Diane Enos: Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River

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Native Nations Institute
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In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Diane Enos, President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, discusses some of the many significant steps that Salt River has taken over the past few decades to systematically build a self-sufficient, sustainable economy.

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Enos, Diane. "Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 28, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

“Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I’m your host, Ian Record. On today’s program, I’m honored to have with me President Diane Enos of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. President Enos has served in that capacity since 2006 and recently won re-election for another four years. Previous to her becoming president of her nation, she served for 16 years on the tribal council. And in terms of her other current responsibilities, she’s president of the executive board of the Intertribal Council of Arizona, and past chairwoman of Arizona Indian Gaming Association. Diane, welcome.”

Diane Enos:

“Welcome to you.”

Ian Record:

“Well, I just gave a few highlights of your very busy life and I was wondering if you could just share with us a little bit more about yourself.”

Diane Enos:

“Well, I am the parent of two boys, ages 6 and 7. So that is really my driving force in addition to my community. I became their guardian after their mother passed away in my family. So they are a source of life for me now. So as you can imagine, in addition to my job duties and my other responsibilities, to me that is the most important job I have right now, as a parent.”

Ian Record:

“So you don’t, you probably don’t sleep very much do you?”

Diane Enos:

“I try as much as I can [laughs], but I get up early!”

Ian Record:

“Yeah, I bet. Well, we’re here today to talk about economic development in Indian Country and focus specifically on what your nation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has been doing in that area, one of the progressive leaders across Indian Country by all accounts. But first I’d like to talk a little bit more generally about economic development and get your thoughts based upon your vast experience in this area and essentially get your…some food for thought from you that other nations and other leaders might learn from. And my first question is, how do nations move from a dependent economy, where they’re heavily reliant on the federal government, to a productive one, where they themselves are in the driver’s seat?”

Diane Enos:

“That movement depends on the nation itself. It depends on the resources that are available. It depends on the drive to do more than survive the colonization that we’ve all undergone. But a lot of times you have to be, as a nation you have to be willing to take calculated risks. For us, what we did in 1987 was purchase the Phoenix Cement Company with the guaranteed loan, just guaranteed by the federal government, and that enabled us not only to create jobs but to also create an enterprise that had a…it’s returned the amount of money we had to borrow many times. So, it’s an example of having to take risks.”

Ian Record:

“I assume coupled with that was a movement on the part of your nation to essentially build up the capacity needed to make economic development happen, both human resources and institutional resources, wasn’t it?

Diane Enos:

“When you look at what’s available to you, a lot of tribes, like I said before, you have to look at where people live and what kind of resources are there. For us, we had the dry riverbed as a source of aggregate for sand and gravel mining, so we use that. Now some people might think that that’s contrary to our values to, in some senses, deface the earth, but we look at things in terms of gifts from the earth and from our Creator to help us survive in this world. Whether you go and kill a deer or kill an animal and eat that animal to survive or whether you go and dig up aggregates from the riverbed and turn around and market those in order to provide for your people, are two very similar things. So it’s a matter of being able to consider what you have to do to help your people out to make things better for them.”

Ian Record:

“So you mentioned that the community in 1987 purchased the cement company…”

Diane Enos:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“…and prior to that would you say that your tribal economy was essentially a dependent one, as I mentioned?”

Diane Enos:

“I would say so to some degree, because when I grew up here, when I was growing up as a child here, we didn’t have, for instance, indoor plumbing. We didn’t have paved roads. We didn’t have telephones. Few people had electricity. We didn’t have, I think we had maybe a couple of police officers. We had the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] school, which I went to, and the Indian Health Service. So, yes, dependent, the tribe wasn’t in a position or at that time wasn’t actively pursuing economic development. We were fairly isolated, I would say, for the time.”

Ian Record:

“So back during that period, essentially a dependent economy, you were relying, I would assume, primarily on the federal government for transfer dollars…”

Diane Enos:

“For programs, yes.”

Ian Records:

“…for programs.”

