, about to or just did. Crow sits there and they're trying to get some businesses going, they're going through everything I've just described, all these stages, and they look around and think, 'We need to register these corporations so they can go to court, people will know whose corporations they are.' They don't have the computer capacity right now and the record-keeping capacity. They're signing a memorandum of understanding with the State of Montana, Secretary of the State, not giving up any sovereignty, basically on a contract basis hiring the record-keeping services of the State of Montana, so that you can punch a button and call up, probably type in the word Crow, here comes all the Crow corporations. No jurisdiction at all, it's just purely the computerized record-keeping, which Crow recognizes that they need.

So there's the basic laws of incorporation, there's the strengthening of the tribal court around business law, there's then the laying in place the legal environment for businesses, the uniform codes, the recordings, etcetera. Then you get to the point of actually creating real enterprises, and we're talking enterprises, and I won't go into it today, others will and I think Joan in particular, but often this begins with the creation of a board of directors and a great deal of paperwork. It was fascinating, Diane carrying that big thick notebook that she showed you. There's a lot of paperwork that goes into just laying down, 'okay, here's how we're going to select members of the board. Here's how many can be from non-citizens of the tribe, how many citizens,' all these rules. 'What are the terms of office, terms for removal?' all of those things critical to have in place.

And then lastly once you've got the corporations created, then you're ready to actually begin to make investments. I went through this in order like this because so often I see tribes desperate...elected officials desperate for the ribbon cutting. That is for, I've got to show that I'm doing something, we've got a new business and often the cart gets way out ahead of the horse and you see tribes, 'Well, we'll buy a business and then later will pass the laws and we'll create a board of directors,' and so forth and so on and again and again and again without those structures that Diane Enos had in that notebook. That's where you see problems arise because there's no way then by which to say, 'Wait a minute, you didn't tell me you were going to wait six months to create a board and you promised me I could be on the board.' All of those problems arise without that laid in place, that infrastructure, the legal infrastructure prior to going out and buying a business. And so this has been a quick run-through, but those are the three models that we see, the federally chartered corporations, the state and the tribal. But you can't just do that, you've got to put that other infrastructure, your courts, the laws and so forth in place. So that's what we're seeing out in Indian Country, what's working."

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."

Stephen Cornell: Governance, Enterprises, and Rebuilding Native Economies

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Co-Director Stephen Cornell discusses the two basic approaches Native nations typically take as they work to build and sustain nation-owned enterprises, and shares a number of examples from across Indian Country.

Resource Type
Citation

Cornell, Stephen. "Governance, Enterprises, and Rebuilding Native Economies." 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.

Stephen Cornell:

"Well, good morning and thanks to all of you for being here. We've been looking forward to this. This is an experiment on our part. It's the first of a series, we hope, of focused seminars like this. A lot of the work that we do in executive education is very comprehensive. We spend two days with the tribal council, with the senior leadership of a Nation going through nation building from sort of A to Z, talking about constitutional reform, talking about policy, talking about strategic planning as well as economic development. But as Joan [Timeche] said this morning, we thought we've had enough interest from people in spending some focused time on nation-owned enterprises and we decided maybe we should think about doing some more narrowly focused seminars. And this is actually our first shot at it -- so you're all guinea pigs in this experiment -- and if this works I think we'll be doing more of this kind of thing. We've got one coming up in May, May 14. We're going to be doing a seminar; it's not an open one. It's a little bit different, but the focus is on sovereign immunity issues that a lot of nations are wrestling with. And we want to do one -- we've been asked by the National Congress of American Indians to do one on per capita distributions. A lot of you have probably dealt with those kinds of issues. A lot of nations are trying to think about how to handle the revenues that they're beginning to generate from the sorts of enterprises we're talking about today. So there's a number of opportunities to try to provide hands-on experience, research results, information to people on some of these narrow topics, narrower topics.

So this is the first effort at that. And I'm the guy we have to get through before you get to the meat of this, because what we're really pleased to have this morning is the panel that comes next, because we were able to persuade -- as Vern [Bachiu] said, it was tough persuading those from Saskatchewan to come to Tucson in March -- but we were able to persuade four nations to come here today and talk simply about their experience. These are all nations, and we've got the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, the Gila River Indian Community, the Tulalip Tribes, the Osoyoos Indian Band -- all four of whom have done interesting things, encountered all the problems, come up in some cases with solutions, in some cases maybe are still wrestling about some of those problems, but we wanted to ask those four nations to come and say a little bit about, 'Here's what we tried to do: here's what's worked, here's where we are today and where we're going,' and kind of tap into their experience. So I'm looking forward to that part of this and also there's time in the agenda to have some dialogue about asking them, ‘Well, how did you handle this?' or ‘what happened? Did you encounter this problem that we're having? How did you deal with it?' That sort of thing. And then this afternoon we've got a second panel that looks thematically at some of the nuts and bolts of organizing nation-owned enterprises and it's kind of an information exchange. We expect to learn something out of this as much as anyone in the room.

