The ANA Messenger: The Economic Development Issue
Alamo Forest Products Enterprise
This is a three year project headquartered on the Alamo Navajo Reservation, non-contiguous to the main Navajo Reservation. Project activities take place on federal, state, and private lands off reservation where the project provides contracted forest restoration activities of thinning, marking, and monitoring of forest and woodlands; while at the same time harvesting wood for value-added products of firewood, flooring and other adaptations of the small diameter wood harvested. During the first year of the project, staff met with Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc (ANSB) board members along with legal and business consultants to explore the transition to a for-profit enterprise which included incorporation of the enterprise as a Navajo Nation LLC or an LLC under the State of New Mexico. There are considerations that need to be taken into account under either incorporation, particularly employment laws.
In 2003, ANSB entered into an Assistance Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Socorro Field Office to conduct hazardous fuels reduction activities and perform improvements on public and adjacent lands administered by the BLM. The project was placed under the oversight of the Alamo Community Services Division to implement a work force development and training project. BLM provided equipment, materials, and training in safety, forestry vocabulary, forest management techniques, and contracting. One crew of 10 was trained in December 2004 and another 10 participants were trained in March 2005. Unfortunately, without an administrative or management position to oversee the day-to-day operations and provide the “business side” of contracting, the trainees did not have the business knowledge or skills to bid on a contract with BLM or any other federal agency, resulting in no contracting activity. Throughout the development of crews to do restoration work, a partnership was developed to advise and provide guidance in growing the Natural Resources Department.
In the proposal development stage, it was discovered that all partnering agencies had similar needs and goals for a highly trained, locally accessible workforce to perform forestry stewardship activities. Development of a business that encompasses the success of the thinning crews and the firewood sales is the focus of this project.
When ANSB initiated the concept of a Natural Resources Department, it was an idea which promulgated the submission of a Collaborative Forest Restoration Project (CFRP) proposal to the U.S. Forest Service. ANSB recruited partners in 2003 when it first began its efforts to obtain a CFRP grant. As a result of this first partnership, ANSB was able to secure a CFRP project in 2008. Today, that partnership has grown from a CFRP partnership to an advisory partnership that has also worked to secure an Integrated Resources Management Planning (IRMP) grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs which provides funding to do resource management planning for Alamo Band lands on the Alamo Reservation. The partnership is now an advisory group for the Natural Resources Department with each partner providing consultation and services.
The partnership is the logical vehicle for synthesizing ideas. Additionally, during the course of project planning and implementation, the project staff report to the Alamo Community at Chapter (local government) meetings, ANSB board meetings, and via radio station forums on the ANSB local public radio station.
Poverty and unemployment have been insurmountable obstacles to Alamo Community members who have not been in the mainstream and have no experience interacting with the mainstream. Historically, clients who went off-reservation had difficulty in completing these programs due to barriers created by lack of transportation, affordable housing, childcare and other support resources. These obstacles are not an issue when we are able to train and employ locally to meet the needs of the community.
Key Project Staff
Bill Ferranti, ANSB Natural Resource Specialist, is the Project Director for this project. Gail Campbell, Program Evaluation and Development Coordinator, and Lynda Middleton, Director of Administration, provide administrative support for the project. ANSB’s legal firm, Roth, Van Amberg, Gomez and Abeyta, provide consultant services for the transition to a for-profit enterprise that is under the Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc. Brett Ken Cairn, a business consultant, has provided consulting services to develop and implement a business plan.
Project Goal and Objectives
Creating a viable business within the framework (alongside the) ANSB organization to market small diameter wood products and capitalize on the unmet needs for forestry stewardship services.
Objective 1: Increase the number of crew members by 67% within the first year of the project. Baseline of 12 members currently with an increase of 6 within the first year, a Crew Foreman and Business Manager will also be hired in the second year of the project, and one additional crew member in each of years two and three.
Objective 2: Increase the production of firewood for sale from 345 cords baseline (2010 partial season) to 1500 cords per year by year three of the project; and stewardship activities from 600 acres treated to 800 acres treated by year three of the project.
Objective 3: Develop business structure, including development of bona fide business entity, with accounting, personnel, marketing, and other necessary systems in place within the three years of the project.
The primary outcome identified for this project is the transition of the ANSB forestry program from a subsidized employment program to a viable forest stewardship service and wood products company.
Need for Project
The development of a viable business is paramount to this project. The firewood sales established thus far by the existing Natural Resources Department indicate the need for such services. Letters of commitment indicate potential sales of firewood in the amount of 1500 cords for the 2012-13 season. The thinning crew, although established and recommended for the quality of their work, needs to become more efficient in their application of job skills to ensure their efforts become self-sustaining. Additional training in the utilization of heavy equipment in the forest and in the yard for the existing crew will help assure the continued viability of these crews and add to the diversity of the overall operation to encompass a variety of stewardship activities.
Small diameter wood products are a growing industry based on the need to re-establish natural fire regimes throughout the forests of the southwest and across the country. This growth has increased the demand for products removed as a result of thinning projects. The high costs associated with heating homes and the appeal of not using high amounts of expensive fossil fuels has increased the demand for firewood. There is interest and some indication that the sales of cants (4”x 4”; 4”X 6”; and 6”x 6” blocks of wood in 4’ to 8’ lengths) will be a market to tap into by years two and three. Flooring produced by these cants is aesthetically pleasing. These products are less labor intensive to produce, thereby increasing the income derived from individual logs.
Additional tangible benefits will include the increase in jobs within the Alamo Navajo Community. This community is one of the most isolated and poorest American Indian communities in the state with unemployment at 37.8% and 60% of the population living below the poverty level. The Santa Fe New Mexican (March 12, 2010), reported that January 2010 had the highest adjusted unemployment rate in the past 22 years. Increased employment in the target group will reduce unemployment from 73% to 67% during the first year of implementation and another 1% over years two and three. Traditionally, community members at Alamo worked in forestry occupations as fire fighters on crews during summer fire season and as wood cutters in the fall. This project has provided the opportunity to increase the efficiency and skills of highly trained crews that are critically needed by all partnering agencies to complete forest stewardship projects. Additionally, the training provided has given Alamo crews the competitive edge for this program to become a self-sustaining business with long-term socio-economic impact on the Alamo Community. Benefits to partnering agencies including US Forest Service, along with other public and private landholders in the area, include a reduction in the threat of catastrophic fire and overall improvement of area watershed health through removal of encroaching small diameter fuel loads. The establishment of a viable business for the Alamo community will provide a source of unsubsidized economic development.
