Business

From Beads to Bounty: How Wampum Became America’s First Currency—And Lost Its Power

Written by at September 29, 2017

A story about the history of wampum.

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Remembering the Life and Legacy of John Trudell

Written by at September 23, 2017

Activist, poet, and Native thinker John Trudell walked on December 8 at the age of 69. “I want people to remember me as they remember me,” he said.

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Cronkite News: Tribal leaders focus on marijuana industry at conference in Arizona

Written by at September 22, 2017

Tribal leaders discussed the potential opening of legal marijuana businesses on tribal lands at the National Indian Gaming Association conference.

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Olympic-style ski jump plans in works for PIIC

Written by at September 14, 2017

The Prairie Island Indian Community (PIIC) is in negotiations with the Friends of American Ski Jumping organization over plans by the latter group to build an Olympic-style ski jump on the Community’s Mount Frontenac near Red Wing.

Ski jump enthusiasts and Red Wing area boosters have been raising money from private sources for the project. Heading into August, organizers had raised $1.2 million and had another $1 million in pledges for what is estimated to be a $6 million year-around ski jump training and competition facility.

A second phase of development with more recreation venues and concern facilities is also being considered.  

Shelley Buck, president of the PIIC Tribal Council, said the Community and ski jump group are still finalizing business arrangements for the group to build on the Community’s land. But, she added, “We are excited to see the project moving forward and are encouraged by the growing interest and support.”

The idea for the ski jump facility came from the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame that is housed in the St. James Hotel in downtown Red Wing. Norwegian immigrants started American ski jumping at Red Wing in the 1880s on the bluffs above the Mississippi River.

Regardless how business ties between the groups are resolved, the ski jump facility would expand PIIC’s activities in the hospitality industry. The site is connected to the Mount Frontenac Golf Course and its club house and event center, and is convenient to PIIC’s Treasure Island Resort and Casino.

Buck said diversifying the Community’s economy is a top priority.

“Gaming has been a successful economic development tool for our tribe and many other Native communities; it’s helped us become self-sufficient and allowed us to share our success with our neighbors,” she said. “But we don’t want to bet our future on gaming alone.”

Prairie Island’s economy is already one of Minnesota’s most diverse destination and entertainment attractions with gaming, golf, water sports, bowling and concerts, Buck said. “This project would add exciting elements to what we’ve already created and drive even more visits and positive impact to the region, she said. 

Ski jump backers are estimating as many as 100,000 people may be drawn to the site annually. Red Wing and Rochester newspapers have stressed this would economically benefits communities throughout southeastern Minnesota.
The Hall of Fame inducted six new members in early August at ceremonies at the golf club. A special guest at the Red Wing ceremony was Steve Collins, a Canadian Olympian ski jumper who has family ties to the PIIC.
Collins is a member of the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ont. Peter Collins, a first cousin of the skier, is the elected chief of the Ojibwe First Nation. ­However, the Hall of Fame notes on its website that a grandfather of the celebrated Canadian Olympian was Charley Collings, a member of PIIC before migrating to Canada.

More information about the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum is available at: americanskijumping.com (americanskijumping.com) ;
the ski jump project is at baldie125.com, and Prairie Island Indian Community at prairieisland.org (prairieisland.org) .  
   

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Indian Land Capital Co. helps tribes reclaim ancestral land

Written by at September 14, 2017

An unusual finance company based in the St. Paul suburb of Little Canada is playing a big role in helping tribes repurchase ancestral lands that should never have been sold or taken away.

The Indian Land Capital Co.  (ILCC) is legally a for-profit venture owned by two nonprofit organizations, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation in Little Canada and the Native American Community Development Corp. of Browning, Mont.

There are a variety of legal reasons why the ILCC is incorporated that way, said Rjay Brunkow, chief executive officer. But mostly, it allows ILCC to work with commercial banks and other lenders to allow creative financing packages for tribes that aren’t secured by land collateral.

“This has always been a problem for sovereign nations,” Brunkow said. “Lenders always want collateral supporting the loan. It takes some ‘getting used to’ for banks to recognize the full faith and credit (pledge) of sovereign nations.”