The Native Nations Institute, we're a vacuum cleaner for information and we spend a lot of our time listening to what people are doing. We don't see ourselves as an organization with answers, we see ourselves as an organization that helps communicate what Indigenous nations are doing that works. That's where the answers are coming from. The answers are coming from nations out there encountering these issues, solving them. What we do is try to learn, ‘Oh, you did that? Great, we can tell other people how you solved that, maybe that'll help them.' So that's what this is really about. My job in the next 40 minutes or so is to try to give you a little context for how we think about this issue, for some of what we've learned and kind of set the stage. As we've...as Joan said, this work at the Native Nations Institute goes back now for more than 20 years, back to the founding of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. And over those years we've begun to learn a lot of stuff and I've tried to put some of it together this morning in this presentation.

One of the things of course that's apparent is that all across North America and elsewhere -- we've recently been doing some work in Australia and New Zealand. And that wasn't our idea to go do work there but Manley Begay and I -- Manley would be here and sends his apologies -- but Manley Begay and I got a request from some Aboriginal Indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand saying, ‘We hear so much about what's happening in North America -- what Indigenous nations are doing there -- we want to learn from what they're doing. We understand you gather some of those stories. Can you come tell those stories?' And what's been interesting to us is when we hear about the problems they're facing, they're similar to the problems Indigenous nations here are facing. The politics are different, the legal situations are different, but here are Indigenous peoples trying to reclaim their place at the table, trying to reclaim control over their lands, trying to figure out how to solve the tough problems that they face. One of the tough problems faced everywhere is the economic problem and we tend to think of it as a set of challenges that Indigenous nations are facing. How do we reduce -- we hear this a lot -- how do we reduce our dependence on outsiders, federal governments and others who are paying the bills, often? How do we reduce that? How do we get in a situation where we're in the driver's seat? We don't have to ask permission from somebody because it's our money, it's the product of our work, we're in control, we can shape our communities the way we want to. There's that challenge of how do you provide opportunities for your citizens to live productive, satisfying lives.

[I was] talking once with Chief Phillip Martin from Mississippi Choctaw. Many of you may be familiar with what's happened at the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, but they've transformed their economy over the last 20 years. And when you ask Chief Martin ‘What's the benefit of it?' He says, ‘Well, in the 1970s everybody was leaving, now they're all coming home.' Because what they've done is create an opportunity for their own citizens to live productive, satisfying lives on Choctaw land and to him that was the goal in part, to be able to do that. And you're also trying to create the means of supporting your own governing processes. If Indigenous nations are serious about reclaiming control, then they've got to find ways to support Indigenous governance where it's not dependent on somebody else saying, ‘Well, we'll pay for this but we won't pay for that.' Well, who's in the driver's seat when that happens? [I was] talking with Brian Titus from Osoyoos Indian Band and Chief Clarence Louie up there, and one of the key goals in their whole development effort has been ‘how do we get to the point where we can do what we want to do, support our own government, support our own priorities?' So those challenges are out there and we think those challenges lie behind this effort by Indigenous nations to create enterprises that are under their control and use those enterprises to produce new sources of revenue. Well, we've been looking at this for a while and I thought we'd begin with two real quick stories about some enterprises from our research files because they show, we think, some of the differences in approaches that we've seen over the last 20 years. And I think the last 20-30 years have been years of learning for Indigenous nations. But here are some of the ways that things get done.

I won't tell you what enterprise or nation this is but here's a quick capsule. This is Enterprise A -- and we came across this sometime in the early 1990s -- it's a tribally owned business. This tribe has a large forest on its lands. This enterprise cuts trees on the nation's forest and turns them into fence posts, sells them to a national broker who markets them across the United States. I say it does this, it doesn't actually exist anymore -- the enterprise -- but it was doing this. The manager is hired by and reports to the tribal council. Councilors repeatedly interfere in hiring and firing decisions by, for example, calling up the manager and saying, ‘You need to hire more people from our district.' When we were up there doing research and talked to this manager, he said, 'oh,' he said, ‘We've got a...,' I don't know, can't remember. I think it was a seven-member tribal council. He said, ‘I've got seven bosses. There's not a week that goes by that someone doesn't call me up and say, ‘I've got a personnel issue we need to talk about or my cousin's moving back here after ten years, moving back to the rez, needs a job, I want you to hire him.'' The manager says, ‘I'm running an employment service; my labor costs keep rising. Soon I'll have the most expensive fence posts in the country.' And that was exactly what he ended up with. And the result was he couldn't compete in the tough market because of the rising labor costs. Eventually the enterprise, which was being subsidized by the nation, eventually folded, end of all the job opportunities, etcetera. So that's Enterprise A, and that's a story which I think...you all have worked in this business longer than I have, or a lot of you have, it's not an unfamiliar story of how some things happen.