The growth of the Natural Resources Department through this grant and the collaboration with partners will assure the program is self-sustaining. By hiring a foreman and a business manager, not only will there be two additional jobs created, it will provide the Natural Resource Specialist with time to manage the program, bid on contracts, collaborate to find markets for products, provide supervision of the overall business development, and maintain continuity. The BIA Integrated Resource Management Program (IRMP) grant has been secured to help guide ANSB in developing a resource management plan for the Alamo Reservation with an emphasis on economic development. Ongoing training through the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, Forest Service or other organizations such as New Mexico Forest Industry Association will assure local crews are available to successfully bid on contracts with Forest Service, BLM, New Mexico State Forestry and private land owners. The Safety Certification Program currently provided through the New Mexico Forest Industry Association will continue to be utilized to maintain reduced workman’s compensation rates (rates have been reduced from 0.27 to 0.1154 as a result of ongoing, high quality safety training), and to assure crews have proper safety training. Lower workman’s compensation rates will allow our crews to be competitive in their contract bids. The diversity of the partnership supporting this project assures treatment and utilization will be conducted in the most effective manner and the transition to a for-profit business model employs best practices for success.We provide the following advice in applying for an Economic Development grant from ANA. It is meaningful process in that it requires planning, not only planning for project success, but planning for project success by also analyzing challenges and contingencies potentially impacting aspects of the operations, developing sound partners to assist in the development efforts, and taking the planning time necessary to develop a business plan to be utilized to build on partnerships, financing, and business development. ANSB’s initial ANA grant was submitted with a business plan, but ANA funded the project with the revision for the first year to readdress the business plan and refine it. We are glad we did, as it afforded the project the time to fully develop its marketing efforts, product development, and cost analysis.
Crossroads Business Exchange and Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative)
A Native Asset Building Initiative grant
The Crossroads Business Exchange is a three year project, while the Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi is a five year project. The projects are located on the Crow Creek Reservation, with the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, in Central South Dakota.
The Crossroads Business Exchange grew out of a need to support entrepreneurs in our community and a lack of retail space for our local artist. Additionally, youth entrepreneurship has always been important to us, so we decided to make sure to incorporate our youth in the project. Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative) grew out of new and existing relationships in the Crow Creek community. The Crow Creek Housing Authority, Hunkpati Investments, the Boys and Girls Club of Three District, Diamond Willow Ministries, Crow Creek Tribal Schools, Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling, and Great Western Bank all banded together to promote comprehensive financial literacy and asset building in our community.
The Crossroads Business Exchange idea and application were done with the help of a non-profit partner, the Harvest Initiative. The Crow Creek Housing Authority approached Hunkpati Investments to partner with the Crow Creek Asset Building Okodakiciyapi (Collaborative), due to our reputation as a Native CDFI in the Crow Creek Community. They asked for us to administrate on the project due to our successful administration of other ANA projects. Hunkpati Investments developed the grant proposal and incorporated the other project partners.
The ideas came together through actively listening to our community—we did surveys and market analysis to see what the community wanted us to focus on. The results on these not only helped us develop our grant proposal, but continue to impact our approach and project design.
Key project staff for the Crossroads Business Exchange is our Business Coach, Elaine Kennedy. She works with entrepreneurs and youth to help them develop their business plans. The Okodakiciyapi relies heavily on Tolly Estes, the Crow Creek Housing Authority Director and their awesome Finance Officer, Ronnette Walton. Our IDA Project Manager, Wendy Wells, did a lot of the program design from the ground up and oversees all daily operations. Krystal Langholz, Executive Director of Hunkpati Investments, is also key personnel on both grants. She does grant management and administration.
Main Project Goals and Objectives
The goal of Crossroad Business Exchange’s project is to increase the likelihood of success for startup small businesses on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation by providing potential small business owners with entrepreneurial education and the opportunity to test their business plans in real-world conditions, and by increasing entrepreneurial awareness among youth through a partnership with the Crow Creek High School. We will do this though having 18 potential small business owners participate in the Crossroads Business Exchange program; six of the small businesses tested in the Crossroads Business Exchange program will be fully operational, stand-alone businesses; and five students from Crow Creek High School will have tested their business plans in the Crossroads Business Exchange program.
Need for Project
Okodakiciyapi’s goal is to "fight generational poverty and increase self-determination for the Crow Creek tribal nation through the building of assets in the Crow Creek communities by assisting individuals in the development or growth of housing, business, and education. The building of assets will be achieved through the utilization of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), credit improvement, and financial education for all generations residing within the Crow Creek Community." We will do this through utilizing IDAs to accelerate individuals' savings to reach their target goals and build upon their assets to generate a total of $628,500 of savings in our community; credit improvement for participants through a combination of education and small credit builder loans, improving credit scores in our community by a total of 1,100 points; and improving the quality, percentage of completion, and access to financial education by graduating 1,275 people from financial education courses of various kinds over the course of 5 years.
So, you know—easy stuff like that.
Both projects have been awesome for the community. To be brutally honest, we’ve struggled with the Crossroads Business Exchange—trying different models, requirements, etc. But we’ve kept at it, and we’ve helped create several jobs, even if a lot of them are part time, and increased the self-pride and self-sufficiency of the community.
The Okodakiciyapi has, in some ways, had richer impacts in that it has strengthened and grown the power of relationships in our community. This is enabling other programs to develop and a new sense of hope in what is possible when we leverage resources. We also just helped our first successful saver pay for his college tuition this semester through our matched savings program, so we are excited to see what the impact of those assets are on the community in the long-term.
Going forward, we plan on modifying the Crossroads Business Exchange project—keep the foundational components of what is working. The parts that are working are the entrepreneurship classes, the special shopping events, and youth entrepreneurship. Some of what is not working (the retail space); we plan to let go. However, we are okay with that—it was a learning opportunity for our organization.
Although the Okodakiyapi still has several years left, for both projects, we have worked to receive funding from other sources to ensure continuation of the project—using the ANA project as a chance to refine our program and document results for other funders.