Founded in 2005, ILCC has helped tribes finance 17 land acquisition projects. The purchases have been in a dozen states but California is a major client base for ILCC activity. That comes from California’s large number of small Rancherias (reservations) and California Natives’ peculiar experiences with federal laws that disbanded the tribes and later restored federal recognition. 

Some ILCC loan have been small purchases of a few acres within reservation boundaries or a nearby mountain that has cultural importance but no economic value to a tribe. Others have been large purchases such as the 22,237 acres of timberland in 2011 that doubled the size of the Yurok Tribe at Klamath, Calif.

Land repurchases to date are important both economically and culturally but are a mere pittance of the 90 million acres pulled away legally and illegally from sovereign tribes, Brunkow said.

The most recent ILCC financed land purchase was two months ago when the Pinoleville Pomo Nation at Ukiah, Calif., acquired 9.3 acres of its original Rancheria land with a $2.7 million loan.  

“We couldn’t have done this without Rjay’s and the land company’s help,” said Leona Williams, the tribal chairperson.

The reacquired land was split between 8.8 acres of commercial property and 3.5 acres that Williams described as “cultural heritage land.”

All of the property, however, is significant for the Pinoleville Pomo citizens and for members of 16 other Rancherias in California, she said.

Part of the land formerly belong to Tillie Hardwick, a tribal member who challenged a 1958 federal law that resulted in terminating the California Rancherias in 1966. In winning that 1979 case, tribal status was returned to the Rancherias and their members regained federal recognition as American Indians.

“We really wanted to save this land but we didn’t have the means,” Williams said. “Then, an attorney we knew from Colorado suggested we find out if that group (ILCC) in Minnesota could help. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it was true.”

Small and less economically successful tribal nations like the Pinoleville Pomo make the primary client base for ILCC financing and originated loans with other partners. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community “really don’t need our help,” he said, and they have all the internal expertise they need to work financing and business ventures.

Meanwhile, Brunkow said the capital company is gaining access to participating lenders with each passing land deal. The track record with tribes is what does it.

“We’ve never had a tribal client default on a loan,” he said.

That would impress bankers. Brunkow would know.

Brunkow, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, is a former investment banker specializing in Indian Country business for Wells Fargo. He has a business economics degree from South Dakota State University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Before joining ILCC two years ago, Brunkow had previously served as solicitor general for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and as chief legal counsel for the Turtle Mountain Band.

One reason for the success of ILCC’s loans is that Brunkow and his predecessors serve as the loan originators when bringing other participants in on the loans. “When we know Indian Country, we know what will be done with the land and we know the politics, the culture of a tribe, that tells us the tribe will follow through on obligations,” he said.

That isn’t significantly different from other banking and lending practices. “What we are looking for is stability,” he added.

ILCC is housed at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation office in Little Canada. It also gets staff help from the parent organization.

While the Foundation, with its 76 percent stake in the company, and its Native American Community Development Corp. partner could be taking profits out of the for-profit lending institution, it doesn’t. And it won’t, explains Chris Stainbrook (Oglala Lakota), president of the Foundation and board chair for ILCC.

“ILCC was formed as a for-profit company to demonstrate to outside lenders that tribes are good credit risks and full-faith-in-credit lending to the tribes could work. It was not formed for the two non-profit owners to be supported by ILCC profits,” he said.

“ILTF and NACDC will not take a single nickel out of ILCC until the 90 million acres of lost reservation lands are returned to Indian ownership, management and control,” he added.

That shows the magnitude of the work remaining for the capital company and its parents.

More information about the Indian Land Capital Company can be found at ilcc.net (ilcc.net) ; Indian Land Tenure Foundation at iltf.org (iltf.org) , and Native American Community Development Corp. at nadc-nabn.org (nadc-nabn.org) .    

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Nooksack Tribe reopens casino after reaching settlement with gaming agency

Written by at September 11, 2017

The Nooksack Tribe is back in the gaming business after a three-month shutdown imposed by the federal government.

