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Serving Small Businesses in Indian Country

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Serving Small Businesses in Indian Country

By Christopher James, SBA Official
Published: May 3, 2012 Updated: May 3, 2012

On Tuesday, I had the honor of joining my colleagues at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., for “Growing Economies in Indian Country: A National Summit,” a one-day event co-hosted by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. 

The Summit was the culmination of a 2011 interagency workshop initiative – “Growing Economies in Indian Country” – to produce a dialogue among tribal leaders, policymakers, financial industry professionals, universities and community development service providers on challenges and opportunities for economic growth in Native American communities.

Collectively, the six-workshop series – which followed a similar series in 2010 – was conducted in Indian Country at locations ranging from Alaska to Arizona to Maine.

Our aims were clear: spur conversations that could lead to an effective approach to economic development issues facing Indian Country, raise awareness about federal assistance programs, and highlight best practices for economic development strategies for Indian Country. Collaboration between tribal, state and federal partners was integral to the success of each meeting.

“Growing Economies in Indian Country: A National Summit” brought many of the workshop initiative collaborators together from across Indian Country to continue the discussion on opportunities and challenges to tribal economic development.

With more than 130 in attendance and through a publicly available webcast, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Narayana Kocherlakota opened the conference by saying: “Out migration is not a solution to poverty among indigenous communities, but actually threatens tribal culture and sovereignty.”

The day included four panels of experts, including Miriam Jorgensen, research director of the Native Nation Institute for Leadership; Sue Woodrow, community development advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Tanya Fiddler, executive director of the Four Bands Community Fund; Clara Pratte, director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office; Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-chunk, Inc., and Jodi Gillette, White House senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs.

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, delivered the keynote address. She discussed new and innovative approaches and initiatives underway to address economic development issues in Indian Country. 

She stated: “How can we as Native communities actually contribute not only to our communities but contribute to our nation and our world.”

One of the major highlights of the Summit was the sharing of the publication, Taking Stock of Progress and Partnerships: A Summary of Challenges, Recommendations, and Promising Efforts. This white paper combines the views of many of the 600 attendees of the workshops held around the country in 2011.

I’m proud to work for the Obama Administration, which strongly supports economic development and job creation efforts in Indian Country.  In my position at the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as my former post at the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund, it has been a privilege to be included in this multiagency national initiative, which consistently demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to improving the quality of life in Native American communities.  

The main priority of the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs is to continue serving as a resource to our Tribal communities and working with our sister agencies on collective initiatives like “Growing Economies in Indian Country.”

About the Author:

Christopher James
Christopher James

SBA Official


Are there any workshops planned for 2012?

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