Also, don’t neglect your administration. Filling out your objective work plan as you go along can help you stay accountable and on track. If your organization doesn’t have the time or capacity to do the administration well, build a relationship with an organization that does and rely on them to help you.
Lastly, ask your community what they think about your project before it starts and while you are doing it. It won’t succeed at all without their buy-in and participation.
Native CDFI Sustainability Project
This is a two year project serving the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas; Chi Ishobak, Inc in Michigan; First Ponca Financial, Inc in Nebraska, and the Crow Tribe Economic Development Department in Montana.
Key Project Staff
The project is staffed by Executive Director Chrystel Cornelius – who is joined by Kristi Coker-Bias, Senior Programs Advisor, Jaci Ree, Program Manager and Chasity Savage, Contract Consultant.
Project Goal and Objectives
The main project objective is to provide training and technical assistance to these emerging Native CDFI organizations that will lead to long-term sustainability.
First Nations Oweesta Corporation, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Chi Ishobak, Inc, First Ponca Financial, and the Crow Tribe Economic Development Department are partnering on a project designed to build capacity and increase the sustainability of the four Native CDFI partners. As the Native CDFI intermediary, First Nations Oweesta Corporation has received requests from these partners to provide a program of training and technical assistance to help the organizations put the infrastructure and plans in place, leading to their long-term sustainability. The goal of this project is two-fold: strengthen and increase the capacity of the four Native CDFI partner organizations to provide financial products and services to their community, leading to certification by the CDFI Fund; and create stronger and more sustainable organizations now and in the future by developing a capitalization plan charting a course for their financial stability. After just completing year one of the grant, each partner has a capitalization plan in place and has been certified in the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families training. In completing year two, each partner will be certified by the CDFI Fund. Throughout the grant, First Nations Oweesta Corporation has provided training and technical assistance as needed specifically for each partner organization, which ranges from assistance with review of developmental services, review of underwriting practices, assessment and recommendations for the current and potential loan pipelines, development of lending policies and procedures, identifying developmental services partnerships and resources to fully implement developmental services within the community, and the creation of organizational documents such as Articles of Incorporation, Charter, By-Laws, Loan Policies, and review and revision of personnel and financial management policies and procedures.
In achieving these project goals, we will assist the organizations with reaching their overall community goal, which is the need for strong, sustainable CDFIs to help grow local Native economies and lift individuals and families out of poverty. With the provision of financial literacy efforts in various venues throughout Indian Country we also witness, with the delivery of these services, Native individuals are now accessing the products and services from conventional banking institutions for the very first time. Native CDFIs have a requirement for development services to be provided, in conjunction with their lending activities, the introduction and pre-requisite for their clientele to open checking and saving accounts have greatly increased and bolstered partnerships within the community with conventional banking and depository institutions nationwide. As a direct result of lending and development services offered by these Native CDFIs in these communities, strides are being make in the area of asset building and wealth creation for Native people. We can see increase in these communities in the form of job creation, homeownership, established businesses, home improvement projects, and Native youth and adults reaching their financial goals.
First Nations Oweesta Corporation strives to help build and maintain strong, sustainable Native CDFIs throughout the nation. Through the financial education within Native communities, our members now believe their dreams and goals are attainable.
Our advice to future grantees with similar projects
This project requires constant contact with the clients, to ensure the organization receives the maximum amount of technical assistance in building the foundation for their emerging CDFI. The staff communicating with clients should be very affluent within the CDFI field and have experience running and maintaining a CDFI within the current industry.
Northwoods NiiJii Enterprise Community, Inc. Native Arts Initiative
This is a three year project to implement a sustainable multi-purpose Native Arts Initiative through the preservation of traditional native arts and development of an entrepreneurial creative culture.
Key Project Staff
The project is staffed by Patricia O’Neil, Executive Director, and Cari Chapman, Woodland Indian Art Center Manager.
For many years the communities of the Lac du Flambeau Band, the Menominee Indian Tribe, and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community have produced Woodland Arts and Crafts and at some times in the past these have been economic drivers. Prior to the start of the project, however, practices had fallen off, entrepreneurs were few, and the knowledge and skill of producing many traditional products was becoming extinct. In a series of community meetings over several years, tribal members called for a rejuvenation of these skills through training and transmission and were anxious to rebuild an economy around their assets.
Tribal members and culture bearers were instrumental in the development of the project. Through community talking circles a consensus was established for the direction of the project, and a cultural oversight committee was formed.
The project area covers the Northwoods of Wisconsin with focus on our tribal partners: Lac du Flambeau Band, the Menominee Indian Tribe, and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, but also including others such as the Oneida Tribe and Red Cliff Band.
Individual artists are gaining skill in their trades, and preserving and transmitting these skills to others. Individual artists are learning entrepreneurial and leadership skills as well, helping them sustain their practices economically. This has resulted in individual artists enjoying expanded opportunities to teach and sell their work.
Art organizations are also being supported through training and technical assistance in areas such as leadership development, organizational development, and fund development, to expand both supply and demand for arts in the Northwoods and to support creation of an art industry as an economic driver for art tourism.
The Woodland Indian Arts Initiative has built solid relationships with funders in the Arts realm and staff looks forward to continued financial support. Because the initiative generates program revenues through training and sales, it remains partially self-funded. Currently, project staff is involved in the planning of a new $1.3 million Living Arts and Cultural Facility in Lac du Flambeau, which will expand audience and tourism draw.
Our advice to future grantees with similar projectsWorking with artists can be like herding cats, however, building a program around their input and the vision of the tribal community is vital to project success.
Getting to Know Us
This issue's author: Kimberly Romine
Economic Development – when it was first suggested to me that I write the “Talking Stick” for this quarter, I thought – OK – I can do this. Then the friendly reminder was sent me and I was reminded that my topic was economic development – I thought – Oh no, what did I agree to do? But after much thought I offer the following…
In the early years of self-determination, Tribes were thinking more about how to improve their government infrastructures and hiring local tribal members to carry out the tasks needed to help deliver services to tribal members. Later on, the realization that the tribal government cannot be the only source of employment in the community hit and Tribes began to think of other ways to create jobs within their communities.