Diane Enos:

“But I think for people, in order to make money for your living, people have always gone off the reservation to work. And I know that my father, my own dad, worked in construction and in order to do that, to provide for his family, he would go with several other men and live in Tucson and do construction work during the week and come home on the weekends. And I remember that he did that for several years and they even went to Kingman, I think. They went where the work was; a lot of people did that. So as far as a dependent economy, I think we’re talking about programs for the tribes as a whole, yes.”

Ian Record:

“So what were some of the drawbacks to having that dependent economy in terms of being reliant, so reliant on outsiders for essentially the tribal government…”

Diane Enos:

“You have no control over it. You have very minimal, if any, control over where those dollars are directed. And it doesn’t empower your people to achieve more and it doesn’t…it keeps you down, so to speak. It’s another arm of the colonization I mentioned earlier. It’s very limiting. You don’t get to strive for more, because all you do is when you’re a dependent economy is wait for the next turn of funding and if…that’s unpredictable and it certainly isn’t a way for you to expand what your resources are capable of doing, because you’re dependent on direction and programming from the federal government.”

Ian Record:

“We’ve heard, and other leaders I’ve sat down with, I’ve heard them speak of a couple of other, I guess, dynamics to that dependent economy, which is that the measurements of success, the criteria for determining whether a program or the dollars that are being spent in a particular community are having, are achieving their intended goal, those are being set by outsiders not by the people themselves. And those criteria may be very different. Is that something that you saw back then?”

Diane Enos:

“I’m not sure back then, since I wasn’t in government, I’m not sure how that actually worked, but I do know from those periods of time...I had an interesting experience one time. I remember talking to the tribal chairman when I was 16 years old. I went into his office and I asked him about programming and the information that he gave me was very limited. And it appears to me now, in retrospect, that people in elected positions at that time, and I’m talking about tribal positions, didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge anyway about what the programming system was. It appears, it looks to me like we were just there applying for money and getting whatever we could and directing it where the program made us. So as far as that kind of comparison, I don’t know that we were able to make that even.”

Ian Record:

“We’ve often heard this, this term thrown about with respect to this dependent economy -- which fortunately, we’re seeing a lot of tribes, including your own, moving very deliberately away from -- of the 'project mentality.' And it centers around the kinds of grants that you would get from the federal government that, that there wasn’t an overarching movement toward, you know, for tribal government. It was all essentially dictated upon what could get funded from one year to the next, and there was not kind of a strategic direction to the operation of government. Is that, that sounds a little bit like the story you just related.”

Diane Enos:

“It is, and a lot of that started to change in 1995 when we signed our self-governance compact with the federal government. And what we do now is, it’s demonstrative of where we’ve taken it, because what we’re able to do now is to manage and direct our own programs. We receive funding and of course, you know, in the recession we’re experiencing right now, that funding has become lesser and lesser, and we’ve relied more on our own tribal funding. But I always like to think about what kind of situation other tribes are facing, because we’re in a unique position. Because of our location, we have more opportunities, not only business development, but gaming as well. But with Self-Governance, the monies that we do receive from the federal government, we’re able to program those in according, kind of in tandem with what we’re able to provide as well. So that the program, programs that we create and further are a combination of our own resources and limited federal resources. But we’re able to decide how to spend those monies and where to direct those to what we see as a greater need.”

Ian Record:

“So, back in ’95 you were on the council at that time, when you signed the self-governance compact…”

Diane Enos:

“Yes.”

Ian Record:

“…And so, you know, we’ve talked to a lot of tribes that have gone that route, self-governance compacting, and leaders of those nations have talked about, you know, it was one thing… it was quite one thing to actually make that decision and say “We want to go Self-Governance” do that compact and quite another to actually build the governing institutions you need to essentially carry out the expanded, the expanded ability to exercise your sovereignty, if you will, under that compacting system. Can you talk a little bit about the challenge that it presented for Salt River?”

