CAIED’S 3rd Tribal Economic Outlook Conference Addresses Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Investments

Posted: Wednesday, June 28th 2017 at 4:50 AM

The 3rd Annual Northern Arizona University Center for American Indian Economic Development (CAIED) Tribal Economic Outlook Conference was held on April 13, 2017 at the High Country Conference Center. Wells Fargo sponsored the event.

The conference, a premier tribal economic development conference, gives participants a unique opportunity to network with many tribal leaders and learn about tribal economic development projects within the region.

The event was moderated by Dean Craig Van Slyke, dean of NAU-The W. A. Franke College of Business.

Van Slyke began by recognizing Wayne Fox as the “reason that the Alliance Bank Business Outreach Center exists….35 years into Northern Arizona University and we’re all better because of his efforts.”

After the opening prayer, offered by Cliff Qotsaquahu (Hopi), and a welcome from the new Interim Director of the Alliance Bank Business Outreach Center, Dr. Wade Rousse, Wells Fargo representatives shared the long-standing involvement in Indian Country around the United States and regionally.

Aaron Lemke, vice president, sr. relationship manager, Middle Market Banking, Arizona, outlined the commitment and desire to continue their partnerships in the tribal communities. He outlined their support of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) – charitable giving through competitive award programs that serve Indian communities. Wells Fargo also partners with 3rd parties for investment in the communities, one example being the Grid Alternatives project bringing solar power to Native American communities.

Lemke then introduced other members of his team.

Sean McCarthy, regional chief investment officer, spoke on Arizona Economy General Business Trends. He spoke about the impact that the 2008–2014 economic crisis had on migration – out of Arizona and how we are now slowly seeing that number move back into the positive range. But the makeup of Baby Boomers versus Millenials is playing a key role in the state economy today.

He then addressed the impacts of losing the power plant and coal mine, which would effect 3,000 employees and have a ripple effect of having to import natural gas. These are the risks he sees in the northern part of the state.

In the south, the risk is in trade. Trade with Mexico has a large impact on the economy and policies aimed at damaging that trade are uncertain in the current Administration.

Jane Marie Petty, director of social impact investing consulting, then introduced two members of her team who focus on sustainable investments. She indicated that Wells Fargo helps their clients align their investment decisions with their personal values.       

Kimberly Ryan, equity portfolio manager, spoke on Social Impact Investing for Tribes.

Ryan asked, “Why should we care about sustainability? Perhaps I am preaching to the choir to an audience that already understands sustainability for generations…”

Looking to invest in ways that go “far into the future,” Wells Fargo works with clients as to how to make that happen. “Good news is, whatever you have, when you invest that money, you don’t have to invest it in something that is counter to your mission,” she said. "This type of investment has been labeled Environmental Social Governance (ESG) – those things that you don’t see on a financial statement. And applying ESG principals also helps identify bad investments. ESG differentiates Wells Fargo from other bankers,” concluded Ryan.

Ryan was followed by Claire Veuthey, senior research analyst, environmental and social governance, who has broad international experience to bring to her client base.

She said that in evaluating a potential investment for its sustainability practices, they look for companies that are involved in partnerships, for example, Google University Campus and Microsoft’s program for the Autistic population. Their second method is engagement. Investors have rights to companies they are invested in. It is meant to be a collaborative conversation. She said there is no perfect company and there are often some tradeoffs, but Wells Fargo's job is to figure out what matters most. Her final point was that investing financially is an optimistic act so investing with Wells Fargo who looks to ESG is important.

Their presentations were followed by a brief Q& A moderated by Dean Van Slyke.

The next presentation was by Brian Hammill, from Wisconsin, a World-renown Hoop dancer, who shared how he got started in the Dance while serving in the Army, and his struggles as an entrepreneur.

His friend, who gave him the hoop dance, told him, “'Whenever you dance, make sure you share the story.' It is now my passion. I like to talk to somebody and give them feeling that they understanding.”

Hammill feels this sharing is a way to bridge cultural mis-understandings.

“I also want to mention we can’t stop changing, evolving. Not forget where we come from, but evolve and change,” he said.

“The Hoop Dance is very sacred. It represents the Circle of Life. Each and every one of us – doesn’t matter our color – we are all the same, part of the Circle,” he explained and then shared meaning of the dance hoops.

And then Hammill performed the Hoop Dance, accompanied on drum by Palmer (Hopi).

After the dance, Hammill spoke about how he came into the Dance and achieved World Championship 1st place after 16 years of trying.

