Small Business

Mille Lacs' Small Business Development Program

Year

The Small Business Development Program assists Band members in developing the private sector economy by providing low-interest loans up to $75,000 to businesses that are at least 60 percent owned and operated by Band members located on or near the Reservation. The Program offers both "micro" loans to serve as seed money for business development and "macro" loans for more extensive business start-up or expansion needs. Additionally, it offers assistance with business plan development, marketing, accounting, and management. Since its inception in 1996, the Program has provided loans and training to more than 30 businesses, including construction companies, coffee houses, a septic service, lawn care and snow removal businesses, a karate studio, a horse breeding operation, a hair salon, and an art gallery. Together, the Mille Lacs Corporate Commission and the Small Business Development Program help diversify the tribal economy by providing economic development opportunities that span beyond government jobs and the gaming industry.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Small Business Development Program". Honoring Nations: 2000 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2001. Report.

Permissions

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

Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation

Year

Viewed as a one-stop shop for lending services, the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation provides holistic community development through business and employee loans, business development trainings, and financial literacy education. Demonstrating that the connection between sovereignty and economic self-reliance is essential, the CPCDC assists citizens in building their assets as a long-term solution to poverty. With the foresight to create their own lending institution, the CPN is reiterating the business savvy demonstrated by its people at the height of the fur trading era in the 1600’s.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation." Honoring Nation: 2006 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2007. Report.

Permissions

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

Pine Ridge Renaissance: From the Ground Up, Sovereignty Can Be Real

Author
Year

This article chronicles the groundswell of small business development taking place on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It examines the critical importance that citizen entrepreneurs can and do play in developing sustainable economies in Indian Country.

Resource Type
Citation

Record, Ian. "Pine Ridge Renaissance: From the Ground Up, Sovereignty Can Be Real." Native Americas Journal. Spring 2003, 54-59. Article.

Permissions

This article, which appeared in the now-defunct Native Americas journal, is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of author Ian Record.

ONABEN: A Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network

Year

Founded by a consortium of Native nations in the Pacific Northwest, ONABEN's mission is to increase self-reliance by promoting the development of tribal-citizen-owned small businesses and the diversification of reservation economies. ONABEN's programs provide financial counseling, business mentoring, links to tribal efforts, referrals to start-up financing, and access to a network of experienced teachers and business people. As the ONABEN network continues to grow, its enormous value to both tribal citizens and its member nations grows as well.

Resource Type
Citation

"ONABEN: A Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network." Honoring Nations: 2005 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2006. Report.

Permissions

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

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

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

Native Nations
Citation

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

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

June 13, 2011

[Sirens/gunshots]

Narrator:

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

Saint Anthony
Feast Day

[Gunshots]

Ysleta Mission

Narrator:

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

Javier Loera:

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

Narrator:

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

[Singing/bell ringing]

Carlos Hisa:

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

[Singing/bell ringing]

Narrator:

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

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

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

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

Trini Gonzalez:

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

Joseph P. Kalt:

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

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

Narrator:

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

Patricia Riggs:

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

Joseph P. Kalt:

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

Narrator:

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

John Baily:

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

Patient:

“Is it going to hurt?”

Dentist:

“No, you’ll be fine.”

Narrator:

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

Al Joseph:

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

Narrator:

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

Christopher Gomez:

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

[Singing]

Narrator:

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

Christopher Gomez: [to students]

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

Christopher Gomez:

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

Narrator:

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

Joseph P. Kalt:

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

Trini Gonzalez:

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

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

Narrator:

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

[Cheering]

Frank Paiz:

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

Narrator:

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

Carlos Hisa:

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

[Singing]

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

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

Councilmen
Chris Gomez
David Gomez
Francisco Gomez
Trini Gonzalez

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

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

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

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

Producer
Patricia Riggs

Director
Jackson Polk

Camera
Aaron Barnes
Fernie Apodaca
Jackson Polk

TV Facilities
Capstone Productions Inc.

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

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation © 2013 Yselta del Sur Pueblo

Robert Miller: Creating Sustainable Reservation Economies

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative and lively talk, law professor Robert Miller discusses the importance of Native nations building diversified, sustainable reservation economies through the cultivation and support of small businesses owned by their citizens, and offers some strategies for how Native nations can then leverage the economic activity of those businesses.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Miller, Robert. "Creating Sustainable Reservation Economies." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Presentation.

Stephen Cornell:

"We want to turn our attention from courts to economies in this next presentation, and we're very fortunate that we were able to persuade Bob Miller to come down and talk with us this morning. It's my pleasure to introduce him. Robert Miller is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Bob's been engaged in Indian law for more than 20 years now. He's served as a judge, a justice, is now I think Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals at Grand Ronde and is currently Professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. You can read the details of his bio in the book...the curriculum booklet, but he's recently just a year ago published a new book called Reservation Capitalism: Economic Development in Indian Country that's now available out there and some of you may want to look for, but it's a pleasure to have Bob down to talk to us a little bit about creating Indigenous economies and sustainable communities. So please let me welcome Bob Miller."

Robert Miller:

"Thank you, Steve, and thank you all for being here and thank you for inviting me from Native Nations Institute. I gave this talk last night to a class at ASU [Arizona State University] and I took an hour and 40 minutes. I don't think I have an hour and 40 minutes today. In fact, I've been asked to talk for about 20 minutes and then leave the floor open for questions and we'll see what you want to talk about and what comments and questions you might have so I'm going to try...you have the materials and the slides in the book, the slides go way beyond 20 minutes so we're going to roar through this.

As Steve mentioned, I've been working on economic development ever since I was hired as a professor. In 1999, I was hired as a full-time professor at Lewis & Clark [College] in Portland, and the first topic I wanted to address was economic development in Indian Country. I do not think I'm overemphasizing this point: I think that economic development may be the most important issue you are facing as tribal leaders. As tribal communities, we need to create sustainable homelands where our people and our citizens -- if they choose of course -- where they can live and have access to adequate housing and adequate wage jobs. How are our reservations going to be sustainable communities, that next seven generations that we think about and talk about, how are we going to have young families able to live on reservations, to attend tribal colleges to learn language from elders, to learn culture from elders. So when I'm talking economic development, I'm talking about far more than just making money and I'm not talking about making the next Indian Donald Trump or making someone rich. We're talking about making reservations sustainable communities that continue to survive for those thousands of years that we already have.

So I have a couple of just sort of prime messages that I wanted to write in this book and the very first chapter is really just...let's look at all those really at the same time. So my number one chapter, I guess it's chapter two, but I'm trying to establish even for Native peoples, but certainly for the American society at large, that Native communities supported themselves by intelligent, hard work for centuries, and dare I say that it was entrepreneurial, family type businesses. We didn't...the picture of Americans is that Indians frolicked through the forest like wood nymphs living off the bounty of nature. I think there's a nefarious purpose for American society to have that vision. I think that helps their consciences feel less guilt about the taking of this reservation -- excuse me -- this continent and the resources. So they'd pretend that Natives didn't own private property, they'd pretend that Natives didn't know how to develop resources and to protect and marshal those resources to have an economic life that they could live and survive in.

I have a quote in my book that's interesting: What's the economic year? I'm not an economist and I don't use that many economic terms, but there's a few points I want to make today. Your economic year is how long it takes you to create...either to earn the money or create the resources for you to survive for a year. And what I've read is that most tribal peoples survived on a three- to four-month economic year. They could either grow, harvest, hunt or gather the products they needed to support themselves. What's your economic year now? What's the average American economic year? It's fifty weeks, isn't it? ‘Cause doesn't the average person only get...gee, whose economic system was better? So I'm trying to drive home a point to American Indians that we did work intelligently, we did know how to create economic valuable properties and we did understand private property. And let me address that because I think also American society thinks, ‘Oh, Indian people don't own property. Gee, you don't want to work, dude, because you don't own property.' Well, I dare ask you what that you have do you not consider your private property? Our lands, we view tribal governments as owning lands in common and that certainly has been our history and then sort of the legal property regime, but in chapter two of my book I talk about economic principles of tribal governments. Even though land was held in common for the tribe, individual families acquired private property rights. I cite the Hopi Tribe and various Pueblo tribes where various planter chiefs maybe, if that's the correct word, would assign plots and lots to various families, but they would then grow, harvest and those crops were theirs to use as they saw fit. And as long as that clan or family used that resource, it was in essence private property.

Where I'm from, the Pacific Northwest, I know a fair bit about the salmon cultures and the Columbia River. Native families up there would own prominent fishing rocks. Native families built wooden platforms to fish over the rapids at Celilo Falls, for example. Those were private property. No one else used those items without the permission of the tribal family. They were even inheritable property. That's something that some people, [it] would just boggle their mind that Native societies had a vision of private property. And in the tribes...the Makah Tribe at the very northwest tip of Washington and then their relatives up Vancouver Island, the Chul-nuth people, they took the ownership of what today we call intellectual property -- that's the second-to-the-last point I have there -- to a high degree that I think most Americans are unaware of. In the cultures of the northwest and into British Columbia, you owned songs, names, totem symbols, ceremonies, dances, and no one else would dare to use those privately owned intellectual pieces of property without permission of the recognized owners. The potlatch ceremony, I know Professor Trosper's written a lot about that. In fact, he's coming to speak at a conference at our school in February. So if any of you want to come to Arizona State February 27th and 28th, we are having a two-day conference about creating the tribal economy. So that's primarily what I'm interested in, what I'm talking about.

So the one economic term I'll put forward to you today is the idea of leakage and the multiplier effect. Again, I'm not an economist so I've learned these recently, but what do they mean? You've probably lived the idea of leakage. That is when money leaves a community sooner than is optimal. In 1994, I heard a Navajo tribal official say that 84 cents of every dollar a Navajo person receives leaves the reservation immediately. Now that is the case on practically every reservation I'm familiar with. Why is that? Because there are no businesses. There's no place to spend the money on the reservation. So the reservation that I'm actually the most familiar with is the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana because I worked for the Tribal Housing Authority for over three years. The first time I went to Navajo or, excuse me, to Lame Deer to apply for the job I got the map out, saw how I would fly there and then drive there and I said, ‘Oh, I'll just stay at the motel at Lame Deer.' Now you know where this story's going don't you? Good thing I had my tent and my sleeping bag with me because I slept on the front yard of my friend's house. So I go, I show up in Lame Deer, there's nothing to eat, there's no place to buy anything. The only business is a tribal gas station and there is an IGA store owned by a non-Indian. So that really started to open my eyes to some of the issues that economics face in Indian Country.

