Almost every column I have written for ICTMN has either explicitly or implicitly spoken for unity among American Indian Tribes and Native Alaskans (collectively, Native Americans). My message has been and will continue to be that American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, in the interest of unity and just plain good economic sense, must pass and enforce Indian and Native Preference in procurement, contracting and hiring. The point of my column on RES 2012 was to announce the new alliance between NCAIED (National Center for Indian Enterprise Development) and NIGA (National Indian Gaming Association) which would be dedicated to a new effort to promote the development and utilization of Indian-owned, tribally owned and Alaska Native-owned businesses in the Indian Casino Supply Chain and the Tribal Governmental Supply Chain. I and the Indian small business owners in attendance were very happy to hear that two of the most influential Indian economic development advocacy groups were going to encourage the utilization of Indian-owned businesses by Tribal and Native Governments and their business entities. The leadership of both NCAIED and NACA know the barriers that are thrown up when Indian owned businesses try to get their foot in the door. Gary Davis personally knows the struggles of being an Indian who is owner of a small business serving Indian Country. Ernie Stevens has been around the tribal political arena long enough to have met almost every Indian small business owner in Indian Country. Ernie knows the struggles too. Ernie supported and assisted in the passage of a resolution by NIGA to set a goal for its member tribes of purchasing at least 10 percent of their goods and services from Indian Country sources.
In that article I had “incorrectly” understated the participation of NACA members at RES 2012 and immediately, when apprised of the mistake, made a correction on the ICTM website and Facebook. NACA (Native American Contractors Association) is the national organization for mostly “tribally” owned businesses and Alaska Native Corporations who have been quite successful in securing contracts from federal sources. The contracts are frequently in the hundreds of millions and may even be multi-year/multi-billion dollar contracts. I had previously written an article for ICTM advocating that Non-NACA tribes support the maintenance of the preferences in federal contracting and procurement that the NACA members enjoy. NACA members mostly are wholly owned arms of Native American Governments. Their profits go into supporting governmental needs the same way that Indian Gaming proceeds are dedicated to tribal governmental activities. I have advocated that, in the interest of preserving preferences that have made them quite successful, NACA can better assure tribal unity by NACA members making a conscientious effort to help create and work with other tribes and the Indian small business owners. NACA can help to create and support these businesses by sub-contracting with them in fulfilling the billions in contracting that NACA members obtain. Again, these tribal and Indian-owned businesses won’t materialize out of thin air. They need “start-up” assistance and support from the resources and expertise of NACA, NIGA, NCAI and NCAIED. These organizations can immediately support them by “requiring” that their managers, executives, contractors, procurement officers and administrators utilize tribally-owned and Indian-owned businesses. This would be true “unity”.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that Indian Country contributes sixty-four billion dollars ($64,000,000,000) to local economies. Mind you, that figure belies the fact just a small percentage of those dollars actually recycle on the reservation, but are instead spent outside Indian Country. The mainstay of any modern economy is small business ownership. Self-sustaining economies cannot be achieved without supporting individual Indian and Native owned small businesses that will create long-lasting jobs and re-circulate dollars generated by Indian Country. It is these businesses that will eventually make us less dependent on federal and state money.
At times I have utilized the element of “shame” to try to get tribes and Alaska Native governmental and businesses entities to enforce Indian Preference in contracting, hiring and procurement. I have been called “racist”, “divisive” and just plain “anally retentive” at times; usually by someone who benefits from maintaining the status quo. The status quo being that the majority of the $64,000,000,000 in economic impact created by Native American Governments and their businesses have made non-Indian off-reservation businesses rich.
I will not stop being an advocate for Indian preference as long as it takes for Indian Country to procure the majority of its goods and services from Indian and Native-owned sources, to achieve an executive and management workforce that is majority Indian or Native, and until the majority of Indian Country contracts and sub-contracts go to Indian and Native owned companies. I don’t want my children or grandchildren or great grandchildren to have to continue to struggle to just get a small piece of the pie.
Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree Attorney and consultant writing from Albuquerque, NM. He is the former Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission and is an advocate for Indian and Native owned small businesses and the enforcement of Indian Preference in contracting, hiring and procurement. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.