Enterprise B: this is an Indian nation, which in the early 90s was one of the early casino builders, became dependent largely on its own casino revenues. As one councilman said, ‘We've gone from dependent on the feds to being dependent on the casino.' But it has...then it started to face competition because the state it was in liberalized gaming law and pretty soon a couple of new casinos were opening up -- non-Native casinos -- located right between this tribe and its primary market. So its revenues looked like they were going to fall as these casinos came online. They were going to start losing jobs and losing resources so the nation established a tribally owned corporation, wholly tribally owned corporation, and directed it to diversify the nation's economy. That's its goal and they said, ‘We want you to make profits that we can use, you can use to get us into, get us out of our dependence on gaming. We don't want to leave gaming -- that's a core activity -- we want to be doing other things,' and insulated this new corporation from tribal politics and hired top quality managers. The chairman of the tribe said, ‘One thing we've learned in our experience is that politics and business decision-making are a bad mix. So we're going to set this thing up in a way that insulates, tries to manage that,' tough challenge in small nations. But in five years, the corporation is generating substantial profits and jobs from multiple businesses. They succeeded in diversifying the economy dramatically and today they're, in a sense, much more dependent on the multiple businesses that that corporation is running than they are on their original casino operation. And in fact, the casino revenues have fallen because these other casinos have been successful.

Now, one way that we look at these two enterprises is we look at very different ways to organize things. Enterprise A fits in our book under what we sometimes call the council-run model of a nation-owned enterprise and you can see it diagrammed up there. You've got the council, the CEO reports to the council, employees supposedly report to the CEO, there may be a board of directors but it's actually an advisory board. That may not be the original idea, but in fact the council is running things. And elected leaders are basically making the business decisions, political considerations loom large, employees have figured out where the power lies and realize, well, the way to get a complaint dealt with is you go around the CEO. Why talk to the board, they don't have any power; you just go straight to the council. So the council's become the personnel grievance process, the complaint department and everything else in that situation. Enterprise B -- the one I talked about responding to the casino challenge -- they've got a very different structure. They've got a council, they've got a board that reports to the council, the CEO reports to the board and employees can't go around. They've got a personnel grievance system that is built into their corporate structure. So if you have a complaint, there's a way to deal with it within the business structure. The council's job is to think about where are we going? What's the strategy here? Do we want to be in this kind of business? How should we use this chunk of land? What should we do with this windfall land selling? The big issues the council is dealing with, but then the council has appointed a board of talented, skilled people with integrity and said, ‘Here's our strategy, you guys execute it. If you depart from the strategy, we'll pull you in but you do the day-to-day execution of it.' Now this isn't the whole story of those two enterprises. As anybody in this room knows, there's a lot more going on than this, but to us this illustrates the point -- which came out very clearly in our research -- which is that how you organize the business and how you organize the business development process is at least important as what business you're in. The guys in Nation B, when they faced this casino challenge and they created that corporation and said, ‘Go make money, diversify our economy,' we talked with the people who were involved in those council meetings and one of them said to us, ‘You know, we never talked about what business to get into.' He said, ‘We didn't spend those meetings saying, ‘I think we ought to do something in transportation. I think we ought to get into retail. I've got a great idea, I know a guy who could get us into X.'' He said, ‘The discussion was all about how do we organize a structure that's capable of supporting and sustaining business, whatever the business is? We didn't really talk about what business to be in, that was the corporation's job: where are the golden opportunities?'

So I thought I'd just look for a moment at what the old days, the approach to business development. And this is a bit of a caricature of it, but this is kind of the way for a long time I think a lot of nations approached business development. It's being left in the dust by what many of you in this room are doing today, which is a very different approach, but this is what it used to look like I think. Whose job was development? It was the planner. You hired a planner, you told them economic development, ‘We need economic development here, go find something we should do.' It was the planner's job. I remember in the late '80s arriving at one reservation saying we wanted to talk to someone about their economic development strategy: ‘This is Joe Kalt.' And he said, ‘Oh, economic development? Down the hall, third office on the right.' You know, this was a councilor. It was if, ‘Oh, that's their job. We hired a guy. He's supposed to do economic development. We've got other things.' It's the planner's job. What's the strategy? Pick a winner, the home-run syndrome. This young lady is from, came from Pine Ridge, right? From Albuquerque. Somebody here though...well, there was a fellow up there when we were up there about three years ago and he said, ‘One of our problems is we've got the Messiah complex.' I said, ‘What's the Messiah complex?' He said, ‘it's the belief that someday the Ford Motor Company's going to roll in here with 500 jobs and save us all.' And he said, ‘We finally realized, no one's going to save us. We've got to do it ourselves.' Picking the winner, finding that home-run project that's going to solve all the problems is not what economic development is about, but it's often the way it used to be done. Pick a winner, get a grant, or -- the more sophisticated approach -- do an asset analysis, then pick a winner and get a grant. Either way the strategy focuses on what we can persuade funders to fund.