So I should ask Professor [Ronald] Trosper this, but I think economists say that a dollar should circulate in your community five to seven times. That's sort of the optimal goal before it is then taken and spent elsewhere. So that's what's called leakage, but in Indian Country with almost nowhere to spend your money, what happens? We know that our people get in the car. Perhaps there's not even a bank on the reservation. At Northern Cheyenne there was no bank. No reservation in Oregon that I'm aware of. Well, I better preface that, very few banks on reservations. As of a few years ago and I cite that in my book, only eight tribes owned banks. My tribe purchased a bank. We're in a small trust land-only corner of northeastern Oklahoma, but we purchased a bank by buying shares in that bank so sort of a different way just through the stock we ended up buying a bank. I do not know the number of how many tribes own banks today, but banking in Indian Country as you are well aware is an issue and so where can you cash your check? So at Northern Cheyenne people would get whatever kind of check they got from working or government or whatever, 42 miles to Hardin, Montana, that's where they would cash their check. One hundred and two miles to Billings, that's where they could cash their check and that's where that money got spent. That's a disaster for economic development for what we call the multiplier effect being spent on the reservation.

So what I have been talking about is creating businesses in Indian Country and emphasizing the importance of economic development. I meant to read you a quote of a couple chairmen that I interviewed for my book. Because this idea that economic development is the most important issue in Indian Country, many people might go, ‘Wait a minute, what about sovereignty, what about jurisdiction, what about social welfare issues? All those things are important.' Well, what I mean is that all of those issues are tied up with having an economy and having economic resources so that a tribal government can engage in social welfare programs, economic development welfare programs, improving their court systems as we just heard about, and in doing all the things that government is expected to do and what we hope [for] from government. But economic development is also crucial for individual Indian families to support themselves and to contribute to supporting their community and to educate their children, feed their children and help just the lifestyle of the reservation -- lifestyle, wrong word, the improvement of economic conditions in Indian Country.

So here's what Chairman Clifford Marshall of the Hoopa Tribe in Northern California told me back in '99. He said, ‘There's nothing traditional about having the federal government take care of us. There is nothing cultural about that.' 'My idea,' the chairman said, ‘of tribal economic development is that sovereignty is economic independence. Until we get there, we are not independent.' Another chairman from the Umatilla Tribe, Antone Minthorn told me, ‘If you own the economy, it won't hurt culture.' So we always run up against that question, ‘Is economic development somehow anti-Indian?' And that was one of my primary goals in working on this book. Native people have always worked intelligently and hard and even at risky businesses. It's not safe and easy to go whaling, is it? It's not safe and easy to be a buffalo hunter, is it? These are dangerous occupations. But Native peoples knew how to acquire resources and how to use them, even if that included distributing and sharing resources through giveaways perhaps or the potlatch ceremonies from the northwest. We knew how to use resources to support our cultures and our societies and I think we're in that same place today or we need to be in that place today. So I'm going to just quickly slash through some of this. I don't want to spend any time on that.

I am tired also at looking at these statistics. Maybe you're tired of talking about these things. I want to talk about improving issues. I don't want American Indians to be the least-educated, specifically identifiable racial group in the United States. I don't want us to be the least healthy group in the United States. I want us to improve our situations. And can we rely on the United States to do that? Does the United States care? I have a statement in the book, ‘Okay, we've relied on arguing you owe us certain things under our treaties, you have a trust responsibility for us, help us, assist us.' Well, we've waited 200 years for that. How's that worked out for us? Well, here's the situation. So if we don't do it ourselves, who's going to do it? So that...when I'm talking about creating an economy, I'm talking about intelligent tribal government and intelligent tribal communities working together to create a public and private economy in Indian Country. We often do rely just on you folks, the elected tribal leaders and we think that it's the tribal government's job to create economies and that's not completely true, is it? You create the conditions in which an economy can thrive, just what we heard about the tribal court system. Without laws for commercial issues, without laws about how you incorporate on a reservation, how you lease land on a reservation, without effective bureaucracies -- which the Harvard Project has taught us -- without effective institutions economies can't thrive. Entrepreneurs will go elsewhere. I have a cite or two in my book, a quote or two, excuse me, about Arizona Natives who started a business and they said they were going to open that business in Phoenix and not on their reservation and they had some reasons they didn't want to do that. And so that like kind of hurts me. We hope that Native entrepreneurs will consider their own reservation, will create jobs, will become mentors, and will help that new generation of young people to see that, ‘Gosh, being an owner of your own business is very much Native and is very possible.' So that's what I keep pushing for.

These statistics are quite old. You can see this is based on the 1992 Census and this chart is created by ONABEN. I was on the Board of Directors for ONABEN for 12 years and that's why when I became a professor this was the topic I wanted to write about. ONABEN stands for the Oregon...look at that, I can't hold that pointer steady. You guys are making me nervous or something or maybe it's that I'm 62. Oregon Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network. Four Oregon tribes created ONABEN in 1992 because they knew that they needed individual entrepreneurs to open businesses on their reservations. So ONABEN's mission is to help individual Indians learn to draft business plans that are fundable by a bank, that could perhaps be given a loan and then we used to teach classes, in fact a year-long class we taught on how to operate your business, accounting, management, employment, all sorts of issues. But ONABEN took these statistics for Oregon and you can already see the stats. So in Oregon as of 1992, white Oregonians owned a business per 1,000 people at the rate of 81. 81 Oregon...white Oregonians owned their private business. Look at where American Indians were and I don't know how much that number has changed even though these statistics are pretty old. We have enormous room to improve in creating economies on our reservation and to encourage entrepreneurial activities. These are statements from ONABEN and this is the effect of poverty on Indian Country so I guess...I should have worded these I guess in the negative. So poverty causes education, economic, social and health issues; it injures community cohesion. As we know, if our people have to leave the reservation to go to school, if our people have to leave the reservation to live, to find adequate housing and jobs, that's what we call the brain drain, isn't it? That's assets, those are positive benefits we need on the reservation, but because of the lack of certain services and opportunities on the reservation they have to go elsewhere so that hurts community cohesion. If the parents have to leave to work or to be educated, that hurts family stability. Ultimately it hurts many things that we do care about.

So here's what ONABEN says are the benefits. Earned income: there's pride from earning and supporting yourself. There's pride from being able to buy your kids that toy they'd like to have, right? Support them and feed them. We already talked about the multiplier effect. The more we can keep money on the reservation circulating, even though it's only one dollar folks, what we mean by the multiplier is that it increases the effect of it. It's paid to the employee, the employee then goes to the local gas station and buys gas. Well, that pays the employees and the rent there and for the gasoline. Someone then goes to the local grocery store. That's paying employees and profit for everyone. So as long as we can keep that dollar in Indian Country, that's the goal of every community in the United States, capture those dollars, make the multiplier effect continue.

So ONABEN, like I say, tribally run organization, our board was made up of tribal representatives appointed by the tribal councils and then a few of us were Willamette Valley representatives. So I was the Willamette Valley representative. It's not anti-Indian to own your own business and I've already hammered on that point I think. That's what my chapter two is about. We all ran our own businesses, didn't we, whether it was family or individual, we engaged in economic activity to support ourselves and we were proud of that. So I think that's an ethos that we need to reinforce that that's cultural. Being poor is not cultural. Do you know of any tribal community that wants to be poor? Do any of us have a culture that said we had to be poor? I'm unaware of one, so we need to ban that idea from our mind.

ONABEN says, ‘We all benefit from a quality of business ownership in Indian Country.' Now I'm not going to spend much time talking about the Harvard Project because we have those representatives here and you've heard that so these three points: Being involved in economics or tribal government thinking of developing an economy is not somehow anti-sovereign. Even if you're thinking about helping develop private businesses. Yes, that's a business the tribal government might not be in control of, but all of these decisions are based on sovereignty and help support sovereignty because if we have an economy in Indian Country, again, a more sustainable reservation, a place where our people can live if they choose to and it contributes to and helps strengthen tribal government. Our institutions matter. The court system you just heard about. Without the laws, without a fair court that will protect property rights, contractual rights, what entrepreneur is going to open a business in your tribal community?

I mention in my book...I already told you about some Natives here in this state that chose to open their business in Phoenix because there were things they were concerned about about being on the reservation. So if there are governing principles or if our own institutions are somehow slowing business down or injuring business or if we have a court system that's not fair, no entrepreneur is going to invest their human capital -- their time and expertise and experience -- or their physical capital -- their money, materials they own, tools they own, etc. They just will not operate in Indian Country if they're afraid that their rights that they've worked for will not be protected. So these are governance issues, and culture matters the Harvard Project has shown with study after study after study. A comment that I just made in Bozeman, we had a conference this past weekend of economists in Bozeman and I'm not an economist so I mostly sit there and listen, but...and now I totally forgot where I was going. Oh, the comment I made is, ‘You probably would not open a hog farm in Israel, would you?' I don't pretend to be an expert on Judaism, but I don't think pork is a big seller in Jewish communities. So there are reservations where certain jobs or industries won't be supported. So an intelligent investor is going to research that topic and going to go, ‘I can't open Business X on Reservation Y. It's crazy. It'd be like opening a hog farm in Israel.'

So let's see what's next and let's...this is what I've been talking about. Here again, I'm borrowing from Harvard and if I get the facts wrong, tell me, Steve. But I think their studies have proven that a tribe that separates the operation of a tribal business, if they separate it from political decisions and from the tribal council, if they get an experienced board of directors that knows business and operates that business, there's a 400 percent greater chance that that business can be profitable. Tribal governments can't afford to run businesses that aren't profitable. That's not sustainable and I'm talking about sustainability.