Diane Enos:

“We’ve always, and I have to look back at the Indian Reorganization Act, and that didn’t happen too very long ago. At the time of the Indian Reorganization [Act], prior to that, we had a chiefs system and what it consisted of were representatives that were there in council and I will call it that to further the needs of the people as a whole. So the system of sitting down together, like we have today with the tribal council, is really not a new system. It’s just that when the IRA came in, it changed the process of how we do it because we have an IRA constitution. So, going into the self-governance process, signing the compact for us as a community was clearly, I think, it was not a big struggle for us to make that decision; it was something that we were eager to do. And I know at the time, former President [Ivan] Makil who is…and is still well known as a proponent of self-governance, was really critical in making us aware as a council of the need for us to, it’s almost like stepping back in time, and the term 'self-governance' is you take care of yourself and that’s something that tribes always want to do. We’re not any different in that sense. We know what’s best for us and I think that we always will. We’ve dealt with the federal government out of…we didn’t have a choice and I believe that that’s something that we’ve always looked forward to is the opportunity or at least the, how shall I say, the willingness, the desire, the drive, if you will, to be who we are and to be what we can be for who we are.”

Ian Record:

“So what were some of the formal governing institutions that the council decided was, and President Makil back at the time, decided was necessary following Self-Governance. Like, what were some of the governing, formal institutions you put in place to say we need this, this, and this if we’re really going to carry this out?”

Diane Enos:

“The compact that we signed then as time has passed has changed. Right, way back then, and forgive me for not remembering the specifics, but I do know that some of the programs we are now are responsible for are public safety, for instance, fire and police, education, health and human services, and we go back and look at some of the things we need to have done then are still the same needs we have now. But it’s like, it’s like, and I hate to use this term 'growth' because it really is 'regeneration' almost. So, those are the programs we, the initial push was to redevelop those programs.”

Ian Record:

“Let’s turn now to…let’s turn our focus a little bit more directly economic development. You mentioned previously that the purchase of the cement company was a key first move for the nation to essentially move from that dependent economy to one predicated on self-sufficiency. And since then, your nation has been very aggressive in developing essentially, what we like to call, a diversified or thick economy; where you have a robust mix of nation-owned enterprises and citizen-owned businesses. Why is creating a diversified and thick economy so important?”

Diane Enos:

“It’s common sense. It just makes sense, because you can’t put all your…what’s that saying? Putting all your eggs in one basket? They taught us that at BIA school…just kidding. It just makes more sense, because you never totally rely on one resource because you never know when that one resource is either going to dry up or not be there or become more challenging. And I mentioned earlier the opportunities we have here because of our location. We had the dry Salt River bed, so we had Salt River Sand and Rock developed at that time as well or a little prior to that; and we’ve had the opportunity to develop our own phone company. We also have, and I’m speaking of today, we have some land that’s very choice for leasing. So we’ve developed the Salt River fields, which is the Major League Baseball spring training. And obviously we’re a gaming tribe, so we’ve gone further and developed a resort. We’re looking at developing a hotel right now separate from the resort. We’ve got the Talking Stick Golf Course that the tribe is the developer on and that started in the very early 1990s. So diversity means that you get to have all these different pockets, these different sources of revenue. Oh sure, they present different challenges, but you get to do…it’s not just one game, it’s many games, if I could call it that. But the return…it’s like betting, almost. If you are a gambler, so to speak, you want to have different options, and it’s always good to have options in life because when one doesn’t come up, the other may be there, and so on and so on. It just makes better sense, especially for us, that are located, the location that we are in.”

Ian Record:

“So, within that mix of businesses, both those owned by the nation and those owned by your citizens, there are certain businesses that, I mean, makes more sense for the nation to own. Then there are other businesses that it makes more sense for perhaps a citizen to own. Can you talk about that dynamic and, you know, for instance are there certain types of businesses that maybe the tribe should think twice about owning? And maybe say maybe this is better for a citizen to own that kind of business?”