How is the effort organized, sort of as a branch of tribal administration? Businesses are often run like tribal departments or social programs, the relationship of business to tribal government, the council controls the business, makes the decisions on hiring and firing, decides how the revenues are going to be spent, etc., essentially they're the business operator. What role does political and legal infrastructure play? Not much. Nobody pays a whole lot of attention to it. The authority rests with the council and maybe with the funders who told you, ‘Here's how you have to use the money we just gave you.' There are few consistent rules about how you do things, there's little effort to keep politics out of business decisions. What role does financial management capacity play? Pretty modest. Businesses are dependent on grants, they're run like programs, you fill out the grant application, show where the money goes and you're pretty much done. Not a lot of investment in building financial management capacity on the ground. Key tasks: hire a planner, get a grant, start a business and employ as many people as possible -- the old approach. What does the process look like? This comes out of talking with a number of tribes about how these things happen. There's a tribal election, new leadership comes in, they look around and say, ‘We need to get something going around here. Anybody got any ideas? We better hire a planner; you hire a planner. Okay, let's get a grant; you get a grant. Start a business, any business, whatever you get a grant for, that's fine. Hand out the jobs to your relatives and supporters.' So the business gets going, not much money comes in, but as long as the grant holds out, the jobs hold out. Then there's another election, a new group of leaders comes in, they look around at the business and they say, ‘Whoa, those jobs ought to be ours. Let's fire everybody and put our people in there.' Six months later, ‘We're short of cash. We need some money. That business is bringing in money, let's take the money from that and solve our problem.' Three more months the business is in trouble. ‘Quick, get another grant. Get another grant.' Six months more it's going down, ‘Run for cover.' Everybody splits. ‘Fire the planner. What happened to the jobs? Aren't there anymore grants? The chief's an idiot. Vote him out. Elect me,' etc. So the business dies, next election, another elected set of leaders comes in promising to build a sound economy. Look around, ‘Boy,' they say, ‘those guys sure made a mess of things. Good thing we got elected. Now let's get something going,' and here we go again. ‘Anybody got any ideas, etc.?' And the outcomes of this approach tended to be failed enterprises, few profits, few jobs, a discouraged community that wonders, man, when is something going to really stick.

Well, the alternative, and we think some of you in this room have been inventing this. We'll hear about some of them this morning and some of you have been doing it that we don't even know about. It's a very different approach to business development. We call it the nation-building approach, but that's just a name for it, but it looks very different. It doesn't go after the home run or look for the quick fix. It basically says, 'We've got to put in place a governance environment that can support and sustain development and we've got to determine our strategic priorities.' What is it we're trying to create here -- that Joan [Timeche] talked about this morning? What kind of community do we hope will be here on this land 50 years from now and what does that mean for the business decisions we make today? Joan and I actually had dinner last night with four representatives of a tribe in the Southwest who are wrestling...and they've been extremely successful, have done a brilliant job of business. And one of them said, ‘We're realizing that while we've become really good at some of these business techniques, we're beginning to lose touch with some of the Indigenous knowledge that we're trying to preserve. So we're at that point of trying to say to ourselves, okay, we've solved this piece of our strategic objective, we're making the money we need to free ourselves, but we haven't yet solved this part of our strategic objective. How do we do both at once and what does that mean for the businesses that we're in?' They're thinking about, 'Hey, have we got the right strategy here?'

Features of the nation-building approach? And some of you who are familiar with our work will be familiar with a lot of this, but it emphasizes who's in the driver's seat, self-rule, Indigenous nations making the decisions, exercising control over their own affairs; backing up that authority with sound governing institutions; matching those institutions to their own Indigenous values, culture, the things that are most important to them; thinking strategically about where they're going, turning tribal government not into this boxing ring where families or factions fight to control the resources but into the engine that carries the nation forward. That's sort of the nation-building approach. But it approaches business development a little differently. Whose job is development? It's too important to be left to the planner. It can't be in the office three doors down. It's what the nation's about. How are we going to free ourselves from that dependence? How are we going to provide our citizens with opportunities? How are we going to support a government? Those are huge challenges. What's the strategy? It thinks about these issues. What kind of community are we trying to build? What do we hope to change? What do we hope to protect and not change, preserve? And given our priorities, our assets, the opportunities in front of us, what should we do? The relationship of business to tribal government, strategic direction is in the hands of the council or other leadership, the day-to-day management is insulated from politics, and there are multiple ways of doing that. We're going to hear about some of them today. Some people do it with independent boards, separate charters, established rules that govern how people deal with their own businesses. But that is a major piece of the task of running successful nation-owned enterprises.

We've looked at this council-run versus separated model, those two diagrams I showed you. We did a running study of 121 tribally owned and operated enterprises on about 30 reservations and we asked people, senior leaders from these nations, which of these models do you fit into? Does the council control everything, hiring, firing, day-to-day business management? Is that essentially council business or is it separated somehow? You have specialists, those who know that side of how to run the enterprise who are doing that. And then we asked them, are you profitable or not? And the interesting thing was 63 of them under the council-run model, percent that are profitable: 49 percent. Odds of profitability: less than even. Under the separated model, 58 of those, 83 percent of them profitable, odds of profitability almost five to one. And this is one of the things that taught us that this issue of how you manage that place where politics and business come together turns out to be a critical piece of whether or not the business succeeds in meeting the objectives of the nation. And we think actually on the left that the situation would be, that that actually overstates the successes, because of course what it doesn't capture is all the businesses that folded because of interference like that timber operation that I started with, which didn't last because it had been turned into an employment service for council."

Audience member:

"Would the 31 also include casinos?"