Also, the Harvard Project shows that a tribe that has a court system and a dispute resolution system that is deemed to be fair, that is not tainted by political influence, will have a five percent better employment rate on the reservation than another tribe without that. Steve gave that comment -- you won't remember this, but I do -- in 1994, at a conference in Utah, you made that statement and I came up to him afterwards and I go, ‘How can you prove that?' He slapped me around a little bit. So I've been nice to him ever since. We know what the obstacles are. I talk about them in the book. Maybe we can talk about them a bit, but I want to close with some of these points.

Does your tribal government -- and boy, I'd really like you to think about this -- are you as a policy engaging in buying from your own Indian entrepreneurs on your own reservation? Now I have heard the executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association and he says, ‘We know tribal casinos are not utilizing enough Native entrepreneurs.' That's a $27 billion-a-year industry. Where are the tribal casinos buying their laundry services, their janitorial services, their paper towels? Are we buying these from Phoenix and Tucson businesses? We're hurting ourselves then, aren't we? We're spending our own money outside our community. Well, that's not very -- how dare I say -- that's not the best strategy. So I want to advocate, I was glad also to hear the judge mention nepotism because this was discussed at this conference I was at at Bozeman. Nepotism is a bad word out in the American economy, but we do work with our bands and families and extended families and we are related to practically everyone. How can you not be related to everyone on a community of only a couple thousand people? At my tribe, practically everyone has my mom's maiden name. The last name 'Captain' is the primary name at my tribe. So I'm related to practically everyone. So you can't avoid nepotism in the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, but I am so much advocating that we keep our money in our reservation.

Is the tribal government being a client of tribal entrepreneurial businesses? If you're not, you're spending your money on non-Indian owned businesses at some far distance from your own community and you are -- I don't know how strongly to say this -- but that's hurting our own communities, isn't it? So Buy Indian acts, I am advocating that tribes adopt a ‘Buy Indian' act, perhaps even designate a specific amount of the tribal budget to be spent on tribally owned -- not tribally owned -- individual Indian-owned businesses or even in tribally owned businesses. Let's keep the money in our communities. So let me show you the federal ‘Buy Indian' act. It's a joke. The current version was drafted in 1910, so please ignore that top one but this was the direction of Congress in 1910 that the Secretary of Interior in acquiring goods and labor for Indian Affairs that he or she try to buy Indian-owned goods and labor. But look, it's not mandatory. It's about as discretionary as it can get. It even has the word discretion. ‘As far as may be practical...in the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior.' So the Buy Indian Act has hardly been used. There are some federal lawsuits in which an individual Indian business owner has sued the Secretary saying, ‘I was fully capable of doing Job X, I applied for it, you didn't hire me.' The federal courts go, ‘You lose that case because the Secretary can do whatever they want.' So I'm advocating that tribes try to get Congress to make this law a little more powerful.

An example is in the Department of Defense budget. The Department of Defense is required to spend five percent on minority- and women-owned businesses and that five percent set-aside has led to several tribes creating -- I think Salish Kootenai is one of them -- making products for the military and has helped tribes enormously, a few tribes. So if we had some sort of requirement that the Secretary spend at least five percent, if tribal government said, ‘We will spend five percent of our budget on Indian-owned business,' what will Indian entrepreneurs do? What does an entrepreneur do? What is an entrepreneur? They see an opportunity, they think, ‘I can do that. I'll take the risk.' So if tribal governments were committed to spending money in Indian Country, I think entrepreneurs will see that and follow that."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"I agree with your point. However, I've seen in the past where you have a tribal member who'll throw up a shingle and say, ‘I do this now,' and it turns into a pass-through. We try to at Choctaw and define Indian preference in regards to buying services, to say that you must have 51-percent ownership in your business; you must show years of business interactions. And so that's one of the challenges I know that across Indian Country some people face, because then all you're doing as a tribal member setting something up to get maybe $25,000 out of the $1.5 million furniture contract that was set aside for the building, and so that's one of the things I think we really need to focus in on what is true Indian entrepreneurialism and true Indian business."

Robert Miller:

"You're exactly right on that. Now did you say that your tribe has a statute on this or some kind of regulations?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Regulations."

Robert Miller:

"I would love to see that. So you're Mississippi Choctaw or Oklahoma?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Mississippi Choctaw."

Robert Miller:

"Okay, great."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"My brother is Oklahoma Choctaw down the way there."

Robert Miller:

"They're close to us. Yes, sir."

Audience member:

"Thank you, Professor Miller. So I had a question. My question basically surrounds entrepreneurship. You sort of touched upon a definition of it. Social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that concept, on that model with respect to having put together any social enterprise on a reservation where one is working with both profit and non-profit ability hybrid model using some type of federal funding and building on a revenue component to that set up because that's something that I'm tinkering with along with some folks up in Navajo, that western part of Navajo. That's what we're looking at and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that."

Robert Miller:

"Okay, well, that's almost a new idea to me. So you might have to explain it a little more, but an organization that has a social welfare...objective."

Audience member:

"Objective. A social objective, a social impact on one hand; on the other hand, have a revenue side so that you built it a hybrid model. So basically you're addressing two things at one time. So if that's quite successful, I know a lot of organizations are going in that direction, and one of the great examples is right there in Phoenix in Maricopa County with the school districts. That's something that they did and I'm wondering if that would be something that tribes can perhaps pursue."

Robert Miller:

"Well, I am absolutely for anything that brings any job to Indian Country practically and anything that can produce some income that perhaps might be spent on a reservation. So an organization like you're saying, sort of has a mixed agenda, right? They're engaged in social welfare activity. So I know there's an organization at Navajo I believe that's working on traditional foods, traditional crops. So in one sense I guess you could call that a social welfare idea -- let's bring some tradition back -- but if that's producing crops and jobs that then will be on the reservation, man, I applaud that. And we always like to bring federal dollars to the reservation, don't we? But then we've got to capture those dollars and we want to keep them there as long as possible."

Joan Timeche:

"If I can also add, on my reservation we've long had...it's called the Hopi Foundation. It started out as a 501(c)(3) and it was really designed by former tribal employees that were frustrated with the government because they were not able to...the government was not acting in a speedy process in terms of applying for grants and being able to meet social needs. So they first started out providing social services. They have spun off a number of non-profits and a number of for-profits and they're all in different areas. One of them deals with international victims and it's actually based here in Tucson. It's a non-profit, but it's a spinoff of this overall, this Hopi Foundation about helping...and then we have, out of it came a solar energy project because it was a social program, the first to introduce photovoltaics because we have a number of villages out on Hopi who by choice did not have electricity so they were trying to introduce alternative energy options to them. So it started out as a non-profit and then later on merged, spun off as a for-profit so that existed and out of it came our Education Endowment Fund, which then became a whole separate entity. So there are models out there that can work."

Robert Miller:

"Well, and let me just add to that, while you're moving the microphone. In my book, I advocate for a mix of businesses, for a diverse economy. I think the strongest economy is one that is diverse. So there's no, just because I'm talking about entrepreneurship or ONABEN's talking about entrepreneurship, I'm not somehow anti-tribal government business or then anti this social welfare arena. Economic development can come in many ways and she gave an example and so did you, sir, of what sort of a social welfare agenda, but can lead to jobs and money on the reservation. So I'm advocating for as diverse of an economy as we can get. We realize some tribes are in such rural areas that the economy they're going to be able to develop, the opportunities are very slim. We know American rural areas are the poorest parts of the United States just because of the lack of infrastructure, highways, internet, telephones, water, and we know that tribes in rural areas face those issues. But I am advocating for the development of as much of an economy, public, private, tribal, non-Indian investors, Indian investors, etc. Yes, ma'am."

Audience member:

"Well, to further touch on what he was talking about, where I work and where I live, I live in 'ag central,' I'm from Nebraska. I work at Little Priest Tribal College and right now I'm the USDA grant coordinator and what I do is I have obtained this money and what we are doing in my program, we're going through our last year's funding, but I have... we are a hybrid. I function off a grant that's for community sustainability through agricultural and economic development. We are taking our food sovereignty and we're taking our seed sovereignty and we are building on that. And I'm able to employ approximately 40 tribal members seasonally and we teach people how to can, and we have a Farmer's Market, and we're expanding on that and we're going to be able to operate the next couple of years off the monies that we've made via our federal monies that we were awarded. But food sovereignty is a really big movement in Indian Country right now. Seed sovereignty is a really big thing and I really encourage other tribes to expand on that. It's really important because it is a social problem because so many of our communities are fighting diabetes, thyroid problems, all these health issues and it's because of the genetically modified foods that we're eating. It's so important that we stick to our Indigenous diets. And I'm from the Omaha people, I'm also a Burns Paiute too, and we have an Indigenous diet that's really important. Back home we have ceremonial corn, but we have corn to eat every day too and it's really important to embrace that, grow it, teach your kids how to grow it. There are ceremonies that hold on to those things, do it and teach the people. And then if you can, you can build a hybrid on it. Right now we have an apple orchard. We have expanded on that apple orchard. It's been really awesome. It's really exciting. It's really a big thing for me. If you guys want to know anymore about it, I'd be more than happy to share information about it. But we have, we've developed a hybrid program. We're very successful. Like I said, we're going to be able to operate the next couple of years without federal dollars because of the revenue we've brought in because of our product. And organic food market is huge right now. They love Indian food."

Robert Miller:

"Did you say you work for the Department of Agriculture?"

Audience Member:

"Yes. Well, I'm a USDA grant coordinator and I'm working...I'm collaborating a lot with the USDA and I work with the Little Priest Tribal College."

Robert Miller:

"Well, you'll have to come on February 28th to our conference because the Undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture, Patrice Kunesh, is going to speak. She wants to advocate how much the Department of Agriculture has available for tribes. Tribes are just thinking of the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], and the Department of Agriculture in the areas you're already talking about has so much more as far as money and funding than the BIA has. It's incredible. So she's coming to Phoenix to talk about that issue on February 28th. And for food sovereignty, it's interesting she should mention that because a Native woman who I think is the first dean of a law school in the United States, Stacy Leeds, is the dean. She's Cherokee and she's the dean at University of Arkansas and they just started a food sovereignty clinic. I think that's the right word or at least program. So she's coming to our conference to talk about food sovereignty, so exactly what you're talking about. And then what she said ties in with what your question was sir, that here's sort of a social welfare, I guess, developing our Native foods again and bringing them back. That doesn't necessarily sound so economic, does it, but what an economic and cultural benefit that it has. So this is a wonderful example of the synergy of mixing these ideas and goals and so economic development's not hurting culture, we can use it to support culture."