Diane Enos:

“I think that depends on the size of the business. For instance, some tribes go into farming and that’s something that we’ve been looking at. I think the more that time passes, if an individual wants to go into that, they’re going to have to have a lot capital. So, I would say that right now, what we’ve done to support small businesses is to really…to develop what is called Salt River Financial Services Institute, and that provides loans for people as a jumpstart to open their business. But as far as what should we…what should a tribe not operate. Well, I don’t think you want to get into things that have a moral question and…like massage parlors, things that take too much capital and they’re too risky. Obviously, again as I mentioned earlier, we’re a gaming tribe. And back, I believe it was 1987 again, the national Indian gaming act came into place, we as a tribe didn’t take advantage of that until the 90s. So it’s been a constant struggle but that’s an opportunity for us. Some people may say tribes should not be involved in gaming, but when you don’t have much else, what are you going to do? It’s one of the most regulated businesses. It’s more regulated than Las Vegas, I would say, so it’s been an opportunity for us.”

Ian Record:

“Within that…within the economic development arena, particularly with nation-owned enterprises, the Native Nations Institute has done extensive research. And one of the things we’ve identified as a key to success for nation-owned enterprises is effectively managing the relationship between business and politics. You know, your predecessor Ivan Makil, I know, said it very well. He said, you know, 'We’re unique among the governments of the world in that we’re expected to govern but also turn a profit. You know, we had that dual role where most of the governments, they’re not expected to generate economic development. That’s someone else’s job.' Yet, you have the dual role. How do…how can tribes effectively manage that relationship where business is business and politics is politics and not let the politics creep in, and how has your nation approached that challenge?”

Diane Enos:

“It’s always a challenge where you have humankind. I’ve thought about that a lot and I have to go back and think about what it must’ve been like for our ancestors, because collaboration and cooperation is critical to the survival of any people. You’ve got to look around, like where we live in the desert, we couldn’t have achieved what we did without a sense of collaboration and a sense of depending on each other for the interests of the group. We still have that mentality, I believe. So making money to help out our community is a job that we have and it has to be a challenge. Of course, you’re going to have politics; people are always going to want their personal interests, but I believe we’ve been able to, as best we can, deal with that by setting up what is called the enterprise system. We have several community-owned enterprises; they’re businesses. And what we’ve done is set a board for the enterprise directors. And we’ve balanced those boards out by putting on the boards professionals -- and they can be outside people who are not tribal members -- but also some of the members of the community who also sit on the board and they govern through the policies and the procedures and the interests of those particular enterprise boards. And they, in turn, report to council on an as-needed basis, but also ultimately in the ordinances they answer to the council. So, council answers to the people generally and I like to refer back to what’s called the political process. If they don’t like you, the people don’t like what you’re doing and they don’t like the way you’re doing it, they won’t re-elect you. It seems almost simple, but accountability is always going to be a challenge to any government. And I believe that we’ve done well to try to balance that out in our system.”

Ian Record:

“Right. So, the way you described your board is a description that we’ve heard from other tribal nations in terms of how they’re setting up their nation-owned enterprises and the relationship they’re formalizing between those enterprises and the elective leadership of the nation. That board is, from what you’re saying it sounds like it’s set up as a firewall to insulate the day-to-day operation of those businesses from any sort of political interference?”

Diane Enos:

“Right, because under our ordinances, which is our law, so to speak, the boards are set up to have oversight over management of the particular enterprises. Management answers to those boards and if there becomes a situation where it gets to council and it affects the interest of the community, tribal government as a whole, that’s where council has the authority and the oversight to step in, but that’s very rare, very rare. In fact, one of the things that I think a lot of boards have learned, and we’ve certainly learned, is to not, what we call, 'micromanage.' Because if you get into micromanaging, you take away from policy-driven decisions, and really that’s what the authority of the council is under our constitution is to develop and make sure that all the policies and the laws are followed. We can’t do that if we start nitpicking and getting into the little things, I call them little things, over business. You just can’t do that. That’s what the boards are there to make sure that management does. So in some sense, yes, there’s a firewall because it keeps that arm’s length unless there’s a critical situation.”

Ian Record:

“But the council and you, as a president, have a very vital role to play. You mentioned formulating those policies, establishing a strategic direction. I mean, you have a vital role to play to ensure that there’s accountability there, that those businesses are performing but on a, kind of a larger picture and that they’re carrying out the nation’s larger objectives, correct?”