Stephen Cornell:

"At the time we did this, I would say there are casinos in this list, but I couldn't tell you how many. Some of this was in '91 and '92 and I think in those two groups, those two rounds of this, there were very few casinos but probably there are some in here. A lot of this is non-casino. And actually someone said to us last night, the nation that Joan and I were talking with last night has a very successful casino among other businesses. And this one gentleman said to us, ‘Well, the problem with a casino is if you're making a lot of money, it can cover over a lot of problems.' And he said, ‘What we've discovered is when we get into businesses other than a casino,' at least if you're in a place where casinos are making a lot of money, that is if you're close to a big market, he said, ‘When we get into businesses other than casinos, we find we have to ramp up our management game. It's a whole lot tougher.' He said, ‘We've had to find much better management skills outside the casino business. Running casino you've got to know how to run a casino but,' he said, ‘as a general set of management challenges, if the money flows in, boy, you can cut a lot of corners and still show a healthy profit. In our other businesses, the tolerances are a lot less. We haven't been able to tolerate the mistakes that we often made in our casino biz. We've had to be much more skilled.' So that's an interesting question.

What role does the political and legal infrastructure play? Treat it as a key piece of the puzzle. This is what we've got to solve. It's that nation with the casino challenges, Nation B that I talked about, not talking about what business to be in, but talking about, 'What's the political and legal infrastructure we're going to put in place that can support any business we want to get into?' Without a political and legal infrastructure, laws, codes, separations of powers, roles, etc., that can support development, changes of success are slim. What role does financial management capacity play? Another key piece, putting in place reliable financial systems that are effective, they're enforced, they're transparent, so people trust them. It's not only essential to business success, but this is one of the ways you reassure citizens, partners, funders. There's a fellow named Jason Goodstriker with the Blood Tribe in Alberta. He's a council member there and he said, ‘We used to have all these rumors about what's really happening to the money.' He said, ‘Nobody...we all knew what was happening to the money cause the council got all these reports, but out in the community, ‘Oh, I know what they're really doing with that money, you know where that money came from, I know what's behind that whole thing,' and it seemed like a big rumor mill. We kept talking about how do we control this? And finally someone said, ‘Tell everybody what's happening to the money.' So we simply started publishing the tribal budget in the newspaper every quarter, everything. ‘Here's where it's coming from guys, here's where it's going and we put it in there.'' And he said, ‘Anybody with the patience and the mind for that mind-numbing task of just looking at numbers, could figure out...we made it as clear, as simple as we could.' And he said, ‘Overnight the rumor mill wound down.' It was the lack of knowledge that had made a lot of our own citizens say, ‘I don't know about this, it looks fishy. We made it transparent and the trust level rose.'

What are the key tasks? In this approach, determine strategic priorities. What are we trying to create here, where are we trying to go? Create a governance environment that can sustain the development effort and business success. Invest in financial management capacity. Find talented people and support them. And when we look at the business development process, it's the same four points and probably others that we can talk about. It's very different from that, anybody got any ideas, let's get a grant, let's start whatever we can persuade someone to fund; very different approach.

What are the likely outcomes? Well, our research at least says increase profits, reduce dependency, jobs that last, they don't get tied to political cycles, things like that and resources the nation can use to support its priorities. That's a real quick sort of overview of some of what we think we've seen on this question of nation-owned enterprises, how they work, some different approaches to thinking about them.

Any questions or anything you'd like to raise from all of that?"

Michael Taylor:

"What did you advise the tribal leaders who you had dinner with last night about this issue of maintaining the tribal-ness of these kinds of enterprises? What did you tell them?"

Stephen Cornell:

"Well, this is going to sound like a real slippery answer, but they didn't actually ask us for advice, which I was relieved about. I think Joan and I were sitting there thinking, ‘Boy, this is...' I'll tell you, there were two issues they raised and both of them -- as Joan and I talked about this afterwards -- both of us thought, these are issues we're beginning to hear more and more about and they both were really interesting issues. That was the first one was the question of, 'We're getting really good at this side of this kind of cultural divide, are we losing too much on this side?' And I think if they'd asked for an answer, one of the answers I would have given them from other peers too to talk a little bit about what other tribes are doing. Mississippi Choctaw, they pour profits from their enterprises into things like language retention, into running their own schools. One thing we did ask them was who controls the schools on your rez, are all your kids going off to public schools where you don't have any influence over the curriculum, or have you actually got some influence and they sound like from what they said, one of those nations in the fortunate position of actually exercising control from nursery school to middle school, they run their own school. That's an opportunity to create a curriculum that does at least part of what they're concerned about. At Mississippi Choctaw they put a lot of revenues into language and that sort of thing. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma has launched in the last couple of years a major language revitalization initiative. They did a survey and they discovered that there were no fluent Cherokee speakers on the rez, on their lands, under the age of about 45. And the Chief said, Chad Smith, 'We've got a national emergency here. This is the future of the nation at stake and what we've got to do is make some tough decisions about how we spend our revenues.' They don't have a lot of revenues. They don't have a large casino generating a great deal of money."

Audience member:

"They do."