Stephen Cornell:

"We've got a question right here."

Arlene Templer:

"I'm happy to hear you say to support the Buy Indian acts. I'm Arlene Templer from Salish Kootenai Tribes and under my department I have a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, laundromat, and it costs me more to run an Indian-owned business. I can't compete with Town Pump, and so what I have to do is sell it to the tribe's membership that this gas station provides work experience placements, it also provides revenue to the transportation system throughout the reservation because I have to charge between almost 10 cents more a gallon for gas. I can't compete with Town Pump so we have to support each other until we can get there and the Buy American act can help with that."

Robert Miller:

"Excellent. Next time I'm at Flathead I'll come to your gas station. That's what we talk about you keeping Indian money in the Indian community. Let me expand that just one step further. Let's not think just about our reservation, but a perfect example in the State of Washington. The Cowlitz Tribe, a brand-new recognized tribe wants to do gaming. So instead of turning to some Vegas company, which as you know many, many, many tribes have partnered with Harrah's and those Vegas companies, but the Cowlitz Tribe in Oregon partnered with...in Washington, excuse me, partnered with the Mohegan Tribe from Connecticut. Gosh! So in one sense that's keeping our dollar within the Indian national community, isn't it? So I really enjoyed seeing some tribes working on things together. Another example from Oregon, the Grand Ronde Tribe and the Siletz Tribe are working together to develop lands that used to belong to the federal government and the Chemawa Indian School and they now have received those lands through various federal programs. So these two tribes, instead of then competing and fighting each other over who gets to develop it, they're working together. I see that again as keeping money in our Indian community."

Stephen Cornell:

"Mr. Henry?"

Audience member:

"I'm on the tribal council and it's hard for entrepreneurs sometimes to go through tribal council I think. Comes up with a great, great project and then after that the tribe kind of just shuts them down after that. But then, is there a way for the tribal member to go through, if they have BIA, if they have Section 17 from BIA to where it helps the tribal member and the tribal council sets or adjust the code for the development for a tribal member and then instead they don't have to go through the tribal council, but go through Section 17 with the federal government, which too allows the reservation development to where if those two can work together to where instead of the tribal member for entrepreneurship goes straight through...go to the tribal council, but instead just follows the Section 17 in corporation building? Have you ever come across something like that?"

Robert Miller:

"Yes. Incorporation is a big issue, folks, and this is part of the law building that the tribal court panel was talking about, but that I'm talking about that many tribal governments do not have an incorporation code. [Okay, we have two minutes. That's in total? You showed me two minutes, two minutes ago. Did you give me two more minutes? Oh, five okay. I didn't see it. So let's see, where was I going?] Incorporating, for a Native person to incorporate their corporation pursuant to their own tribe's governmental code, that's an exercise of inherent sovereignty. So there are three ways to form corporations in Indian Country. Under state law, which is probably the least beneficial, that exposes you to state regulations, state taxation. Section 17 that you mentioned, which to my knowledge is only available for tribal governments. My own government created a Section 17 about a decade ago. I think there's a fairly small number of Section 17 corporations because tribes haven't really seen that the way to go. But to incorporate under your own inherent law, and if you have the code that governs and taxes businesses, then people know what the landscape of the law is. So I advocate for tribes to have corporation codes and for tribal citizens to incorporate under the inherent authority of their own tribe. Now you are then subject, however to the tribal law. So that's where we get back to effective institutions. Is the tribal court fair, does the tribal court have experience in interpreting contract and business law; have we appointed judges with that kind of experience? Those are the issues that are the institution business that the Harvard Project has showed...studied and has shown is so important. So you raise a very good issue that needs to be worked out and I'm not sure how many tribes have enacted their own corporate codes. Probably not too many, but it certainly sounds like the way for tribal entrepreneurs to incorporate."

Stephen Cornell:

"Can I just add to that, Bob? In regard to your question, from the sound of what you said, you may be in a situation where starting a business then runs afoul of council interference or obstacles and this is exact...Bob is exactly right. This is where these institutional issues become critical -- that you've got in place a set of laws that facility instead of hindering economic development. All the things Bob talked about trying to build an economy, that can be brought to a halt by a set of governing institutions that burden the entrepreneur so much that they run to Phoenix or Flagstaff to set up their business. So if what you're encountering is, ‘Gee, we can't get a business going because we have to go through council and it's too involved and it takes too long and the politics get into it and all the rest of that,' you are a prime candidate for rethinking some of that governing structure so that you can begin to support entrepreneurship on your rez."

Migizi Business Camp

Year

This video -- produced by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians -- depicts the Band's efforts to implement a work readiness and job training program for teenagers and young adults. Five years ago, the Band’s planning and education departments joined forces to create the Migizi Business Camp for tribal youth. For six days, students are taken off the reservation to learn business development concepts and build entrepreneurial skills. They complete business plans and present their ideas to a panel of judges. The Camp represents a conscious effort by the tribal government to involve its younger citizens in the effort to build an economic future for the nation.

Citation

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. "Migizi Business Camp." Lessons in Nation Building, Honoring Nations, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. Manistee, Michigan. 2005. Film.

This Honoring Nations "Lessons in Nation Building" video is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

[Music]

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians presents

The Migizi Business Camp 2005

Interviewer:

“Just say, put Dr. Stickney.”

Florence Stickney:

“Will you stop it, just Florence Stickney. I mean, come on, I was Florence Stickney before I could give anybody an aspirin.”

Florence Stickney:

“These are high-energy kids. They’re very bright, very high energy. This year it was unbelievable, it was phenomenal. I think that there was the beauty of the setting itself, the fact that they had archery, they had an opportunity to see a rodeo, there was horseback riding, there were so many activities along with the water slide and the swimming.”

Amber Shepherd:

“My name is Amber Shepherd and I’m from Ludington, Michigan. This year we are staying at Double J Resort in Rothbury, Michigan.”

Student:

“Horseback riding was a lot of fun. I thought I was going to get bucked off, but I stayed on pretty good.”

Daisy Walters:

“My name is Daisy Walters and I’m from Sparta, Michigan. I’ve had a lot of fun on the first couple days of camp and I’m glad I decided to come here.”

Mark Sagi:

“My name is Mark Sagi. The resort is beautiful. They’ve got pools and horseback riding. The rodeo was fun yesterday.”

Florence Stickney:

“Because we were dealing with such young children where they need activities all the time,you know, some sort of a diversion. And I think the kids really had a wonderful time and they,they really paid better attention in that environment.”

Amber Shepherd:

“If you’re a newcomer to the business camp, have your mind open to new ideas that you haven’t been introduced to yet.”

Ann Harrison:

“I am Ann Harrison and I’m from Sturgeonville, Wisconsin. A good business person, like they have to have a good attitude because if they have a bad attitude then their business won’t make it. They can’t say like, ‘I’m going to fail, nobody’s going to buy my product,’ because with that attitude, then nobody will. The most difficult subject was the like math, the COGS [cost of goods sold], the profit you make, because it’s very confusing.”

Student:

“The cost of goods sold is what all the supplies, the price of all the supplies added together and that took to make that item and you subtract that and you come to your profit.”

Raquel Cole:

“Raquel Cole, Scottville, Michigan. You go to class usually from early in the morning around 8:30-ish until probably 8:00 at night, 9:30. It’s kind of hard and you kind of start to get irritated, but then it’s like you get to hang out with people and meet new people.”

Zachary Split:

“I’m from Massey, Michigan and my name is Zachary Split. Right off the bat you need to crack down, you need to write some notes because if you don’t, then you’ll be left behind and when you’re left behind with notes from yesterday and trying to catch up today, it’s really hard. You can stay up like until 1:00 in the morning if you don’t have a business plan, rewriting your rough draft and your final draft like I did last year.”

George Lawrence:

“I’m George Lawrence and I’m from Free Soil. I get up about 6:00 in the morning and go to bed at about 1:00 or 12:00.”

Interviewer:

“What do you think of your first couple days of camp?”

Ann Harrison:

“It was hard at first, but as it went on, it got more fun and not as hard.”

Gabe Santos:

“My name is Gabe Santos and I’m from Muskegon, Michigan.”

Interviewer:

“If you had advice for other campers in the next,in the future, what would it be?”

Gabe Santos:

“Don’t slack off because you always have to catch up really, really quick at the end if you slack off. Just do your work when you’re told and listen to Bridget.”

Interviewer:

“That one we should play over and over.”

Gabe Santos:

“Listen to Bridget. Listen to Bridget. Listen to Bridget.”

Raquel Cole:

“And you have different abbreviations for a bunch of things.”

Gabe Santos:

“Yeah, USAIR,utilities, salaries, advertisement, interest and rent. Rent’s the most important. Rent’s the most important one, because it’s a constant thing and it goes up and down all the time.”

Florence Stickney:

“And the quality of the kids because we have a number of repeat performers, they get better and better. They know the material, we see them growing up before our eyes, they’re more focused, they sort of know what they want and I can see them building bigger dreams for themselves.”

Mark Sagi:

“My financial statements are doing good so far, but the business plan, like Zach said, he stayed up until 3:00 in the morning doing his and I don’t want to do that, so I’m going to get done.”

Elise Moore:

“My name’s Elise Moore and currently I’m living in Ravenna, Michigan. Yeah, today was Saturday. It was the only day and the first day we get to go shopping. We got $78 to spend on our supplies that we needed.”

Zachary Split:

“What we do is that we go to a store like three, four days before the trade show, buy whatever we need, goods, cards, anything, flowers, you can make beads, homemade stuff, food.”

Florence Stickney:

“When they go to college, they will know a lot more about business and entrepreneurship than most incoming freshmen do on any major campus.”

Raquel Cole:

“It helps you in school actually like in economics and stuff it does help you if you know what you’re doing more and it makes you sound smart too. The fixed cost, the variable cost and the different costs that you have while you’re in business, you talk about your target customer and who that you want to buy your stuff.”

