An evening of music by the award-winning master guitarist Gabriel Ayala and a buffet feast that included miniature beef Wellingtons and a chocolate fountain capped the first day of RES 2013 and was an auspicious Grand Opening Welcome Reception to the biggest annual business meeting for American Indians and Indigenous Peoples.
The Reservation Economic Summit (RES) is hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED), a national 501(C)(3) non-profit American Indian economic and business development organization. This year marks the 27th Annual National Reservation Economic Summit, a conference that features tribal leaders; federal, state and local elected officials; and top CEOs from major national and multi-national corporations; Native businesses of all sizes; dozens of panels, workshops and training sessions; and opportunities for networking, teaming, and American Indian procurement. The event is taking place March 11-14 at the enormous Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas and is expected to draw 3,000 to 4,000 attendees.
The pre-conference events began Monday, March 11 with the 25th Annual NCAIED Scholarship Golf Classic at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, which is owned by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. Net proceeds from this golf tournament go directly to fund scholarships for American Indian business students. A special guest at the tournament this year was Frank Oz, the feature film director, Muppets creator and voice of Yoda in the film Star Wars. The golf event included a special live auction of autographed Muppets and Star Wars memorabilia.
The Opening General Session took place on Tuesday morning beginning with a posting of the colors by the Native American Women Warriors, a group of Native women veterans of the Iraq war need for education, employment, and special services. The Women Warriors presented the colors at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Crosslin Smith, Cherokee, a member of the Keetoowah Society and a medicine man, gave the opening prayer. He talked about the divine spirit and said, “We need to share the divine blessings with all the people in the world, regardless of race, creed or color.”
A spectacular video was shown featuring the ancient Cahokia Mounds, an indigenous city of diverse Indigenous Peoples that was more densely population than London in AD 1250. Margot Gray Proctor, who is stepping down this week as chairwoman of NCAIED’s board of directors, said she has been intrigued by the Cahokia Mounds for some time and chose the Mounds as a theme for this year’s RES. “I’ve been talking about Cahokia Mounds because no one knows that history! We are here, this is what you’re seeing—we’re all descendants of Cahokia Mounds,” she told Indian Country Today Media Network. The printed RES program describes the connection between Cahokia and contemporary Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. “Our National Reservation Economic Summit is a modern day version of Cahokia. The RES event gathers our Native People from all across North America, patiipants from around the world and brings us all into one location to do business and to talk about economic development. It is only by working together that we can grow our communities for te betterment of future generations. . .Cahokia represents a further hope, that we as Native People remember that business is not new to us. It is part of who we are and the reason it is at the essence of this year’s theme.”
Following the video, which also featured famous American Indians, the stage became a blur of color and motion and sound with performances by the North Bear Singers, Midnight Express Singers, and the Native Pride Dance Troop.
A number of dignitaries gave welcoming speeches, including Gary Davis, NCAIED’s president and CEO, Gray Proctor, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe’s Chairman Benny Tso, and Charles Galbraith from the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The keynote speaker was Victoria LaBalme, an internationally-known motivational speaker and creative communications strategist for Fortune “100” executives and high performing teams.
The opening session ended with a procession to the RES 2013 Business Trade Show, Procurement Expo and American Indian Art Market. Workshops and presentations began on Wednesday, March 13.