Diane Enos:

“Yes, yes they report to council. In fact, we just finished a series of annual reports to council on budgets for all the enterprises. They come and sit down with council and present their budgets. At that point, and there’s several points, other points during the year where council sits down with these boards and asks, and management, and asks them specific questions: 'What are you doing in this area? Why are we seeing this over here? What are you going to be doing in the future? What are your projections as far as the health or the, on health of a particular enterprise?' We get to have those discussions periodically, and I think that that’s really important because they understand who is doing the oversight over them and we understand how we should not micromanage or try to stay away from micromanaging.”

Ian Record:

“Okay. So your nation has set up an economic development corporation called Salt River Devco. Can you talk a little bit about what the overall mission and goals of that corporation are?

Diane Enos:

“That was initially set up to be a clearinghouse for economic development. When I say 'economic development,' I mean actually that. The community decided in 1991 that development, and when I say development I mean it’s building buildings, creating businesses, creating an enterprise area; that only ought to occur on the perimeter of the community. So Devco was set up to manage that and to be a clearinghouse for all sorts of proposals. It was also set up to be an asset manager. Not only do we have the Chaparral Business Park, we have a large lease -- I think it’s 120 acres if I’m not mistaken -- in that whole area there. We also have a signage, outdoor signage company. We also are looking to put other small endeavors under the Devco umbrella. And now as time passes, we’re starting to move towards the development of limited liabilities corporations under, I believe it’s Section 17 of the federal government’s regulations. So it’s a...you have to be flexible when you talk about the kind of enterprise development that we do, because things change and you have to allow for those changes to occur. And the developments of limited liability, LLC, let me just say that; LLCs have to be considered ultimately because what you got to do is you got to not only change with the times, but you have to protect the tribal government as a whole, protect that interest.”

Ian Record:

“We’ve touched on this a little bit, but I’d like to ask you a question directly about it and: How do you see your role and the role of the councilors at Salt River, the elected councilors, in terms of your nation’s enterprises? What is your fundamental role in terms of ensuring that those businesses take root and grow?”

Diane Enos:

“Are you talking about tribal businesses?”

Ian Record:

“Tribal businesses.”

Diane Enos:

“Under our constitution, the council -- and that includes the president and the vice-president -- have the responsibility to do a whole list of things for the people. And not only do we provide for court systems and for the laws of the community, but we’re supposed to take care of the people, essentially. So our role, as far as being in the positions we’re in…in order to take care of the people we have manage our assets. We have to take care of the assets. Not only taking care of those assets, but making sure that they grow. It’s kind of a fiduciary relationship. And you don’t have a fiduciary that just sits there on his hand, his or her hands. You have to be active and you have to look for more opportunities. And ultimately, the goal is to help your people, is to make sure that there’s a resource for not only the people that are alive today, but the people that are coming. So that’s essentially what I see our role as, as a council.”

Ian Record:

“You talked about the obligation that you have as president and the councilors have to the people of the nation. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Can you speak to the role of citizen support in the development and operation of nation-owned enterprises? You know, it’s quite one thing if you guys as a group say it would be a good idea to get into this new business area, but it’s quite another to get the people behind that idea and to really support it, you know, long-term. What kind of…what kind of challenge does that present and how important is transparency and citizen understanding of the economic direction you’re going?”

Diane Enos:

“You have to, you have to have citizen support for any ventures that you do. You’re not always going to have 100 percent citizen support. You have detractors, that’s just part of, part of life. For instance, let me use the Salt River Fields examples. The idea came up pretty quickly and the council started discussing it. And obviously we knew it was going to take a lot of input in terms of capital, so we had to discuss how we’re going to do that. And right away we started talking about this idea to the people. We started putting the idea out in public, in public meetings. But this particular proposal didn’t provide enough, a lot of time. It’s like we had to make decisions fairly quickly. And those decisions, because they involve our finances and our resources, which are not public information because for a lot of reasons, some of the discussions that we had to have had to occur behind closed doors in executive session. So when this plan was finally unveiled, and I would say with pictures and what not, some of the people were saying, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you not asking us? Why didn’t we take this to a public vote?' And we had to tell them there wasn’t enough time to do that. We have to make some decisions; we have to make some commitments. So explaining that part of it to the public was critical. And the other thing that we still do -- we just had an update on the progress last week -- is to continue to have periodic updates and the resolutions that we pass towards the development, you know moving it to the next stage, were done publicly. Everything that we had to do, we have to tell the people why we’re doing it, and sometimes we have to just tell the people, ‘We don’t have enough time to take a community vote,’ and people have to understand that. And I’m sure there are still some people who don’t like that and maybe didn’t vote for some of us in this election because of that, but in order to get the confidence of the people you have to demonstrate a track record that shows stability and shows calculation and an ability to move towards transparency. It’s difficult to have total transparency when you’re a tribal government, because you have a lot of non-members, the out…let’s call them the outside world, who may be interested in your financing and your finances for many reasons. Some of those aren’t good reasons. So when we talk about transparency, you’re talking about money, but we’re also talking about process. The ability to tell, discuss those issues, we do and have done frequently with community member-only meetings, where if you’re going to come to the meeting you have to show your enrollment card. That’s, to us, the best way to be as transparent as we can, because it’s really our membership that has the most stake here at hand in any particular proposal.”

Ian Record:

“Let’s talk about another aspect of successful economic development in Indian Country and that is a neutral dispute resolution. And you have a…you have a legal background; you practiced law for many years so you have a keen eye on this particular area. Why is neutral dispute resolution important to successful nation enterprises?”

Diane Enos:

“Sovereign nations, tribes, cannot be sued because as a sovereign you have a shield around you. But people will not want to do business with you if you cannot…if they can’t take you to court, if you have an argument with them or if you have a dispute with them. What we’ve done -- and I know lots of governments have done this -- is having to do what’s called limited waivers of that sovereign immunity. Part of that, to do business with an outside entity, involves which court are you going to go to if you have a problem, if you have an issue. A lot of outside businesses do not, for many reasons, want to take a dispute to tribal court. So what we’ve done is set up an arbitration clause in our agreements, in I would say just about most of our agreements that we do with outside entities. That gives assurance to them that if there ever is a problem, that we have a process laid out where we can take a dispute and have it resolved by a third party. And it gives a lot of comfort, because you’ve got to have that in business and tribes have to understand…we don’t like it, every time we do the limited waiver of sovereign immunity. It makes us a little bit uncomfortable because we’re giving up some of our shield, but in order to properly advance our business interests it’s almost like…I’m trying to think of an analogy and it escapes me right now, but you have to consider the worst-case scenario in any, in any venture that you go into. What will happen if this worst-case scenario occurs? What are we going to do? And you always have to have, in the back of your mind, how are we going to protect the tribe, ultimately? And the arbitration clause is a way for us to achieve that.”

Ian Record:

“So there’s these disputes that tend to arise big-scale when you’re talking about, you know, you the tribe in a joint venture with an outside partner, say around a major development. Then there’s kind of the day-to-day, personnel kinds of disputes. I assume you’ve had to build in some, some neutral dispute resolution mechanisms for things such as personnel disputes that arise from one of your enterprises. I mean, that’s equally critical, is it not?”

Diane Enos:

“It is. It is because those enterprises operate in any kind of business relationship that they have to develop or whether it’s with a particular employee, there has to always be a way to resolve a dispute. Right now, I don’t know if you know this, crimes do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, but we still retain a measure of civil jurisdiction and authority over non-Indians so that if you have a non-Indian employee, we still have civil authority over their, over the conduct. And as you know, or you may or may not know, most disputes are civil in nature and when I say civil, the law’s divided into criminal and civil, so you have a forum to resolve those disputes with an employee and that would be tribal court or the human resources department.”

Ian Record:

“So how is your tribal court system grown? How has it grown and why has it grown in the fifteen years since you forged your self-governance compact?”