Florence Stickney:

“When I first developed this program, I called it the Eagle Camp, eagle being that that symbol in Native American culture, it soars, it’s strong, it’s powerful, it’s free. When I talked with the economic developer at the time, he said, ‘Well, the word in Ottawa is 'Migizi'.’”

 

Diane Enos: Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Diane Enos, President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, discusses some of the many significant steps that Salt River has taken over the past few decades to systematically build a self-sufficient, sustainable economy.

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Enos, Diane. "Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 28, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I’m your host, Ian Record. On today’s program, I’m honored to have with me President Diane Enos of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. President Enos has served in that capacity since 2006 and recently won re-election for another four years. Previous to her becoming president of her nation, she served for 16 years on the tribal council. And in terms of her other current responsibilities, she’s president of the executive board of the Intertribal Council of Arizona, and past chairwoman of Arizona Indian Gaming Association. Diane, welcome.

Diane Enos:

Welcome to you.

Ian Record:

Well, I just gave a few highlights of your very busy life and I was wondering if you could just share with us a little bit more about yourself.

Diane Enos:

Well, I am the parent of two boys, ages 6 and 7. So that is really my driving force in addition to my community. I became their guardian after their mother passed away in my family. So they are a source of life for me now. So as you can imagine, in addition to my job duties and my other responsibilities, to me that is the most important job I have right now, as a parent.

Ian Record:

So you don’t, you probably don’t sleep very much do you?

Diane Enos:

I try as much as I can [laughs], but I get up early!

Ian Record:

Yeah, I bet. Well, we’re here today to talk about economic development in Indian Country and focus specifically on what your nation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has been doing in that area, one of the progressive leaders across Indian Country by all accounts. But first I’d like to talk a little bit more generally about economic development and get your thoughts based upon your vast experience in this area and essentially get your, some food for thought from you that other nations and other leaders might learn from. And my first question is, how do nations move from a dependent economy, where they’re heavily reliant on the federal government, to a productive one, where they themselves are in the driver’s seat?

Diane Enos:

That movement depends on the nation itself. It depends on the resources that are available. It depends on the drive to do more than survive the colonization that we’ve all undergone. But a lot of times you have to be, as a nation you have to be willing to take calculated risks. For us, what we did in 1987 was purchase the Phoenix Cement Company with the guaranteed loan, just guaranteed by the federal government, and that enabled us not only to create jobs but to also create an enterprise that had a, it’s returned the amount of money we had to borrow many times. So, it’s an example of having to take risks.

Ian Record:

I assume coupled with that was a movement on the part of your nation to essentially build up the capacity needed to make economic development happen, both human resources and institutional resources, wasn’t it?

Diane Enos:

When you look at what’s available to you, a lot of tribes, like I said before, you have to look at where people live and what kind of resources are there. For us, we had the dry riverbed as a source of aggregate for sand and gravel mining, so we use that. Now some people might think that that’s contrary to our values to, in some senses, deface the earth, but we look at things in terms of gifts from the earth and from our Creator to help us survive in this world. Whether you go and kill a deer or kill an animal and eat that animal to survive or whether you go and dig up aggregates from the riverbed and turn around and market those in order to provide for your people, are two very similar things. So it’s a matter of being able to consider what you have to do to help your people out to make things better for them.

Ian Record:

So you mentioned that the community in 1987 purchased the cement company,

Diane Enos:

Yes.

Ian Record:

And prior to that would you say that your tribal economy was essentially a dependent one, as I mentioned?

Diane Enos:

I would say so to some degree, because when I grew up here, when I was growing up as a child here, we didn’t have, for instance, indoor plumbing. We didn’t have paved roads. We didn’t have telephones. Few people had electricity. We didn’t have, I think we had maybe a couple of police officers. We had the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] school, which I went to, and the Indian Health Service. So, yes, dependent, the tribe wasn’t in a position or at that time wasn’t actively pursuing economic development. We were fairly isolated, I would say, for the time.

Ian Record:

So back during that period, essentially a dependent economy, you were relying, I would assume, primarily on the federal government for transfer dollars,

Diane Enos:

For programs, yes.

Ian Records:

For programs.

Diane Enos:

But I think for people, in order to make money for your living, people have always gone off the reservation to work. And I know that my father, my own dad, worked in construction and in order to do that, to provide for his family, he would go with several other men and live in Tucson and do construction work during the week and come home on the weekends. And I remember that he did that for several years and they even went to Kingman, I think. They went where the work was; a lot of people did that. So as far as a dependent economy, I think we’re talking about programs for the tribes as a whole, yes.

Ian Record:

So what were some of the drawbacks to having that dependent economy in terms of being reliant, so reliant on outsiders for essentially the tribal government,

Diane Enos:

You have no control over it. You have very minimal, if any, control over where those dollars are directed. And it doesn’t empower your people to achieve more and it doesn’t, it keeps you down, so to speak. It’s another arm of the colonization I mentioned earlier. It’s very limiting. You don’t get to strive for more, because all you do is when you’re a dependent economy is wait for the next turn of funding and if, that’s unpredictable and it certainly isn’t a way for you to expand what your resources are capable of doing, because you’re dependent on direction and programming from the federal government.

Ian Record:

We’ve heard, and other leaders I’ve sat down with, I’ve heard them speak of a couple of other, I guess, dynamics to that dependent economy, which is that the measurements of success, the criteria for determining whether a program or the dollars that are being spent in a particular community are having, are achieving their intended goal, those are being set by outsiders not by the people themselves. And those criteria may be very different. Is that something that you saw back then?

Diane Enos:

I’m not sure back then, since I wasn’t in government, I’m not sure how that actually worked, but I do know from those periods of time...I had an interesting experience one time. I remember talking to the tribal chairman when I was 16 years old. I went into his office and I asked him about programming and the information that he gave me was very limited. And it appears to me now, in retrospect, that people in elected positions at that time, and I’m talking about tribal positions, didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge anyway about what the programming system was. It appears, it looks to me like we were just there applying for money and getting whatever we could and directing it where the program made us. So as far as that kind of comparison, I don’t know that we were able to make that even.

Ian Record:

We’ve often heard this, this term thrown about with respect to this dependent economy -- which fortunately, we’re seeing a lot of tribes, including your own, moving very deliberately away from -- of the 'project mentality.' And it centers around the kinds of grants that you would get from the federal government that, that there wasn’t an overarching movement toward, you know, for tribal government. It was all essentially dictated upon what could get funded from one year to the next, and there was not kind of a strategic direction to the operation of government. Is that, that sounds a little bit like the story you just related.

Diane Enos:

It is, and a lot of that started to change in 1995 when we signed our self-governance compact with the federal government. And what we do now is, it’s demonstrative of where we’ve taken it, because what we’re able to do now is to manage and direct our own programs. We receive funding and of course, you know, in the recession we’re experiencing right now, that funding has become lesser and lesser, and we’ve relied more on our own tribal funding. But I always like to think about what kind of situation other tribes are facing, because we’re in a unique position. Because of our location, we have more opportunities, not only business development, but gaming as well. But with Self-Governance, the monies that we do receive from the federal government, we’re able to program those in according, kind of in tandem with what we’re able to provide as well. So that the program, programs that we create and further are a combination of our own resources and limited federal resources. But we’re able to decide how to spend those monies and where to direct those to what we see as a greater need.

Ian Record:

So, back in ‘95 you were on the council at that time, when you signed the self-governance compact.

Diane Enos:

Yes.

Ian Record:

And so, you know, we’ve talked to a lot of tribes that have gone that route, self-governance compacting, and leaders of those nations have talked about, you know, it was one thing,  it was quite one thing to actually make that decision and say We want to go Self-Governance do that compact and quite another to actually build the governing institutions you need to essentially carry out the expanded, the expanded ability to exercise your sovereignty, if you will, under that compacting system. Can you talk a little bit about the challenge that it presented for Salt River?

Diane Enos:

We’ve always, and I have to look back at the Indian Reorganization Act, and that didn’t happen too very long ago. At the time of the Indian Reorganization [Act], prior to that, we had a chiefs system and what it consisted of were representatives that were there in council and I will call it that to further the needs of the people as a whole. So the system of sitting down together, like we have today with the tribal council, is really not a new system. It’s just that when the IRA came in, it changed the process of how we do it because we have an IRA constitution. So, going into the self-governance process, signing the compact for us as a community was clearly, I think, it was not a big struggle for us to make that decision; it was something that we were eager to do. And I know at the time, former President [Ivan] Makil who is, and is still well known as a proponent of self-governance, was really critical in making us aware as a council of the need for us to, it’s almost like stepping back in time, and the term 'self-governance' is you take care of yourself and that’s something that tribes always want to do. We’re not any different in that sense. We know what’s best for us and I think that we always will. We’ve dealt with the federal government out of, we didn’t have a choice and I believe that that’s something that we’ve always looked forward to is the opportunity or at least the, how shall I say, the willingness, the desire, the drive, if you will, to be who we are and to be what we can be for who we are.

Ian Record:

So what were some of the formal governing institutions that the council decided was, and President Makil back at the time, decided was necessary following Self-Governance. Like, what were some of the governing, formal institutions you put in place to say we need this, this, and this if we’re really going to carry this out?

Diane Enos:

The compact that we signed then as time has passed has changed. Right, way back then, and forgive me for not remembering the specifics, but I do know that some of the programs we are now are responsible for are public safety, for instance, fire and police, education, health and human services, and we go back and look at some of the things we need to have done then are still the same needs we have now. But it’s like, it’s like, and I hate to use this term 'growth' because it really is 'regeneration' almost. So, those are the programs we, the initial push was to redevelop those programs.

Ian Record:

Let’s turn now to, let’s turn our focus a little bit more directly economic development. You mentioned previously that the purchase of the cement company was a key first move for the nation to essentially move from that dependent economy to one predicated on self-sufficiency. And since then, your nation has been very aggressive in developing essentially, what we like to call, a diversified or thick economy; where you have a robust mix of nation-owned enterprises and citizen-owned businesses. Why is creating a diversified and thick economy so important?