On my reservation, all of a sudden – smoke shops – sprang up and so did gas stations that sold cigarettes to tribal and non tribal people and many of these businesses were not owned by the Tribe. I was disappointed that so many businesses were not creative and too many smoke shops and gas stations were appearing on the land. I went to visit a friend on the Six Nations Reservation in Canada and I saw accounting services, dry cleaning services, shopping centers and a bank or two. I thought about how customers were coming from off the reservation to patronize these businesses and what an opportunity they provided – hiring from both the reservation and the local communities. I had to ask myself, why don’t the U.S. Tribes do this? Maybe there are too many regulations or other reasons for not expanding the business options. I hated to think that it was due to laziness or the lack of creativity.
With the recession, and the unemployment rate so high on and off reservations, I believe that Tribes and tribal members came to understand that neither the federal government nor the tribal government could support everyone – there were no handouts.
Today, I see more businesses opening up on reservations including hotels, tribal members serving as local guides for hunters and fisherman, or as local guides showing visitors historical sites of interest to non tribal members. Businesses that sell products such as the Tanka Bar are appearing more and more on the reservation. Tribes are entering into partnerships with regular American businesses to ensure that American products are built and sold here on American soil.
I read a story about how the Choctaw Nation came to build computer boards and became fascinated by the thought process involved. If you don’t know it, here is a brief synopsis – the Tribe wanted to build a business of some kind on their reservation to provide employment for their people. While thinking about it, it was noticed that many of the women did beading to create various items such as brooches, bracelets, earrings, etc. This work was very tedious and involved a lot of attention to ensure that beads were not dropped and the final design was not flawed. The thought occurred that these women were very meticulous with their hands and worked with very small items and that the Tribe could use that same meticulous dedication and attention to detail in the building of computer boards. They approached businesses such as computer manufacturers and asked them to enter into a partnership with the Tribe to provide these parts to them. After negotiating with one of the companies, the Choctaw Nation succeeded in providing the computer boards to the company and became the only American owned business able to provide this product without the headache of import tariffs. It was a major success for the Choctaw Nation and it ensured employment opportunities for their people.
I believe for a Tribe or Native community to succeed in creating jobs for their members they must look internally – what do they do best? What can they offer their community both on and off the reservation? They must develop a plan for increased economic development using ideas from tribal and Native community members. They must get the Tribe/community to buy into the plan and commit their support towards the success of the plan. Tribal and community leaders cannot work alone to improve the economic conditions of their Tribe/community, they must continually be on the watch for opportunities – opportunities for partnerships and financial support; continually work with tribal/community members; and listen to what they hear and feel about a particular idea. They must also support tribal/community members who choose to create businesses of their own. When a tribal community works together it can make things happen that can help to improve the conditions of the community both internally and externally.ANA’s funding opportunities are broad enough to help Tribes and Native communities develop and implement their dreams for a better community. Let us all work together to help Native communities to come up with ideas and methods to grow! Let us work together to meet the ANA vision of Native Communities are Thriving!
What is it? or Where is it?
Description at bottom of page
In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the field. "We advise that outdoorsmen should wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them," a spokesman said. "We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear."
It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear paw prints and scat.
A grizzly's paw is larger and its claws are longer than that of a black bear. Black bear scat contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear scat has little bells in it and smells like pepper.
Anglos have BC and AD to measure time. Native People only have the four BC's
What do you call a boomerang that doesn't work?
Answer to What is it? or Where is it?
1912 Carlisle Indian School Track Team.
Lewis Tewanima is seated on the far right. Jim Thorpe is standing in the middle of the back row. The other individuals in this picture include: Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian, took to the pool and won the 100-meter freestyle in Stockholm; Andrew Sockalexis, Penobscot, placed fourth in the marathon; Lewis Tewanima, Hopi, won a silver medal and set the American record for the 10,000 meters until another American Indian, Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota, won the gold medal at the 1964 Games in Tokyo and bested Tewanima’s mark in one of the most thrilling races in Olympic history.
HHS Consultation Information
Annual Department of Health and Human Services Consultation Sessions
15th U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Annual Tribal Budget Consultation
One-on-one meetings with HHS Divisions: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Tribal Resource Day: Thursday March 7, 2013
Annual Tribal Budget Consultation (ATBC): Friday, March 8, 2013
2013 Annual Regional Tribal Consultations (RTC)
Dates and Locations
Federal Agencies Collaborate to Bring Secured Transactions Law Resources to Indian Country
By Susan Woodrow
Community Development Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis/Helena, Montana Branch
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Administration for Native Americans, together with eight other federal agencies, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and several Federal Reserve Banks held a series of workshops across the country titled, “Growing Economies in Indian Country: Taking Stock of Progress and Partnerships(GEIC).” This interagency effort had three purposes: to spur conversations for effectively tackling economic development issues in Indian Country; to raise awareness about pertinent federal assistance programs; and to highlight best practices of economic development strategies showing promise in Native communities.
A report summarizing the identified challenges, recommendations, and best practices was developed from the workshop series1 and a national summit was convened in Washington, D.C., in May 2012. The summit provided an opportunity for tribal and federal policymakers, Indian Country leaders, and practitioners working in the field of Indian Country economic development to discuss continuing challenges, as well as opportunities. One significant obstacle frequently voiced in the GEIC workshops and highlighted at the summit was insufficient access to capital, both for the development of tribal business enterprises and the development of independent Native-owned businesses located in tribal communities. While several barriers to improved access to capital in Native communities were identified, one significant factor noted was the lack or insufficiency of tribal laws to support commercial transactions, including lending.
The GEIC Summit report more specifically articulates the following issues regarding underdeveloped tribal legal infrastructure:2
To address these issues, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, together with several federal agencies and other Federal Reserve Banks brought resources and training to tribal leaders, economic development specialists, attorneys, judges, credit officers, and others who can assist tribes in enacting and implementing laws that will help create more commercially friendly tribal business environments. In particular, the resources and training are focused on secured transactions laws, which are among those most critical to creating the legal framework that facilitates business and consumer credit.