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Trump administration defends cake shop in Colorado that won’t serve all patrons

Written by at September 8, 2017

The Trump administration is siding with a business in Colorado that won’t serve all patrons based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

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Eastern Cherokees saw big boost in business at casinos thanks to solar eclipse

Written by at September 6, 2017

The solar eclipse wasn’t just a stunning natural phenomenon, it was good business for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

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Indian Country Today Media Network To Cease Active Operations

Written by at September 4, 2017

On September 4, 2017, ICTMN announces operational hiatus to explore new business model

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Indian Country Today Media Network To Cease Active Operations

Written by at September 4, 2017

On September 4, 2017, ICTMN announces operational hiatus to explore new business model

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California Tribes Form Cannabis Association

Written by at September 3, 2017

California tribes have created the California Native American Cannabis Association to approach cannabis cultivation with tribal sovereignty in mind.

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AMERIND Critical Infrastructure: Broadband Builds Tribal Communities

Written by at September 3, 2017

Broadband—also known as high-speed Internet—is today’s critical infrastructure. From education to health care, public safety to Tribal housing, broadband provides the platform to build Tribal communities. For example, distance learning supports language preservation by allowing Native language classes to be conducted online. Telemedicine increases access to specialists and preventative care that can be lifesaving while allowing Tribal members to remain in their communities. Shorter response times for police and fire fighters mean that homes and lives can be saved.

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Faith, Family, Fiesta Pan-Indian Culture

Written by at September 3, 2017

Pan-Indian culture thrives on a shared heritage of endurance, success, and salvation for all Natives who choose to embrace it.

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Hattie Mitchell Joins AMERIND Risk as Director of Finance

Written by at September 3, 2017

Hattie Mitchell (Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation), a certified public accountant, recently joined AMERIND Risk as the Director of Finance. Highlights of Ms. Mitchell’s impressive resume include being elected and serving as Tribal Council Treasurer for her tribe in 2012. In 2013, she was elected as a “40 under 40” emerging leader in Indian Country by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In April 2017, she was elected Treasurer of the Native American Financial Officers Association (NAFOA) Board.

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Examining Interior’s Changes to Trust Land Buy-Back Program

Written by at September 3, 2017

A new formula prioritizes potential value of the land to tribal economic development rather than simple fractionation reduction in the Land Buy-Back Program.

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The Thriving Small Businesses of the Navajo Nation

Written by at September 1, 2017

The Navajo Nation spans three states and has an unemployment rate that tops 50 percent, but these six small businesses are helping to change that.

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Are Native CDFIs the Financial Institution of the Future?

Written by at September 1, 2017

Native CDFIs tend to be homegrown, and are run by tribal members that have expert knowledge for what reservation communities want and need.

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Fond du Lac Bridges the Digital Divide

Written by at August 31, 2017

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are providing essential high-speed internet access to 900 homes on the reservation by fall 2018.

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Muscogee, Cherokee and Quapaw Send Teams to Help With Hurricane Harvey

Written by at August 30, 2017

At least three American Indian tribes in Oklahoma have sent representatives to the Houston area to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

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Why Is Climate Change’s 2 Degrees Celsius of Warming Limit so Important?

Written by at August 29, 2017

Perhaps the most powerful aspect about Climate Change’s 2°C threshold is not its scientific veracity, but its simplicity as an organizing principle

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Native Actor Jeremiah Bitsui Talks Shoe Shines, Ninjas, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’

Written by at August 28, 2017

Jeremiah Bitsui (Navajo/Omaha) was one of the stars of the wildly successful television series, ‘Breaking Bad’

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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, August 27, 2017

Written by at August 27, 2017

Pardoning a racist, the search for a missing mother, and a nationally recognized young Navajo poet—all this and more in Indian country August 27.

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And the Winners Are: 96th Santa Fe Indian Market ‘Best Of Market Awards’

Written by at August 27, 2017

And the Winners Are: 96th Santa Fe Indian Market ‘Best Of Market Awards’

Here are the Native artists who won “Best of” and other categories at the Santa Fe Indian Market

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Plutocracy in the US and Egalitarian Indian Nations

Written by at August 27, 2017

While many tribal communities distribute wealth evenly, leading to a more egalitarian government, the United States slides more and more into a plutocracy, controlled by the wealthy.

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Alaska’s Bill Walker, Byron Mallott Seek Second Term in 2018 Elections

Written by at August 26, 2017

The 2018 elections are close and a look at Native candidates starts in Alaska where Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott are running for re-election.

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