Diane Enos:

It’s common sense. It just makes sense, because you can’t put all your, what’s that saying? Putting all your eggs in one basket? They taught us that at BIA school, just kidding. It just makes more sense, because you never totally rely on one resource because you never know when that one resource is either going to dry up or not be there or become more challenging. And I mentioned earlier the opportunities we have here because of our location. We had the dry Salt River bed, so we had Salt River Sand and Rock developed at that time as well or a little prior to that; and we’ve had the opportunity to develop our own phone company. We also have, and I’m speaking of today, we have some land that’s very choice for leasing. So we’ve developed the Salt River fields, which is the Major League Baseball spring training. And obviously we’re a gaming tribe, so we’ve gone further and developed a resort. We’re looking at developing a hotel right now separate from the resort. We’ve got the Talking Stick Golf Course that the tribe is the developer on and that started in the very early 1990s. So diversity means that you get to have all these different pockets, these different sources of revenue. Oh sure, they present different challenges, but you get to do, it’s not just one game, it’s many games, if I could call it that. But the return, it’s like betting, almost. If you are a gambler, so to speak, you want to have different options, and it’s always good to have options in life because when one doesn’t come up, the other may be there, and so on and so on. It just makes better sense, especially for us, that are located, the location that we are in.

Ian Record:

So, within that mix of businesses, both those owned by the nation and those owned by your citizens, there are certain businesses that, I mean, makes more sense for the nation to own. Then there are other businesses that it makes more sense for perhaps a citizen to own. Can you talk about that dynamic and, you know, for instance are there certain types of businesses that maybe the tribe should think twice about owning? And maybe say maybe this is better for a citizen to own that kind of business?

Diane Enos:

I think that depends on the size of the business. For instance, some tribes go into farming and that’s something that we’ve been looking at. I think the more that time passes, if an individual wants to go into that, they’re going to have to have a lot capital. So, I would say that right now, what we’ve done to support small businesses is to really, to develop what is called Salt River Financial Services Institute, and that provides loans for people as a jumpstart to open their business. But as far as what should we, what should a tribe not operate. Well, I don’t think you want to get into things that have a moral question and, like massage parlors, things that take too much capital and they’re too risky. Obviously, again as I mentioned earlier, we’re a gaming tribe. And back, I believe it was 1987 again, the national Indian gaming act came into place, we as a tribe didn’t take advantage of that until the 90s. So it’s been a constant struggle but that’s an opportunity for us. Some people may say tribes should not be involved in gaming, but when you don’t have much else, what are you going to do? It’s one of the most regulated businesses. It’s more regulated than Las Vegas, I would say, so it’s been an opportunity for us.

Ian Record:

Within that, within the economic development arena, particularly with nation-owned enterprises, the Native Nations Institute has done extensive research. And one of the things we’ve identified as a key to success for nation-owned enterprises is effectively managing the relationship between business and politics. You know, your predecessor Ivan Makil, I know, said it very well. He said, you know, 'We’re unique among the governments of the world in that we’re expected to govern but also turn a profit. You know, we had that dual role where most of the governments, they’re not expected to generate economic development. That’s someone else’s job.' Yet, you have the dual role. How do, how can tribes effectively manage that relationship where business is business and politics is politics and not let the politics creep in, and how has your nation approached that challenge?

Diane Enos:

It’s always a challenge where you have humankind. I’ve thought about that a lot and I have to go back and think about what it must’ve been like for our ancestors, because collaboration and cooperation is critical to the survival of any people. You’ve got to look around, like where we live in the desert, we couldn’t have achieved what we did without a sense of collaboration and a sense of depending on each other for the interests of the group. We still have that mentality, I believe. So making money to help out our community is a job that we have and it has to be a challenge. Of course, you’re going to have politics; people are always going to want their personal interests, but I believe we’ve been able to, as best we can, deal with that by setting up what is called the enterprise system. We have several community-owned enterprises; they’re businesses. And what we’ve done is set a board for the enterprise directors. And we’ve balanced those boards out by putting on the boards professionals -- and they can be outside people who are not tribal members -- but also some of the members of the community who also sit on the board and they govern through the policies and the procedures and the interests of those particular enterprise boards. And they, in turn, report to council on an as-needed basis, but also ultimately in the ordinances they answer to the council. So, council answers to the people generally and I like to refer back to what’s called the political process. If they don’t like you, the people don’t like what you’re doing and they don’t like the way you’re doing it, they won’t re-elect you. It seems almost simple, but accountability is always going to be a challenge to any government. And I believe that we’ve done well to try to balance that out in our system.

Ian Record:

Right. So, the way you described your board is a description that we’ve heard from other tribal nations in terms of how they’re setting up their nation-owned enterprises and the relationship they’re formalizing between those enterprises and the elective leadership of the nation. That board is, from what you’re saying it sounds like it’s set up as a firewall to insulate the day-to-day operation of those businesses from any sort of political interference?

Diane Enos:

Right, because under our ordinances, which is our law, so to speak, the boards are set up to have oversight over management of the particular enterprises. Management answers to those boards and if there becomes a situation where it gets to council and it affects the interest of the community, tribal government as a whole, that’s where council has the authority and the oversight to step in, but that’s very rare, very rare. In fact, one of the things that I think a lot of boards have learned, and we’ve certainly learned, is to not, what we call, 'micromanage.' Because if you get into micromanaging, you take away from policy-driven decisions, and really that’s what the authority of the council is under our constitution is to develop and make sure that all the policies and the laws are followed. We can’t do that if we start nitpicking and getting into the little things, I call them little things, over business. You just can’t do that. That’s what the boards are there to make sure that management does. So in some sense, yes, there’s a firewall because it keeps that arm’s length unless there’s a critical situation.

Ian Record:

But the council and you, as a president, have a very vital role to play. You mentioned formulating those policies, establishing a strategic direction. I mean, you have a vital role to play to ensure that there’s accountability there, that those businesses are performing but on a, kind of a larger picture and that they’re carrying out the nation’s larger objectives, correct?

Diane Enos:

Yes, yes they report to council. In fact, we just finished a series of annual reports to council on budgets for all the enterprises. They come and sit down with council and present their budgets. At that point, and there’s several points, other points during the year where council sits down with these boards and asks, and management, and asks them specific questions: 'What are you doing in this area? Why are we seeing this over here? What are you going to be doing in the future? What are your projections as far as the health or the, on health of a particular enterprise?' We get to have those discussions periodically, and I think that that’s really important because they understand who is doing the oversight over them and we understand how we should not micromanage or try to stay away from micromanaging.

Ian Record:

Okay. So your nation has set up an economic development corporation called Salt River Devco. Can you talk a little bit about what the overall mission and goals of that corporation are?

Diane Enos:

That was initially set up to be a clearinghouse for economic development. When I say 'economic development,' I mean actually that. The community decided in 1991 that development, and when I say development I mean it’s building buildings, creating businesses, creating an enterprise area; that only ought to occur on the perimeter of the community. So Devco was set up to manage that and to be a clearinghouse for all sorts of proposals. It was also set up to be an asset manager. Not only do we have the Chaparral Business Park, we have a large lease -- I think it’s 120 acres if I’m not mistaken -- in that whole area there. We also have a signage, outdoor signage company. We also are looking to put other small endeavors under the Devco umbrella. And now as time passes, we’re starting to move towards the development of limited liabilities corporations under, I believe it’s Section 17 of the federal government’s regulations. So it’s a...you have to be flexible when you talk about the kind of enterprise development that we do, because things change and you have to allow for those changes to occur. And the developments of limited liability, LLC, let me just say that; LLCs have to be considered ultimately because what you got to do is you got to not only change with the times, but you have to protect the tribal government as a whole, protect that interest.

Ian Record:

We’ve touched on this a little bit, but I’d like to ask you a question directly about it and: How do you see your role and the role of the councilors at Salt River, the elected councilors, in terms of your nation’s enterprises? What is your fundamental role in terms of ensuring that those businesses take root and grow?

Diane Enos:

Are you talking about tribal businesses?

Ian Record:

Tribal businesses.

Diane Enos:

Under our constitution, the council -- and that includes the president and the vice-president -- have the responsibility to do a whole list of things for the people. And not only do we provide for court systems and for the laws of the community, but we’re supposed to take care of the people, essentially. So our role, as far as being in the positions we’re in, in order to take care of the people we have manage our assets. We have to take care of the assets. Not only taking care of those assets, but making sure that they grow. It’s kind of a fiduciary relationship. And you don’t have a fiduciary that just sits there on his hand, his or her hands. You have to be active and you have to look for more opportunities. And ultimately, the goal is to help your people, is to make sure that there’s a resource for not only the people that are alive today, but the people that are coming. So that’s essentially what I see our role as, as a council.

Ian Record:

You talked about the obligation that you have as president and the councilors have to the people of the nation. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Can you speak to the role of citizen support in the development and operation of nation-owned enterprises? You know, it’s quite one thing if you guys as a group say it would be a good idea to get into this new business area, but it’s quite another to get the people behind that idea and to really support it, you know, long-term. What kind of, what kind of challenge does that present and how important is transparency and citizen understanding of the economic direction you’re going?

Diane Enos:

You have to, you have to have citizen support for any ventures that you do. You’re not always going to have 100 percent citizen support. You have detractors, that’s just part of, part of life. For instance, let me use the Salt River Fields examples. The idea came up pretty quickly and the council started discussing it. And obviously we knew it was going to take a lot of input in terms of capital, so we had to discuss how we’re going to do that. And right away we started talking about this idea to the people. We started putting the idea out in public, in public meetings. But this particular proposal didn’t provide enough, a lot of time. It’s like we had to make decisions fairly quickly. And those decisions, because they involve our finances and our resources, which are not public information because for a lot of reasons, some of the discussions that we had to have had to occur behind closed doors in executive session. So when this plan was finally unveiled, and I would say with pictures and what not, some of the people were saying, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you not asking us? Why didn’t we take this to a public vote?' And we had to tell them there wasn’t enough time to do that. We have to make some decisions; we have to make some commitments. So explaining that part of it to the public was critical. And the other thing that we still do -- we just had an update on the progress last week -- is to continue to have periodic updates and the resolutions that we pass towards the development, you know moving it to the next stage, were done publicly. Everything that we had to do, we have to tell the people why we’re doing it, and sometimes we have to just tell the people, ‘We don’t have enough time to take a community vote,’ and people have to understand that. And I’m sure there are still some people who don’t like that and maybe didn’t vote for some of us in this election because of that, but in order to get the confidence of the people you have to demonstrate a track record that shows stability and shows calculation and an ability to move towards transparency. It’s difficult to have total transparency when you’re a tribal government, because you have a lot of non-members, the out, let’s call them the outside world, who may be interested in your financing and your finances for many reasons. Some of those aren’t good reasons. So when we talk about transparency, you’re talking about money, but we’re also talking about process. The ability to tell, discuss those issues, we do and have done frequently with community member-only meetings, where if you’re going to come to the meeting you have to show your enrollment card. That’s, to us, the best way to be as transparent as we can, because it’s really our membership that has the most stake here at hand in any particular proposal.