The term secured transaction refers to a loan or other extension of credit where a borrower gives a security interest in his or her designated personal property (that is, property other than real estate) as collateral to a lender or other creditor. The collateral serves as a secondary source of repayment in the event the borrower defaults. For example, loans to cover purchases of equipment and inventory typically are secured transactions, as are many types of consumer loans, such as purchases of vehicles.
State laws governing secured transactions are modeled on Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) developed by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC).3 Article 9 and the other articles of the UCC have been adopted by all 50 states, creating a reasonably uniform legal environment for many types of commercial transactions and enabling business to be conducted efficiently among and between state jurisdictions.
In Indian Country, the state of secured transactions laws is very diverse and, in many cases, uncertain. Some tribes have comprehensive secured transactions laws, some tribes just have discrete components of these laws, and many tribes have no such laws. Among those tribes with secured transactions laws, there is significant non-uniformity, and many tribes do not make these laws publicly available or easy to access. This environment creates uncertainty and confusion for lenders. And this uncertainty and confusion translate to heightened risk. Where there is heightened risk, terms of loans and the cost of credit may be more disadvantageous to borrowers; interest rates may be higher, and loan terms may be shorter. It may also discourage lending altogether.
To address the need for comprehensive and reasonably uniform secured transactions laws tailored for tribal jurisdictions, the ULC, together with advisors from many tribes as well as organizations working in Indian Country, drafted the Model Tribal Secured Transactions Act (Model Act) and an accompanying Implementation Guide completed and made available for tribes in 2005. The Model Act offers tribes a comprehensive template law that, if enacted and implemented together with a trusted UCC filing system, addresses one critical legal barrier to credit access in Native communities.
Two related efforts of note are under way to take information about the Model Act to Tribes and Native organizations. The first is a series of one-day general informational workshops on secured transactions laws, and the Model Act specifically. These workshops, which have been held across the country, are co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Banks of Minneapolis, San Francisco, New York, Kansas City, and Atlanta; the U.S. Small Business Administration; and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development.
As a companion effort to these informational workshops, the Federal Reserve Banks of Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Kansas City, together with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services/Tribal Justice Support, are sponsoring several one-and-a-half day legal trainings on the Model Act that are specifically designed to train tribal judges and attorneys. A ULC member and key drafter of the Model Act, along with a Native law professor and tribal judge who served on the Model Act drafting committee, are the principal lecturers.
Other partnerships are supporting similar efforts. First Nations Oweesta Corporation (a community development financial institution or CDFI) has partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to host webinars on the Model Act principally for the rapidly growing Native CDFI community; and the Indian Business Alliances in Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota have hosted workshops and conference sessions on the Model Act in their respective regions. These collaborative efforts have been successful in reaching out to tribes across the country, and increasing numbers of tribes are utilizing the Model Act to help bring needed legal infrastructure to their communities.
For more information about the Model Act and the workshops, contact Susan.Woodrow@mpls.frb.org. You may also access the Model Act and Implementation Guide at www.uniformlaws.org. Under “Committees,” click on “American Indian Tribes and Nations.” For additional articles on tribal secured transactions laws, visit http://www.minneapolisfed.org/indiancountry/#articles.
Growing Economies in Indian Country: Taking Stock of Progress and Partnerships – A Summary of Challenges, Recommendations, and Promising Efforts, April 2012 (GEIC Report). Published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
For more information about the Uniform Law Commission, go to www.uniformlaws.org.
Division of Policy, Planning and Evaluation Update
This is a busy time for the Division of Policy, Planning and Evaluation (DPPE) at the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). Currently, we are writing the 2012 Congressional Report. ANA visits over 70% of all grantees to evaluate their impact and learn the stories of the staff, participants, and beneficiaries. In addition to collecting data and sharing the stories of the great work grantees are doing, DPPE team members write a report to Congress. Each project visited is represented in the report and includes details about the background of the grantee, the grant’s purpose and objectives, their accomplishments, and the outcomes. This is one of the ways DPPE highlights and shares the work ANA and its grantees are doing in Indian Country.
In this issue ANA is highlighting the economic development projects visited this last impact session. Economic Development is a key focus of ANA and many of its grantees. This year alone we visited over 40 Social and Economic Development (SEDS) grants. Ranging from a farm-to-table program in Hawaii to an entrepreneurship training program in South Dakota, these projects help unleash the creative and industrious power in Indian Country to address the pressing needs for jobs and services, as well as to help grow community-based and community-run economic development. Two such projects, the Four Bands Community Fund and the Lakota Fund, both in South Dakota, are featured below.
Four Bands Community Fund
Four Bands Community Fund is a Native American community development financial institution based in South Dakota. Founded in 2000, it has grown to be the leading organization on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in the areas of small business training and lending, entrepreneurship education, and financial literacy. Four Bands encourages the economic development and quality of life for all communities and residents on the reservation.
From September 2010 to September 2012, Four Bands implemented a project designed to prepare local entrepreneurs to start or diversify 20 businesses. Four Bands recruited interested entrepreneurs and paired them with business mentors. This mentor-entrepreneur relationship allowed entrepreneurs to research, develop, and write business plans with the assistance of experienced local business leaders and the Four Bands business development manager. Staff and participants developed the business plans based on the analysis and recommendations of a report commissioned by Four Bands entitled “Expanding the Business-to-Business Marketplace on the Cheyenne River Reservation.” This report, the product of a partnership with the Washington University in St. Louis, outlined specific steps necessary to build and sustain specific types of businesses well-suited for the market and infrastructure of Cheyenne River and Eagle Butte.
Through the work of Four Bands, 20 businesses were created or expanded during the project period. These businesses included a certified public accountant firm; general construction, roofing, and dry wall companies; a quilt-making business; a maid service; and a life insurance broker. Many businesses were able to increase their size from one or two employees to six, eight, and more. These businesses were able to succeed because Four Bands did extensive planning and market research before hand to determine the level of support and ability for certain businesses to flourish in the community.
The Lakota Fund
Beginning in 2009, ANA helped create the first credit union on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Lakota Federal Credit Union, a community credit union with a low-income designation that will serve approximately 40,000 people, received its charter from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) on August 29, 2012, and its doors opened on November 15, 2012. Prior to the Lakota Federal Credit Union (LFCU) there was no bank or credit union the 2.2 million acres of Pine Ridge Reservation.