Diane Enos:

“The tribal court for any nation has to grow. With us, particularly, here, given our broad range of development here and the amount of employees that we have and the number of people that live in the community we have had to allocate more and more resources to the development and the strengthening of our tribal court. Tribal courts really are a strong basis of our sovereign authority here, because they spell out directly the power that the tribe has. If you can take somebody physically into custody, adjudicate a matter against them and jail them, I mean it seems to me short of execution there is no greater example of authority over a person, and we have that authority over all Indian people that live here or come here and we all also have had to develop our police department so that we’re able to exercise the state’s authority in certain areas of the community. But our tribal court has had to be flexible. We’ve instituted some changes. What we do now is we’ve opened up the application pool to sister tribes to become judges so now you don’t just have to be from Salt River to be a sitting judge here and they’re appointed by council. You could be a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community or the Ak-Chin Indian community because we have a lot of the same cultural values and systems. That’s one example of how we’ve grown.”

Ian Record:

“So in terms of trying to foster an environment for the success of your nation-owned enterprises, your citizen-owned businesses, what key laws and codes and policies have you put in place?”

Diane Enos:

“One of the big things we’ve done recently over the last several years is the procurement policy. And what that does is it enables certified tribal member-owned businesses to move ahead in the line. If there’s a contract that is to be let out by the tribe they have preference: tribal member-owned businesses and then Native-owned businesses and then other owned. And what that does is it enables them to…if you can get certified -- and certification has certain requirements to make sure that this isn’t tribal member owned business –- then it’s only proper that they step ahead of our people in the process. And again you’re going to look for how the service benefits the tribe and you have the spin-off benefit that occurs when you have a tribal member-owned business get priority.”

Ian Record:

“Okay. So one of the things you did…one of the things the community did a few years back was zone the entire community, in terms of its land, and you developed what is referred to as the General Plan. Why did the nation decide to take that step and what impact has it had on your ability to develop economically?”

Diane Enos:

“The community’s been doing that for many, many years, prior to me ever coming on to council. And what it does is it sets our roadmap and the people have input through the council representatives. We have also had several meetings over a period of time where people are able to give their input. I mentioned earlier that in 1991 we had the vision meetings, strategizing, and right now we just finished, my gosh, probably about seventeen or eighteen community member meetings with various segments of the community -- the youth, the seniors, general district meetings, general meetings -- to ask the people, 'What do you want?' And what the result is is to impact the general zoning plan because it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where development occurs, because we live here. And it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where education’s going to occur and where certain things are not going to occur as well. Because where we live, we live right in the middle, almost in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix; we’re on the edge. We have to have a better handle. We have to make sure that the people feel like they have a say. And when I say 'they,' I’m one of the people. I like to sit back and think of myself as just a regular citizen and the things that would annoy me on a day, you know, day-to-day basis living here and the things that would make me feel comfortable here and my children and my family. Those are the things that continue to be important as time passes, and certainly if I see change occurring in my community that I don’t like, I’m going to say something about it. Conversely, I would like to be able to say something about what I want my community to look like.”

Ian Record:

“One of the things that struck me in reviewing the General Plan and the map that you’ve developed that shows where development will happen and not happen is the fact that you have a very, I think, confined area for development and there’s essentially a segregation between the development zone and the living zone, if you will, where development’s going to take place adjacent to Scottsdale and then where the people are going to live and carry out their lives and I assume that was very purposeful, wasn’t it?”

Diane Enos:

“It was and that started in 1991. It started prior to that, but it was formalized in 1991 with the creation of the vision statement. And the project that we are in right now and just finished the meetings that we had is called Vision 2020, because I believe we need to go back 20 years and sit down with the population of the people in the community and ask them. Well, the big push for that 1991 discussion was the development of the Pima Freeway. That was a very, very divisive issue. When the State of Arizona decided that it wanted to build a freeway on tribal land there were a lot of people, and I was one of them, that was told that was absolutely against this proposal because it was felt at that time and I still…I know that it was going to change our community and it has, but I also believe that once a decision’s made by the majority of the people, we have to fall in step with that we have to make the best use of it that we can. So back in 1991, the people knew that this freeway was coming and in fact it had I believe been decided on. So people started saying, ‘The intrusion into the community of the freeway, the 101 Freeway, we don’t want it to go any further, we want this to be the line right here.’ All the proposals for businesses, stores, retail, development and all other kinds of fixtures, I mean just call it that, are going to stay over there because we want to be able to walk down our roads and we want to be able to look at the sunrise and we want to be able to look at the mountains and we want to be able to have our children play in our yards and we don’t want no stores, no businesses, we don’t want a lot of things that economic development has -- we don’t want that in our backyard. It’s the ultimate 'NIMBY' ['Not in my backyard'] type of posture and I think we’re very happy with it.”