Stephen Cornell:

"They have some large casinos, but they aren't in the situation of some of these tribes which have a great deal of discretionary income coming in that they can just put into a new program. And what the chief said was, ‘We had to approach some of our programs and say if we're going to invest in language revitalization, we're going to have to take money from some programs that are already established because these are expensive.' They went and found out how do you do language revitalization and the research says you start with the littlest children. You don't do high-school language classes; you go to three- to five-year-olds. And the Native Hawaiians and the Maoris in New Zealand were doing these immersion classrooms for three- to five-year-olds where not a word of English is spoken. So the Cherokees started one of these classrooms. But the director of education said, 'It costs me $90,000 a year to run one of those and I need to run four or five of them. So I've got to find money from other pieces of the tribe to do that.' And the response of the other pieces of the tribe was, 'Of course.' So they're saying, 'Okay, this piece is critical and we've got to make some tough decisions and put some revenue into that.' The second issue they came up with was they said, 'Our economic development arm is very successful and it's drawing talent away from our tribal government piece. Our successful enterprises are soaking up a lot of our talented people and tribal government is having trouble recruiting our own citizens who are talented because the enterprises are doing it. So we're facing sort of a human capital challenge on the governance side.' And that's another issue, which they saw coming out of this type of success."

Michael Taylor:

"Let me give you a couple of ideas that have worked at Colville. I had the opportunity to have a hand in developing one of the early recipients of the Honoring Nations award, which was Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation and they did...my recollection is they did receive it. It's been a long time. When we drafted the charter of the corporation, it had a provision in it, which required the corporate board to expend time and resources assisting tribal members in developing their own businesses. And that -- after the outside board came in -- the board didn't like that. They tried to get the tribal council to remove that obligation from it. So there was one of those internal political wars over a provision in the corporate charter requiring the corporation to make substantial efforts and show that they were assisting tribal members in developing their own businesses. But the tribal council refused to do that and so still today there's a provision in their charter and a requirement that they, as business managers and as a corporate board, they feel like they suffer under this requirement. But I would argue that the reason Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation is still in existence today after 23 years is that provision, because they're obligated to go into the community, find people who have ideas, and help them develop those ideas. Another aspect of what we did in developing that corporation was we obligated the corporation to...we subjected the corporation to the TERO requirements of the tribes and that also was a bone of contention with the board of directors. Most tribes have hiring preferences, but when you get into the business the corporate managers always want to hire the most experienced, most productive people. And often, as in the case of Colville, that wasn't the tribal workforce. That may be changing today, but I don't think so. And so subjecting the corporation to the jurisdiction of the tribe's TERO organization also I think is a reason why Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation is still going strong."

Stephen Cornell:

"Those are interesting. Anybody else have a..."

Alex Yazza:

"Stephen, Alex Yazza with the Gila River Indian Community. Just a question with regards to the tribal communities that you've worked with: have you seen the experiences of maybe a number of those tribes that have made significant changes to possibly their governance structure in building not only their administrative capacity but their financial management capacity in order to become more successful? Was that any part of their strategic outlook and doing so, i.e. government reform, or even reformation of their constitution bylaws? Have you seen that in Indian Country?"

Stephen Cornell:

"Yeah, and I don't want to steal Brian Titus's thunder but -- who'll be on the panel next -- but the Osoyoos Indian Band in British Columbia, when they decided they were going to vigorously pursue economic development. We recently did a case study of what they've done and they actually spent a considerable period of time focused just on what do our financial management procedures look like? Do we have the capacity to account for every dollar, to make intelligent investment decisions? And have we built that? And let's do that first. And actually there's a period of time in the history of their development over the last 15 years where you look and you say, ‘Boy, what's really going on here is building financial management capacity. That's what they're about.' And once they got to that point it began to really show up in what was happening with their businesses. The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan, they went through a period of having some enterprises that certainly had potential but weren't delivering and they read some of the research that we, and others, have done looking at this business-politics mix. And as a result of that they reorganized their...they basically separated their development corporation from their council and it had been one in the same and they pulled those two apart and rethought some of the constitutional issues there. George Bennett and John Petoskey and others up there see that as the point where they really began to see different results. They were at the same time trying to diversify their economy away from gaming so those two kind of went together. But yeah, I think we have seen tribes that have looked at constitutional issues as a critical piece of making economic development work. Rocky Barrett from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma, Rocky -- I heard him give a speech at the University of Oklahoma -- and he said, ‘If you're not thinking about constitutional reform, you're not in the economic development ballgame.' That's a line that stuck with me. It was the first time I heard a tribal chairman put constitutions and economic development in the same sentence. And he was reflecting their experience. His feeling was, until we dealt with the constitutional issues, we weren't able to make it happen."

Audience member:

"I have two questions and one is related actually to Rocky Barrett, because there are a number of tribes in Oklahoma where there's a three-party government and the executive branch manages the businesses. Rocky's a good example of that, and it's a little bit different from separated model. I was wondering if you've done any research into that. And the second question is among your separated-model businesses have you looked at the distinction between those that are successful and those that aren't and what are the characteristics of the businesses that are separated but not successful? Because it would be good to know where the pitfalls are if you go that route."