Among other services, the LFCU will offer unsecured and secured loans, direct deposits, check cashing, online banking, and ATM cards; there will be ATM machines placed in strategic locations throughout the reservation. While projections predict the credit union will have 250 members by the end of its first year of operation and 570 by the end of the second year, staff reported it is likely they will exceed these projections, based on the 534 membership pledges they collected during the project period.
Additionally, LFCU offers youth financial mastery and entrepreneurship programs encompassing training, summer camp, and a business plan competition, to operate in the high schools and elementary schools on the reservation. The program piloted a financial literacy curriculum with 60 students at Pine Ridge High School. LFCU also developed credit builder and contractor business loan programs. From 2009 to 2012, Lakota Funds approved 33 credit builder loans totaling $66,000; of these only two have been written off, and the other 31 have been paid in full or are still active. The largest increase in a credit score as a result of these loans was 90 points, with an average increase of 31 points. Lakota Funds also began offering contractor business loans, totaling $641,500. None of these loans have been written off, and they are now the best performing loan product.Tribal and community members now have access to savings and lending without the time and expense of having to travel off-reservation. Improved access to credit has enabled businesses on the reservation to bid on projects and ensure more jobs stay local, and community members reported significant benefits as a result of improved credit scores, including retaining employment and being able to purchase a home for the first time.
United South and Eastern Tribes Economic Development Roundtable
ANA Division of Program Operations Director, Carmelia Strickland; Program Specialist, Christina Clark; and Senior Project Consultant, Michelle Sauve, attended the United South and Eastern Tribe’s (USET) Economic Development Roundtable as part of USET’s annual Impact Week. Other federal agencies attending included US Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Commerce, and Treasury. At the meeting, USET Tribes had the opportunity to share some of their biggest economic development challenges; Federal agencies were able to provide information on their current initiatives and funding for economic development; and the group was able to brainstorm possible solutions and grand initiatives they would propose to their respective agencies and the Administration to help improve economic conditions for Tribes.
Themes from the meeting included that economic sovereignty must go hand-in hand with government sovereignty. For example, allowing Tribes to develop their land, one participant suggested “the time for trust status over land has passed” and Tribes are now in a position to make good development decisions. The long lead time in approval for leases or project approval often results in a missed opportunity. If Section 17 companies are eligible for funding, they should not have to get a Tribal resolution, because this breaks down the arms-length purpose of a separate Tribal enterprise that operates independent of the Tribe. The holding company concept was presented as a way to develop arms-length between tribal administration and business administration.
Working with the Federal Government: Better coordination for funding amongst Federal agencies was encouraged. Funding also seems to favor short term investment, that will be self-sustaining after the initial grant term, but resources are also needed for long term opportunities. Sustainability is based on the generation of revenue. Dollars need to circulate in the community. One tribal grant writer commented that the requirement for a board resolution to be submitted along with a grant application wasn’t always possible and can be burdensome to tribes, especially since the Tribe has already given authority to seek funding as part of the charter for the organization or enterprise.
Notices of Funding Announcements (NOFAs) are sometimes unclear. Two recent NOFAs (USDA and HUD) listed “Tribal organization” as eligible applicant, but did not define the term and the program contact couldn’t explain it when questioned by the grant writer. Also, some NOFAs do not address whether Section 17 Tribal Enterprises are eligible or not. Another participant noted the wait to be certified as a “minority business” was long, and this was impeding the Tribe for qualifying for some minority contracts. There was also some discussion that many federal programs limit funding to take place only on tribal lands.
There is a knowledge gap: Tribes differ in knowledge of funding opportunities and economic development initiatives. Tribes also differ in the capacity to apply because some lack grant writing skills. Tribal Leader education needs to be specific to the audience, and conducted for Tribal leaders in a safe space; what elected officials need to know versus a CEO is different. The skills and approach to maintaining revenue are different for political leaders, who are driven by decisions that need to be made versus a CEO who is driven by enterprise.
Many AI/AN small business owners lack accounting and expertise in tax requirements and insurance needs. States need to be educated on Tribes, and how economic development can happen on reservations and how Tribes operate. The States issue certifications and licenses for businesses, so it is important for the Tribes and States to work together. Some Tribal representatives stated the federal government should work with the states on these matters.
Tribes also need assistance in making connections with investors, especially venture capital and angel investors. Possible models included the Plains Angel Investment Fund or establishing a Community Trust Fund (a tax benefit to the donors). .
Tribes would benefit from mentorship (see knowledge gap). Department of the Interior mentioned their National Internship Program, a partnership with Yale University, a program they are looking into reviving. One idea generated would be a database to match Tribes with experienced individuals. The Department of Energy mentioned they offer a lot of technical assistance to Tribes, which is both objective-based and science-based. This can be a valuable resource for Tribes when they are evaluating different energy development options. The idea of Tribes maintaining connections with Tribal members living off the reservation was presented. This was related to universities maintaining connections with alumni.
There was some discussion over the pros and cons of emphasizing tribal enterprise versus fostering individual AI/AN entrepreneurs. Some felt the Tribes did not do enough to engage off reservation Tribal members and encourage them to return. Some recounted stories of individuals having an easier time taking their experience to a different Tribe. The idea that political boundaries can have negative impact on economic development was presented. One was the restriction of some funding opportunities limiting economic development to the reservation. Some Nations, like the Navajo have the Tribe, Chapters, and townships, which add another layer of regulations and ordinances which can make progress difficult. Businesses need to understand all of the legal requirements they must meet.
An idea that the host generated was a pre-qualification system for Tribes that denotes to federal agencies that they have a solid track record and meet certain standards, so their project can be fast-tracked or receive preference in contracts and funding awards.
For capital investments, the idea of a pan-tribal investment forum of pooled resources and shared risk similar to other ethnic revolving loan funds was mentioned.Others talked about developing a network of experienced native entrepreneurs that have been successful and want to encourage Tribes and other AI/AN entrepreneurs to succeed. RES (The annual Reservation Economic Summit) was one possible venue for exploring this further.
Strategic Planning Opens Doors for Isolated Alaskan Village
Through its new stand-alone Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Indian Energy, Policy and Programs (DOE Office of Indian Energy) and the Denali Commission are partnering to help rural Alaska Native communities conduct energy awareness and training programs and pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities.