“As entrepreneurs, you’re going to fail. And we’re going to have people look at us and say, ‘You’re not Indian, because you are succeeding.’ You need to say, ‘No, we are [Indian], and we are succeeding.”

Next, Pax Harvey, of Pax Harvey Consulting, spoke next about his journey to entrepreneurship.

He spoke about being of part of the Navajo Nation Business Incubator, being a former Dine College student, former NAU student, and he acknowledged several on hand because he is proud of what is happening in Indian Country. He was a former Wells Fargo employee as well. “I’m coming full circle today.”

“Sometimes I look back and I can’t believe I actually went to school. I am considered a res boys that’s rugged and grew up on the Navajo Nation with some hard core res love, tough love… I grew up in the power of destitution, I grew up in a low income family, in a broken home…”

Having a daughter in freshman year changed his life. He knew he had to better his life, for her. She became his motivation. He realized then that it had to start with him first. He focused on/studied motivation, writing papers, saw a broader vision of the community and the people and society as a whole.

Today in his consulting business, he provides workshops. "I’m going to take care of individual businesses, their individual employees, so they can then provide service to their customers... If the Navajo Nation can invest in entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation, then you don’t have to bring in big companies," he said.

“I’m still failing as I speak to you.. I am hustling every day. ... I am trying, every day… It is the passion that keeps me going. And that is key to what we are doing here today, he concluded.

To follow, the Dean recognized Levi Esquerra, director of CAIED, and his team for the vision of this conference.

The Dean then introduced the keynote speaker, Chairman Arlan Melendez, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.

“Two things struck me in particular. The chairman really knows how to work across different governmental organizations to make things happen for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. And I was struck that it was 30 years since he was elected to the Council. That kind of stability is really important and it is good to have him here. So let’s learn some of his wisdom,” he said.

Melendez shared the story of how his tribe of 1100 members journeyed from a 20-acre reservation to 13,000 acres. He shared the economic development they’ve achieved in his 30-year career. But it was more important for him that he share his spiritual journey and how important it is.

“… It’s not about money, titles, or resumes, recognition. Means nothing if we are empty at the core. To be successful, we have to start on the inside working out. Not on the outside working in. Joy and peace inside yourself, that is a spiritual thing. … I wasn’t going anywhere on my own thinking. … I was thinking if sovereignty comes from God and wisdom comes from God and the Creator, maybe I ought to look to the Creator, too. If he is the author of those things, then He might be the author of where I’m heading, right? And so there is a spiritual journey that our elders taught us. My mother, the Paiutes, my mother used to say, you know when you wash your face in the morning, you give thanks to the Creator and when you go to bed, you give thanks for getting you through the day. That is the cycle of a relationship with the Creator every day.

"When you think what is tribal leadership about? It’s about character. SWOT analysis – we have good and bad – but if you compare it to tribal government, bring your SWOT analysis – honors what the Creator wants you to be. So what am I saying? When you get to a spiritual level, it gets better and better. It never digresses. … We have humbleness instead of pride. Faith instead of fear. Knowledge and wisdom, maybe we have self control. People are fighting among themselves in the tribes – we become peacemakers. We honor our sacredness. Maybe we have compassion. So what am I saying? Not about achievements, hanging on the wall. What would be the measurement? How do you respond to situations? Some inner peace that demonstrates the new you – reflects a man or a woman in peace. Look back to the bar and see how far God has carried me. Really about what you believe and it builds your character. I’m just following what our elders taught us a long time ago. And it works,” he concluded

Levi Esquerra, then made the closing remarks.

The Chairman spoke about character and I wanted to speak about Dean Van Slyke… Esquerra shared that soon after the Dean’s arrival at the FCB, the Dean and his wife visited Cliff’s community to witness the Hopi Dances. When Esquerra asked him, "'What’d you think?,' the Dean responded, 'The reason why I took the deanship is because my role in life is to help the students to be successful, to reach their true potential… and I realized I don’t know much about our tribal communities. So let’s go out and meet with them.' And it all started from that visit, from Cliff making that invitation– The reason we have seven generation money management is one of our first trips, a tribal leader asked us to create that, and we did. The chairman talked about character, we all need to try and reach our full potential."

Cliff then presented the Dean with a gift. “One of the great leaders, Dean… such an honor to share a small part of my culture with you and your family… All of us here, in this country, we are all in this together. And we’ve got to make life better for, not only us, but for the ones through the years, and they will be coming through NAU.”

He presented a Kachina doll to the Dean. He offered, “He will guide you and your family.” 

Previous Tribal Economic Outlook Conference stories HERE

2017 YouTube playlist



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