Stephen Cornell:

"Let me mention the second one of those first. The business/politics mix is just one piece of the development puzzle as all of you know. It's not as if solving that suddenly everything takes off. And yeah, we've seen plenty of places where they've succeeded in dealing with that, but it comes back to things like the financial management capacity issues. They may not have got their financial management house in order or they may be in a position where they're very reluctant. I remember up at Yakama, this wasn't so much business, it was the management of wildlife up there, but they had a very strong Yakama preference policy and the wildlife biology guy had said to us, ‘Well, we had to break that policy. We had to go to the council because there wasn't anybody here who knew anything about wildlife biology. And if you're going to manage a mule deer population and do it right, you better know what you're doing.' But he said what they did was when they hired me -- this guy who was the manager, he's a white guy -- he said in your job description is a five-year directive that within five years you will have trained a Yakama to replace you. He said, 'I'll only be successful here if I work myself out of a job.' So those kinds of issues come up as well and the separated model is no panacea, no guarantee. You still have to make intelligent business decisions and as all of you know, that's tough to do even when you're set up perfectly, the number of businesses that fail because of mistakes. So I don't think the separated model, we wouldn't hold it up as a panacea, but we would say that when you don't find a way to effectively manage that mix, you're inviting a lot of difficulties that even if you do the financial management right, even if you do a lot of the other stuff right, you're going to run into problems. On this question of this sort of these different structures, we've not systematically looked at that. What we're I think increasingly aware of is that there are a number of ways to skin this cat, and even within what I call the council-controlled model there are ways to manage politics within that model. You can do it by having very clear roles and rules about what council may and may not do. It's a model that's more susceptible or more dependent on electing the right councilors, because it opens some doors to people who may eventually get elected who don't have the best interest of the nation at heart. But I think what we're becoming aware of is that there are a number of different ways of addressing this political challenge. We've not done systematic research on this sort of executive as the managers separate from the legislative branch but still under tribal government and that's actually a good suggestion. We ought to look systemically at places like Potawatomi that does that."

Mary Thomas:

"Less than 15 years ago we were a very, very poor tribe. We had just a handful of businesses that were struggling. So when we got into the enterprises of entertainment, mainly gaming, that proved to be such a huge success that it was a benchmark and other businesses that followed almost had to strive to be try to reach that same benchmark and that was a hindrance I think. But keeping that up and trying to get as profitable as possible in a quick turnaround time, it has helped. And that's the main thing that I wanted to share with you is that you set a benchmark and then you try to achieve it and that's part of our success. But investing in people at the top when you're successful also helps, because now they're coming back and they're taking over and I just see the brightest future ever with all these bright minds coming in."

Stephen Cornell:

"Thanks. And we're going to hear more from Gila River during the next panel about some of what they've done. Other comments or questions? Yes, Roger."

Roger Willie:

"My question kind of goes back to this cultural aspect. You mentioned that certain tribes are starting with the youth. What about in terms of financial education, starting with the youth, what are tribes doing all the way down to like pre-K, elementary years, and so forth?"

Stephen Cornell:

"Well, I don't know if I've got an answer for you other than I think as many of you know, this issue of financial literacy is a very big issue right now in Indian Country, and there are several major initiatives underway, some by the Oweesta Corporation and First Nations Development Institute. Some of you know Joanna Donovo who is very involved in some of this. The Federal Reserve has been very interested in some of these financial literacy issues. And I think a number of them are focusing on not quite as young as you're talking about Roger, but certainly high school level and how...we hear from a lot of tribal leadership who are working on, thinking about education issues. We hear them saying to each other, ‘Have we thought through what it is we want our kids to learn on both sides of this cultural gap?' And I think some of them are thinking about the sorts of issues you're raising, financial literacy. We had a tribal chairman a couple of years ago who said to us -- no, he wasn't a chairman, he was a councilor -- and he said, ‘You know, my kids know all the latest stuff in popular culture but they don't know what I do. They don't know what it means to be a councilor. They don't know what tribal government is about.' And he said, ‘That's my worry. Thirty years from now who's going to run this place if my own kids...we're not somehow in our high school capturing their imagination with the challenge of nation building and of development and of what we could be doing on this land?' So I think there's a lot of talk about this, but I don't know examples of exactly what you're talking about."

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "The Politics-Enterprise Balance"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders and scholars share their thoughts about how Native nations can effectively manage the relationship between their governments and the businesses they own and operate. 

Native Nations
Citation

Grant, Kenneth. "Building and Sustaining Tribal Enterprises" (Episode 4). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy and the UA Channel, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2006. Television program.

Jorgensen, Miriam. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Spearfish, South Dakota. April 19, 2011. Interview.

Morgan, Lance. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. January 14, 2008. Interview.

Pico, Anthony. Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 2004. Presentation.

Record, Ian. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Spearfish, South Dakota. April 19, 2011. Interview.

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

Taylor, Michael. Building and Sustaining Tribal Enterprises seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 29 March 2007. Presentation.

Ian Record:

"Separated model, in many cases, it's a loaded term. It's saying, 'We're going to separate this stuff.' And it's really, 'How do you manage that relationship? How do you strike that balance to where, you know, the nation is ensuring that the business entity has the best chance of success and then the business entity in turn is ensuring that it's advancing the vision of the people and its priorities for the future?"