Ian Record:

Let’s talk about another aspect of successful economic development in Indian Country and that is a neutral dispute resolution. And you have a, you have a legal background; you practiced law for many years so you have a keen eye on this particular area. Why is neutral dispute resolution important to successful nation enterprises?

Diane Enos:

Sovereign nations, tribes, cannot be sued because as a sovereign you have a shield around you. But people will not want to do business with you if you cannot, if they can’t take you to court, if you have an argument with them or if you have a dispute with them. What we’ve done -- and I know lots of governments have done this -- is having to do what’s called limited waivers of that sovereign immunity. Part of that, to do business with an outside entity, involves which court are you going to go to if you have a problem, if you have an issue. A lot of outside businesses do not, for many reasons, want to take a dispute to tribal court. So what we’ve done is set up an arbitration clause in our agreements, in I would say just about most of our agreements that we do with outside entities. That gives assurance to them that if there ever is a problem, that we have a process laid out where we can take a dispute and have it resolved by a third party. And it gives a lot of comfort, because you’ve got to have that in business and tribes have to understand, we don’t like it, every time we do the limited waiver of sovereign immunity. It makes us a little bit uncomfortable because we’re giving up some of our shield, but in order to properly advance our business interests it’s almost like, I’m trying to think of an analogy and it escapes me right now, but you have to consider the worst-case scenario in any, in any venture that you go into. What will happen if this worst-case scenario occurs? What are we going to do? And you always have to have, in the back of your mind, how are we going to protect the tribe, ultimately? And the arbitration clause is a way for us to achieve that.

Ian Record:

So there’s these disputes that tend to arise big-scale when you’re talking about, you know, you the tribe in a joint venture with an outside partner, say around a major development. Then there’s kind of the day-to-day, personnel kinds of disputes. I assume you’ve had to build in some, some neutral dispute resolution mechanisms for things such as personnel disputes that arise from one of your enterprises. I mean, that’s equally critical, is it not?

Diane Enos:

It is. It is because those enterprises operate in any kind of business relationship that they have to develop or whether it’s with a particular employee, there has to always be a way to resolve a dispute. Right now, I don’t know if you know this, crimes do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, but we still retain a measure of civil jurisdiction and authority over non-Indians so that if you have a non-Indian employee, we still have civil authority over their, over the conduct. And as you know, or you may or may not know, most disputes are civil in nature and when I say civil, the law’s divided into criminal and civil, so you have a forum to resolve those disputes with an employee and that would be tribal court or the human resources department.

Ian Record:

So how is your tribal court system grown? How has it grown and why has it grown in the fifteen years since you forged your self-governance compact?

Diane Enos:

The tribal court for any nation has to grow. With us, particularly, here, given our broad range of development here and the amount of employees that we have and the number of people that live in the community we have had to allocate more and more resources to the development and the strengthening of our tribal court. Tribal courts really are a strong basis of our sovereign authority here, because they spell out directly the power that the tribe has. If you can take somebody physically into custody, adjudicate a matter against them and jail them, I mean it seems to me short of execution there is no greater example of authority over a person, and we have that authority over all Indian people that live here or come here and we all also have had to develop our police department so that we’re able to exercise the state’s authority in certain areas of the community. But our tribal court has had to be flexible. We’ve instituted some changes. What we do now is we’ve opened up the application pool to sister tribes to become judges so now you don’t just have to be from Salt River to be a sitting judge here and they’re appointed by council. You could be a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community or the Ak-Chin Indian community because we have a lot of the same cultural values and systems. That’s one example of how we’ve grown.

Ian Record:

So in terms of trying to foster an environment for the success of your nation-owned enterprises, your citizen-owned businesses, what key laws and codes and policies have you put in place?

Diane Enos:

One of the big things we’ve done recently over the last several years is the procurement policy. And what that does is it enables certified tribal member-owned businesses to move ahead in the line. If there’s a contract that is to be let out by the tribe they have preference: tribal member-owned businesses and then Native-owned businesses and then other owned. And what that does is it enables them to, if you can get certified -- and certification has certain requirements to make sure that this isn’t tribal member owned business –- then it’s only proper that they step ahead of our people in the process. And again you’re going to look for how the service benefits the tribe and you have the spin-off benefit that occurs when you have a tribal member-owned business get priority.

Ian Record:

Okay. So one of the things you did, one of the things the community did a few years back was zone the entire community, in terms of its land, and you developed what is referred to as the General Plan. Why did the nation decide to take that step and what impact has it had on your ability to develop economically?

Diane Enos:

The community’s been doing that for many, many years, prior to me ever coming on to council. And what it does is it sets our roadmap and the people have input through the council representatives. We have also had several meetings over a period of time where people are able to give their input. I mentioned earlier that in 1991 we had the vision meetings, strategizing, and right now we just finished, my gosh, probably about seventeen or eighteen community member meetings with various segments of the community -- the youth, the seniors, general district meetings, general meetings -- to ask the people, 'What do you want?' And what the result is is to impact the general zoning plan because it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where development occurs, because we live here. And it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where education’s going to occur and where certain things are not going to occur as well. Because where we live, we live right in the middle, almost in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix; we’re on the edge. We have to have a better handle. We have to make sure that the people feel like they have a say. And when I say 'they,' I’m one of the people. I like to sit back and think of myself as just a regular citizen and the things that would annoy me on a day, you know, day-to-day basis living here and the things that would make me feel comfortable here and my children and my family. Those are the things that continue to be important as time passes, and certainly if I see change occurring in my community that I don’t like, I’m going to say something about it. Conversely, I would like to be able to say something about what I want my community to look like.

Ian Record:

One of the things that struck me in reviewing the General Plan and the map that you’ve developed that shows where development will happen and not happen is the fact that you have a very, I think, confined area for development and there’s essentially a segregation between the development zone and the living zone, if you will, where development’s going to take place adjacent to Scottsdale and then where the people are going to live and carry out their lives and I assume that was very purposeful, wasn’t it?

Diane Enos:

It was and that started in 1991. It started prior to that, but it was formalized in 1991 with the creation of the vision statement. And the project that we are in right now and just finished the meetings that we had is called Vision 2020, because I believe we need to go back 20 years and sit down with the population of the people in the community and ask them. Well, the big push for that 1991 discussion was the development of the Pima Freeway. That was a very, very divisive issue. When the State of Arizona decided that it wanted to build a freeway on tribal land there were a lot of people, and I was one of them, that was told that was absolutely against this proposal because it was felt at that time and I still, I know that it was going to change our community and it has, but I also believe that once a decision’s made by the majority of the people, we have to fall in step with that we have to make the best use of it that we can. So back in 1991, the people knew that this freeway was coming and in fact it had I believe been decided on. So people started saying, ‘The intrusion into the community of the freeway, the 101 Freeway, we don’t want it to go any further, we want this to be the line right here.’ All the proposals for businesses, stores, retail, development and all other kinds of fixtures, I mean just call it that, are going to stay over there because we want to be able to walk down our roads and we want to be able to look at the sunrise and we want to be able to look at the mountains and we want to be able to have our children play in our yards and we don’t want no stores, no businesses, we don’t want a lot of things that economic development has -- we don’t want that in our backyard. It’s the ultimate 'NIMBY' ['Not in my backyard'] type of posture and I think we’re very happy with it.

Ian Record:

Several years ago your nation established a sales tax. What prompted the nation to establish a tax and where’s the money go? What benefits has it brought the nation?

Diane Enos:

Every government considers taxes and every government has to tax in one form or another. Whether it’s part of your crop, whether it’s part of your seeds, you know back in older times, and the tax that we levy right now on our own members is small compared to what the state levies. We don’t, we’ve had to do it as a matter of necessity. We don’t share in the revenue with the state and the county that is collected on state’s sales tax; tribes don’t. If we didn’t collect our own tribal tax, we wouldn’t get that money, and where that money goes, it goes into the general fund and it goes toward our general budget, our operating budget, it goes towards things like social services, police and fire protection, education, the cost of this building, the cost of paying our employees, just in the general fund it helps our government.

Ian Record:

And was there an education effort that needed to take place of your citizens to say this, we really need this?

Diane Enos:

I don’t remember when that tax was set up. It’s been so long and it’s just been a part of, part of our government. I don’t remember a specific time.

Ian Record:

I’d like to wrap up with a short discussion of small businesses -- businesses owned and operated by tribal citizens. Just a first, general question: how important an economic engine can citizen-owned businesses be for your nation and others?

Diane Enos:

As far as being able to provide government services, they pay taxes, but the other part of it that’s really important is that they can be employers of our people. They can, not only, what do they call, recycle the dollar in the community, but they also provide modeling for our youth and our children. Because if you’re going to go into business you’re not, you’re going to have certain qualities as an individual. You have to be able to take risk, but you’re also going to be able to manage what you have in order to be a success, in order to function as a successful business. And for our children to see our own people doing that I think that that, to me, that’s one of the best things to come out of seeing and supporting community member-owned businesses is that modeling. Because without it, you’re only seeing success and risks being taken by non-members and non-Indians and what does that say to a child? So that’s, to me, that’s the key concept.

Ian Record:

And it also gives them a sense of what’s possible in terms of their futures, their careers, you know. There’s other things out there than just maybe going into tribal government, getting a job there, or going to work for the casino.

Diane Enos:

Absolutely, Yup. They keep us on our toes.

Ian Record:

How does your nation work to cultivate and foster small businesses owned by your citizens?

