NANA is the first Alaska Native company to win the corporate advocate award, presented by the National Center of American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) at the 25th annual Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair in March 2011 in Las Vegas.
Accepting the award, NANA Regional’s president and chief executive Marie Greene emphasized the unique responsibilities Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) have to their shareholders, touching on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 that formed ANCs.
Based in Inupiat Northwest Alaska, NANA has provided its shareholders with cash dividends, jobs and scholarships, while implementing social and cultural programs, such as initiatives to preserve the Inupiaq language, reported the Sounder.
Greene brought attention to the recent criticisms of federal 8(a) contracting benefits created to help Native-owned corporations. ANCs have come under harsh scrutiny for funneling money to outside contractors, allegedly at the expense of native communities, reported The Washington Post. And a controversial report by ProPublica that analyzes government stimulus spending through its Recovery Tracker cited that ANCs collaborate with subcontractors twice as often as other federal contractors and substantially more than other small minority-owned firms. ProPublica’s methods of gathering data have been questioned and challenged by ANCs, such as the Native American Contractors Association (NACA). On January 28, NACA released a statement that the newsroom used “unverified data sources” and “flawed methodology” in its report, after the Alaska Native firm reached out to ProPublica and made “every effort to verify the data.”
Greene specifically mentioned Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, as the most prominent critic of the federal 8(a) program. In the fall of 2010, the senator introduced legislation that would remove a benefit that allows ANCs to secure non-competitive contracts of unlimited size. It would also impact tribal businesses outside of Alaska that take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program.
“While we are happy to provide results to those who asked, I could not help but be surprised at the line of questions,” Greene said in her speech about the attacks on ANCs, reported the Sounder.
While financial numbers may indicate Native corporations’ success, they are not the end goal, Greene stressed. “After all, how much is self-reliance worth?” she asked the crowd. “How do you quantify the survival of a people, a language, and a culture? What is the cost of our traditions, or our subsistence way of life?
“We do not grow simply to increase profits or expand for expansion’s sake,” she said. “Native enterprises are a means to an end. They are the mechanism we use to ensure the survival of our people. They allow us to document our history, perpetuate our traditions, and they are the financial foundations on which future generations will be built.”