In 2012, the Organized Village of Kake applied for, and was selected to, receive technical assistance through START. This program was to help develop a community energy plan, relocate a wind met-tower closer to the village, conduct biomass and hydro generation feasibility studies, install a photovoltaic system, identify bulk diesel improvements, and initiate residential energy efficiency activities.
Located on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island in southeastern Alaska, Kake is a community of fewer than 600 residents struggling with out-migration, loss of employment, and high energy costs, including residential electricity rates of $0.60 per kilowatt-hour. Kake’s energy suppliers are fractured—there is a cooperative utility, but fuel, heating oil, and firewood are delivered by other companies. Kake was among five Alaska Native START projects that received on-site, customized technical assistance from the DOE Office of Indian Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
START activities in Kake kicked off with a strategic energy planning workshop held in late 2012. Facilitated by NREL, Lesley Kabotie (Crow Montana), and other energy planning experts, the workshop strengthened the community’s commitment to realizing its energy vision and helped set priorities. In addition to Kake’s tribal government, other stakeholders, including the housing authority, electric utility co-op, and various local and regional native corporations, participated.
“The planning process pulled information directly from our community members as well as our partners and gave them ownership of the end product,” said Gary Williams, executive director of Kake. “It has really helped focus our energy initiative to a fine tip. It has been phenomenal for our community.”
NREL Senior Project Leader Brian Hirsch agreed, “We were able to get the right players around the room and incorporate their concerns,” he said. “By coordinating multiple stakeholders and securing their buy-in, Kake is in a stronger position to capture grant opportunities available at the state and federal level.”
Kake is already seeing benefits from participating in START. Progress to date includes:
The Office of Child Support Enforcement Works with
the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Financial Management Services to Benefit Tribes
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) recently learned that beginning in November 2012 the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) updated their automated system, changing the way they submit payments to Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS). As a result of this change, FMS intercepted several hundred general assistance payments issued by BIA via the administrative offset program. Although these general assistance payments are not currently exempted by law or the Secretary of the Treasury from administrative offset, they are means-tested payments and may reflect the payees do not have sufficient resources to meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities. OCSE alerted states and Tribes to the needs based nature of these payments via an E-Flash and posted this information on the OCSE Tribal Webpage newsfeed.
OCSE’s Scott Hale and Paige Hausburg facilitated a call with BIA and FMS to open the lines of communication and help BIA submit an exemption request to Treasury. If the Treasury Secretary approves the exemption request, BIA will be allowed to code these payments as exempt from administrative offset when they submit to FMS, preventing future intercept matches. OCSE will keep everyone apprised of the results of BIA’s exemption request.
OCSE is working closely with BIA to get additional details regarding the noncustodial parents whose BIA general assistance payments have been or may be administratively offset. Once the information is received, OCSE will contact the state’s offset coordinator and/or point of contact with the information.
Office of Child Support Enforcement Tribal Innovation Grants
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) published a grant forecast for: Tribal Innovation Grants: Building Family-Centered Services. Eligibility for this grant program is open to tribal child support agencies operating comprehensive programs. Applicants will have the opportunity to compete for funds to develop and administer innovative, family-centered child support services that help parents provide reliable support for their children as they grow up. The grant forecast gives advance notice of grant funding opportunities with basic details applicants can use for planning until OCSE publishes the full funding opportunity announcement.
OCSE held two listening sessions to discuss the new Tribal Innovations grants (November and December, 2012.) The purpose of the calls was to gather feedback and learn of interests, concerns, questions and recommendations to take into consideration when developing the policies for the grant program.
Office of Child Support Enforcement’s Model Tribal System
Realizing the importance of automated systems to the effective delivery of child support services, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) worked with tribal partners in the child support community to plan, conceptualize and design a generic model computer system for use in Tribal Child Support Enforcement programs nationwide. Known as the Model Tribal System, or MTS, it was designed to be highly customizable, ensuring every tribe is able to adapt a copy of the system to its own individual program and cultural requirements. The initial development of the MTS was completed in May 2010. In FY 2010, the final rule: Computerized Tribal IV-D systems and Office Automation was published in the Federal Register on February 25, 2010 [75 FR 8508.] Two tribes, the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Wisconsin and the Modoc Tribe in Oklahoma, volunteered to perform user acceptance testing and pilot test the MTS. OCSE provided hands-on technical assistance to both tribes in developing funding requests and contract preparations for the pilot testing.
In 2012, OCSE provided on-site, hands-on technical assistance to both Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Modoc Tribe in their testing, use, and operation of the MTS. OCSE held multiple webinars to provide project status information on the MTS to interested tribal child support programs nationwide and provided systems funding training and demonstrations of the system at the National Tribal Child Support Association Training Conference in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Testing is now complete and Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Modoc Tribe entered live cases into their copies of the MTS and began operational use of the system. OCSE reached out to tribal leaders through a Dear Tribal Leader Letter to gather information on tribes’ plans for potential use of the system to determine a plan for the MTS nationwide launch. To further understanding of the options for use of the MTS, OCSE also held a webinar to elaborate on the information contained in the Dear Tribal Leader Letter. OCSE anticipates the launch of the system will begin this year.
You can read more about it in OCSE’s, the Commissioner’s Voice.
Panel Review 2013
The Administration for Native Americans (ANA) promotes self-sufficiency for Native Americans by providing discretionary grant funding for community based projects and training and technical assistance to eligible tribes and native organizations. ANA provides assistance to implement and develop projects related to Social and Economic Development Strategies, Environmental Regulatory Enhancement, and Native Languages (Preservation and Maintenance and Esther Martinez Initiative). Each year, ANA convenes panels of peer reviewers to analyze and score eligible grant applications. Panel reviewer scores are used to rank eligible applications, which make panel reviewers an integral part of ANA’s funding process.