Anthony Pico:

"We have learned experience brings wisdom. The first rule is that businesses cannot compete successfully when the decisions are made according to tribal politics instead of business criteria. This doesn't mean that the tribe must abandon control, it means that the tribe must develop strategies and policies and execute oversight that guide the actions and decisions. The strategic question the Viejas council engages should not be, 'Who runs the mailroom?' but 'What kind of society are we trying to build?'"

Kenneth Grant:

"There's a real difficulty in separating the roles with government-owned or tribally owned enterprises, people wearing multiple hats at the same time. And so you're a citizen of the tribe and yet you're also a part owner of the enterprise. A council member is a, has governing responsibilities, is also an owner, is also a citizen. That collapsing of the distance between government and business often creates a lot of role confusion for tribes that is difficult to overcome."

Michael Taylor:

"Dividing the business operations from the politics of the tribal council is perhaps not a panacea, but it's necessary if the tribes are going to succeed with their development. And all the years that I've worked on reservations and I've worked in the tribal facility always, I've always worked directly for the tribe, the struggle has been how to figure out ways to deal with this problem. We need to develop our resources, we need to pay attention to taking those resources that we have and maximizing [them] for the benefit of our people and creating institutions that last, both governmental and business."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"You know, the challenge I think about the most, because I think it's the place that has the greatest fears raised for tribal council folks, for, you know, the political leadership, is the fear of just not knowing what's going on at that corporation. And that just means that there have to be mechanisms in that separated model for information flow, and a lot of times, initial documents that create corporations specify some of this information. It may say, you know, you have to have an annual report to us, and that annual report, you know, has to happen on such-and-such day, or the third council meeting of the year or whatever, but I think the most contemporary learning on this suggests that that's not really enough. What tribal councils need is some assurance that they're going to get information more frequently and probably a little bit more intimately. That doesn't mean that they've got the right to go in and ask the CEO of the corporation or the board of the corporation lots of questions every day all the time, but rather that the corporation has to have mechanisms that are both formal and informal for communicating adequately with tribal council to sort of say, 'Here's the stuff you need to know, and we'll give you more detailed information at our annual report time' or whatever. Different nations have handled this in different ways. I know that you've spoken with Lance Morgan, who is the one who told us what I think of as one of the best examples of this, is just offering the tribal council training for new councilors. Anytime somebody is newly elected that they get to learn about HoChunk, Inc. through a tour and an orientation. There are also tribes that require say quarterly reports that might be much shorter than say the annual reporting-in, but just to sort of update on here's where things are at. So whatever's going to work for that tribe that's not micromanagement and too much oversight, but actual good communication back that maintains the balance."

Lance Morgan:

"Well, managing a relationship between the business side and the political side is a very big deal. We've been doing it now for, I guess, almost 12-13 years. And when we started off, we had a formal set of rules. This is basically, the tribe would do this and the board would do this. And what's happened is that, as issues emerge, as we evolve as an entity, we continue to give more information. I mean everything's kind of slanted towards more sharing and more information rather than less. We still have to maintain certain differences, certain walls, you know. Things like keeping the tribe out of personnel issues and things like that -- just base, functional things that we have to do as a corporation. But in terms of the relationship, everything that we have done has gone towards more sharing and more information. And I think that as you do that, that's very helpful as long as you maintain the core differences, the core separations that allow you to continue to function independently."

Jerry Smith:

"The first lesson I learned is that maintenance of the separation of tribal governments and businesses is a very delicate balance. For example, tribal membership's demand for per capita could definitely affect you as a business. And, given the hands of people in a tribal governance role, they may have an agenda to get more money out of you. And from a business standpoint, we can only give what we can afford to give to the tribe. And so, political factors can come in and wipe you out. We don't go promote ourselves and sell ourselves as a service to anybody because, in my opinion, we're still learning how to do this, and if anybody tells you they're an expert at it, I'd like to meet them. I really would like to meet them. But what we continue to try to do is help when we're asked to help. And we've had tribes come to us and ask for help to do this, and the biggest challenge that I've run into in trying to help those tribes is the issue of control, and government does not want to give up that control, especially in tribes that already have ongoing gaming operations. And so, they'll commit to the idea of doing it, but once they understand that they can't go in and fire the manager tomorrow or go in there and do the things they're used to doing, they don't like it. So, you have to manage that every day. I mean, it's something that I have to manage every day. The governor doesn't have an authority to come in and take any actions within the operations on a day-to-day basis, but everybody knows that when the governor shows up on any one of our properties, I need to know immediately and we have somebody there to make sure that he's seen, he's getting what he needs. So you've got to manage that. You have to recognize who the owner is. And so, again, that's a delicate balance." 

What is Section 17?

Author
Year

It’s been over a year since Tribal Council passed a resolution (No. 182 — 2014) authorizing a draft to be crafted for a Section 17 corporate charter for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The main goal, per Res. No. 182, “is seeking economic diversification” that will benefit the Tribe into the future...

Resource Type
Citation

McKie, Scott. "What is Section 17?" Cherokee One Feather. May 20th, 2015. Article. (https://theonefeather.com/2015/05/what-is-section-17/, accessed June 19, 2015)