Diane Enos:

We have what’s called the Salt River Financial Services Institute, which offers loans. We also have procurement policies, which provide preference to them for contracts. We have employee preference policies in place. We also have, there are businesses here from their own organization. In fact, I just met with one of the key officers in the Salt River business owners and encouraged them to come to council and have a dialogue with us: that dialogue has to continue because since tribal government sets up a lot of the regulations and frankly has the keys to some of the opportunities, we have to partner up with them. So the idea of partnering up with them is to figure out how we can do better as a tribe to encourage that growth and support that growth and how they in turn can tell us we can do that better. So it’s really a partnership that I’m anxious to see continue.

Ian Record:

So, you know, this thought process that you and your, that you and your councilors here at Salt River have about consciously incorporating small businesses as part of your overall economic development strategy, that’s not something that a lot of nations do. I mean, are some nations and nation leadership missing the boat by not consciously considering small businesses as part of the economic development process?

Diane Enos:

I would say if you don’t encourage and further small businesses you are definitely missing a boat there. And what I mean by that is missing the opportunity to do those things we just talked about. You’re also not utilizing some of the best talent that your people have. You’re also failing to provide opportunities for tribal government, because if you encourage businesses to flourish and you encourage them to participate in a dialogue with you, they can tell you how you can do your business as a tribal government better. And that’s your own people talking to you. So, yeah, I definitely think that the pluses far outweigh the minuses there. So, yeah, you’re missing a big boat.

Ian Record:

As you mentioned earlier, you’re also keeping those dollars when you have those local outlets for spending by your people, you’re keeping those dollars circulating within the community.

Diane Enos:

Absolutely. You’re keeping employment within the community and just making more opportunities for your own people, ideally.

Ian Record:

Well, President Enos, we really thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your experience, wisdom and knowledge with us.

Diane Enos:

Wisdom? [Laughter] I don’t know about that.

Ian Record:

Well, that’s all the time we have on today’s program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute’s website at nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2011. Arizona Board of Regents.

Richard Luarkie: Leadership and Nation Building at Pueblo of Laguna

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

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

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

"That's right."

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

"Right."

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

"There's a process, yep."

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

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

Ian Record:

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

Richard Luarkie:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

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

Honoring Nations: Lee Sprague: Migizi Business Camp

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Lee Sprague (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) presents an overview of the Migizi Business Camp to the Honoring Nations Board of Governors in conjunction with the 2005 Honoring Nations Awards.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Sprague, Lee. "Migizi Business Camp." 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.

Lee Sprague:

"[Native language]. My name is Lee Sprague. I'm the [Native language] for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and we're deeply honored to be here before you today and I want to thank the board for being one of the finalists. And I want to thank everyone in the audience for honoring all the program finalists by your presence here today.

One of the things that's been very important -- we've been fractured as a community for over 150 years. The federal government said that we were not a nation of people. In 1994, we got positive affirmation by the U.S. Congress that they reaffirmed that relationship. And so we've been left with the task of developing our whole tribal nation as a community almost from scratch. In many ways, there were strong elements of our community that existed but one of the things that our tribal council and our elders knew that was important was the investment in our tribal youth, because they're the ones that have probably suffered the most in terms of being in a world that was new to them in terms of this new relationship with the federal government, but having also being the end-recipients of this long fractured relationship and the fracturing of our nation. And in bringing us back together, we knew it was critically important that we focus on our tribal youth and on economic skills, because that's the fluency that we know that we needed to have in addition to our cultural fluency, our language; that the economic fluency that our young children needed to have to be a part of that growing of our nation, the strength of our nation was critical. And the tribal council has been very generous with their support in funding this program. And we have a tribal council member here, Norbert Kelsey, and also one of our tribal elders, Marge Lutz, right back here taking photographs for us. So without their continued support and understanding of the things that we needed to do, it would be very hard to be here today before you. We've had...basically the Migizi Business Camp is teaching entrepreneurial skills to our youth and when I realize what I know that they know now and what I didn't know until I was into my late 20s, it's amazing. And that's how I know as leaders that we're doing something positive when our children know about stuff that we didn't know until we were older. And so each one of these young people up here is fluent in entrepreneurial language, and they are going to be the future leaders, not only of our nation but of our part of the world in the Great Lakes. And I'm looking forward to that day, because I will know that the hard work the council and elders and I've put into this and just being supportive and planting that seed. And in planting that seed there's three critical people that were essential to making this program highly effective. We have Yvonne Parson, who is our Education Program Coordinator, Yvonne. We also have Bridgette Cole who's our Education and Youth Services Director. And Florence Stickney, who is the faculty for the Business School at San Francisco State University and also the Director for the Center for Small Business, and who I first started my own self, I was in my 30s, learning the skills that these young kids know now, at San Francisco State, not that long ago, so I know what she's capable of. So with that we have a small video we'd like to share with you just to give you a taste of what we're talking about..."

"...I just have one more comment to state about just my own personal satisfaction is that I grew up as a...I used to be a little Indian kid a long time ago and I'm a small businessman or a tall businessman, but to see...the most impressive thing to me was to see these kids, maybe the first day of camp a little slow, second day they're getting with it but by the third day every single one of them is self-motivated to move forward with their business projects. And to see a group of young Indian people have an internal motivation to excel and keeping us awake late at nighttime because they want the information and they're asking us the kind of tough questions that we have to get the answers to or at least work with them so they can find the answers themselves. That's been the most satisfying, is to see these young kids develop that internal motivation and move forward, and it's something I didn't see a lot as a young kid growing up, something I'm very proud of being able to achieve with this Migizi Business Camp. Thanks."

Amy Besaw:

"Questions from the board?"

Brian C. McK. Henderson:

"Can I please get an invitation to go to camp? I would..."

Lee Sprague:

"You're invited next year. We're always bringing in outside experts from business fields."

Brian C. McK. Henderson:

"Okay. I wish I had had that opportunity, but financial and economic literacy, business literacy is very important and it's one of those things that is really lacking across Indian Country, so congratulations on the effort. And if I may, I'm going to break a little bit probably with our time constraint, Amy, if you allow me. I'm really curious to hear from each of the students, each of the youngsters up there who are very courageous and have done a tremendous job and have traveled a long way maybe to just give us a sense of what, after you've had this experience what do you want to do, what do you see next as, just a very brief statement of your own interest, what sparked your interest in the camp, and what do you want to each look forward to doing in the future?"

Raquel Cole:

"Hi, I'm Raquel Cole. Well, like camp, it helps me with a lot of things like I said in the video. It helps me with classes. In math class there's certain things you can do better. I did forensics which is public speaking this year and the camp, like I did sales, and doing the sales in the camp, it helped me out a lot because I had to write a whole speech and I had to memorize it and it was kind of, made you nervous but I kind of had more of a sense of what I was looking for to do, like what people and judges would look for. And I did fairly well in forensics and it helped me out a lot."

Buddy:

"Good morning. My name is Buddy...The past business camps I've been to for the past three years helped me out a lot in school. I have an Introduction to Business class this year and the program has helped me a lot in school with the programs like we did for the past three years have helped me in school with my schoolwork and just every day life watching people do their businesses and what I've learned. It just helped me out a lot and I plan to go on with this business career and school and just business helped me out a lot. That's something I actually do, so the program has been great. And that's all, thank you."

Amber Shepherd:

"My name is Amber Shepherd and I think the business camp is really helpful because it really advances you because when you go to college you know a lot more than most other people and you get a glimpse at what you might want to do, if you want to be your own business owner or work for another employer. And since I've been to business camp I think I want to start my own business and now I know more of what I need to do and how to start it. Thanks."

Brett:

"I'm Brett and this was my second year and I'm looking forward to go for a third one. It's hard, but it's fun."

Lee Sprague:

"One of the most fascinating parts we get to observe is when the kids start this process they start sort of negotiating with each other, partnerships are formed, corporations are formed, single business people might do business with another, and we try and stay out of that because they'll figure it out, and so just to watch them go through that process alone understanding that you need other people and the negotiating skills that we play where they're each given a bag of items and they have to negotiate prices and not just monetary prices. So that human interaction which really business is, it's so neat to watch that play out. And one of the things that they're not telling you is that they are...the kids that have been through this program, it's nice to see that some of the kids that have been two and three years now really working with the younger ones there. They're almost stepping into the role of being the teachers and it's almost self-perpetuating on its own terms at that point. And I really...we're looking at some future leaders here in the business world."

JoAnn Chase:

"I have one additional question. First of all, congratulations on a really fantastic program and I was excited in reading about your program that there are some discussions underway now of expanding the program to at least initially some of the other Great Lakes area tribes, and I was wondering if you might just comment or update us a bit if you've moved forward, if the plans have been formalized in any way or where you might be in terms of providing some services to other tribal communities and areas."

Lee Sprague:

"Well, our kids of course live and go to school with other kids from other tribes in the area and some people are aware of this and we've been looking at this, a way of doing this, and this actually goes back to Florence who had actually done this program as a stand-alone in Haskell and Browning, Montana, and up in Alaska and I was involved on a very small part at that point. So I knew that, what the potential this had, and that with the support of our tribal council at Little River Band we were able to find a home for it and to kind of tweak it over the years. We'd actually like to expand it. We're looking at maybe taking it on the road. We're looking for a permanent facility possibly and we have some negotiations going on with an old Forest Service nursery campsite that might serve as a good location for an ongoing camp two or three different sessions. And actually we'd need to get some adults in there, too, because I tell you these guys can run circles around me as a 35-year-old and probably me as a person here real, real quick. So we want to look at ways that we can fine-tune this program with other tribes. We've included a language component in the past in our program, we've included cultural components and we think that we can work with another tribe in putting together those kinds of elements and then bringing in not only their local tribal leaders, but also local business leaders in that community. The judges in our...at our business plan competition are the local bankers, the local service corps of retired executives, the local Chamber of Commerce people, the Junior Achievement people. They're the ones that come in and evaluate these plans and so we think that by bringing those elements together in another community and working with that local community to...'Here's what you need to do basically. Here's how we did it at Little River Band and here's how you can do it at your place.' Put it into kind of like a booklet to that extent and bring all those elements together and it really does foster positive relationships between the tribe and the local communities we think, knowing that we have the same interest and are going to be successful in business opportunities."