ANA’s Panel Review requires ‘reviewers’ and ‘facilitators’ who are professionals possessing subject matter expertise, experience, and qualifications relevant to ANA’s program areas. Reviewers analyze, score, and comment on grant applications. Each facilitator works with a team of three panel reviewers to facilitate discussions and consolidate comments into a summary report. The reviewers and facilitator work closely to ensure each application receives a thorough, objective review. An objective review requires reviewers and facilitators evaluate only the application as it is written by the grantee and not incorporate their own personal knowledge. Additionally, they must be familiar with the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), as their evaluation is based entirely on the criteria stated within the FOA. To ensure objectivity, ANA requires all reviewers and facilitators to verify they have no conflict of interest with any of the applications assigned to them. The ultimate goal of Panel Review, achieved through discussions between the facilitator and reviewers, is two-fold, (1) to provide scores and comments to ANA for ranking and funding consideration and (2) to provide feedback to applicants to strengthen their future application submissions.
In 2012, ANA received over 400 applications under its program areas with a total funding demand exceeding $250 million. As the 2013 Panel Review is approaching, we look forward to anticipating new applications for funding consideration. Grant reviewing is tough and demanding but incredibly rewarding. ANA relies on the recommendations produced by the panel review process; therefore, important decisions rest in the hands of panel reviewers. Everyone who participates in ANA’s Panel Review process believe in ANA’s ultimate vision: Native Communities are Thriving!
If you have not reviewed for ANA in the past and are interested in being considered for this year’s panel review, please register and create an account by going to the link below.
If you have reviewed for ANA in the past and would like to be considered for this year’s panel review, you must activate your account by logging into the system and reviewing your profile using the link below.ANA Panel Reviewer Registration link: https://extranet.acf.hhs.gov/gaps/home.do
Mark Your Calendars - ANA Launches Webinar Series
ANA is pleased to introduce a new webinar series. The weekly series, beginning March 7, 2013, will include presentations from ANA and ACF leaders and partners, as well as training and technical assistance on project design and implementation.
Training and Technical Assistance Webinars
Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Tribal Title IV-E Plan Development Grants
ACF Office of Community Service, Assets for Independence Grant
HHS Office of Adolescent Health, Pregnancy Assistance Fund http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do;jsessionid=7nK2Rj2Cgngpp8Xn7nx...
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration FY2013 Grants
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Indian Community Development Block Grant Program
USDA Land-Grant Development/Tribal Fellowship Program Accepting Applications
Deadline to Apply: May 3, 2013
Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series: January-October 2013
The Department of Energy’s, Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Tribal Energy Program, and Western Area Power Administration are pleased to continue their sponsorship of the Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series. The series is intended for tribal leaders and staff who are interested in developing commercial-scale energy projects, responding to utilities' requests for proposals, and learning more about the competitive power market. Each webinar focuses on a different aspect of the energy project development process. Taken as a whole, the series is designed to help Tribes identify ways to promote tribal energy sufficiency and foster economic development and employment on tribal lands through renewable energy and energy efficiency technology development. These free webinars will be held the last Wednesday of every month from January-October 2013. View the complete list and register.
Communities in the News
This article by David Olsen in the Press-Enterprise, CA, highlights what Tribes are doing with Tribal and federal resources to maintain and revitalize native languages. Several Tribes, regional and national language advocacy groups, and ANA grantees are featured.
The White House has announced Olympic champion, role model and humanitarian, Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), is going to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal. Mills is the National Spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a non-profit organization with the mission of strengthening American Indian communities by creating opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem, particularly for native youth.
Thunder Valley CDC Receives Special Recognition
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) receives special recognition at White House Tribal Nations Conference for their efforts for economic development on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Thunder Valley CDC is based in the Porcupine District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Guided by a vision to ‘courageously build healthy, prosperous communities with wisdom, kindness, generosity, and respect for all life, land, water and air,’ the Oglala-led, non-profit organization Thunder Valley CDC consortium members are wrapping up a two year journey which started with funding by a Sustainable Communities Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Sustainable Housing & Communities.
Read more about Thunder Valley CDC’s recent work on the USDA Blog: http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/01/16/on-the-pine-ridge-indian-reservation...
Funding for Language
Request for Proposals let by the Endangered Language Fund for small grants ($2000-$4000) for language maintenance and linguistic field work. This is a wonderful opportunity to support many of the Native languages that are struggling. Deadline date for proposals is April 22, 2013. Learn more at http://www.endangeredlanguagefund.org/request.php
Celebrating Native Youth
The Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC, has released Volume 2 of Voices of Native Youth Report. This report provides up to date information on what youth are saying in Native American Country. They have also named their “Champions for Change” and will bring them to Washington DC during the National Congress of American Indians Winter Executive Session.
What We Are Reading
The Wind Is My Mother
Here at the Administration for Native Americans and Administration for Children and Families, we are fortunate enough to have a book club where we share and read various books and articles that touch upon different aspects of Native American life. This past year, we have focused on the potentials of economic development, the controversy around NA mascots in sports, human service issues for people in a multicultural society, … and the essence of who we are, our spirituality.
We all have a story to tell—the story of our lives! The Wind Is My Mother is the story about Bear Heart, a Muskogee Creek healer, and his journey of learning some of life’s mysteries. Reading about his experiences is like listening to a grandfather’s stories – rich in detail and meaning, with life lessons to carry away in one’s heart. “When you have a good purpose and reach for that purpose, it makes life worthwhile to live,” says Bear Heart, and he shares stories of individuals who have had lives rich with purpose. He speaks of treating everyone with respect, our fellow human beings, as well as other works of the Creator, and how those good intentions we have can bear positive fruit in our lives.
Bear Heart was recognized as being a respectful person by two of his elders, both medicine men, who put him through challenging situations from which he could learn specific lessons. “We learn from these experiences. Be grateful for all the difficult situations in life because you can learn something from each one,” writes Bear Heart, and if you consciously acknowledge the fact that you’ve learned a lesson, and hold on to that lesson learned, you can help others in similar situations when they experience life’s challenges. He also shares with us how we can use our minds to assume more control over our lives, especially if we find ourselves dwelling on something negative. “If you fill that space with something else, what you’re doing is employing the law of physics that say no two things can occupy the same space at the same time. So get [the negative thought] out and put something else in. If you’ve got a negative, put a positive [thought] in. They can’t both be in the same place at the same time.”
The Wind Is My Mother is a book that tells the story of Bear Heart’s initiation as a healer, his discovery that the cure for life’s ills lies within us, and his directions to us on living our lives to the fullest. It is a treasury of wisdom, an interesting journey, that once you set your foot upon the path, you will look forward to returning again and again!
Brian D.F. Richmond