Ian Record:

“Several years ago your nation established a sales tax. What prompted the nation to establish a tax and where’s the money go? What benefits has it brought the nation?”

Diane Enos:

“Every government considers taxes and every government has to tax in one form or another. Whether it’s part of your crop, whether it’s part of your seeds, you know back in older times, and the tax that we levy right now on our own members is small compared to what the state levies. We don’t, we’ve had to do it as a matter of necessity. We don’t share in the revenue with the state and the county that is collected on state’s sales tax; tribes don’t. If we didn’t collect our own tribal tax, we wouldn’t get that money, and where that money goes, it goes into the general fund and it goes toward our general budget, our operating budget, it goes towards things like social services, police and fire protection, education, the cost of this building, the cost of paying our employees, just in the general fund it helps our government.”

Ian Record:

“…and was there an education effort that needed to take place of your citizens to say this…we really need this?”

Diane Enos:

“I don’t remember when that tax was set up. It’s been so long and it’s just been a part of, part of our government. I don’t remember a specific time.”

Ian Record:

“I’d like to wrap up with a short discussion of small businesses -- businesses owned and operated by tribal citizens. Just a first, general question: how important an economic engine can citizen-owned businesses be for your nation and others?”

Diane Enos:

“As far as being able to provide government services, they pay taxes, but the other part of it that’s really important is that they can be employers of our people. They can, not only, what do they call, recycle the dollar in the community, but they also provide modeling for our youth and our children. Because if you’re going to go into business you’re not…you’re going to have certain qualities as an individual. You have to be able to take risk, but you’re also going to be able to manage what you have in order to be a success, in order to function as a successful business. And for our children to see our own people doing that I think that that, to me, that’s one of the best things to come out of seeing and supporting community member-owned businesses is that modeling. Because without it, you’re only seeing success and risks being taken by non-members and non-Indians and what does that say to a child? So that’s, to me, that’s the key concept.”

Ian Record:

“…And it also gives them a sense of what’s possible in terms of their futures, their careers, you know. There’s other things out there than just maybe going into tribal government, getting a job there, or going to work for the casino.”

Diane Enos:

“…Absolutely…Yup. They keep us on our toes.”

Ian Record:

“How does your nation work to cultivate and foster small businesses owned by your citizens?”

Diane Enos:

“We have what’s called the Salt River Financial Services Institute, which offers loans. We also have procurement policies, which provide preference to them for contracts. We have employee preference policies in place. We also have…there are businesses here from their own organization. In fact, I just met with one of the key officers in the Salt River business owners and encouraged them to come to council and have a dialogue with us: that dialogue has to continue because since tribal government sets up a lot of the regulations and frankly has the keys to some of the opportunities, we have to partner up with them. So the idea of partnering up with them is to figure out how we can do better as a tribe to encourage that growth and support that growth and how they in turn can tell us we can do that better. So it’s really a partnership that I’m anxious to see continue.”

Ian Record:

“So, you know, this thought process that you and your, that you and your councilors here at Salt River have about consciously incorporating small businesses as part of your overall economic development strategy, that’s not something that a lot of nations do. I mean, are some nations and nation leadership missing the boat by not consciously considering small businesses as part of the economic development process?”

Diane Enos:

“I would say if you don’t encourage and further small businesses you are definitely missing a boat there. And what I mean by that is missing the opportunity to do those things we just talked about. You’re also not utilizing some of the best talent that your people have. You’re also failing to provide opportunities for tribal government, because if you encourage businesses to flourish and you encourage them to participate in a dialogue with you, they can tell you how you can do your business as a tribal government better. And that’s your own people talking to you. So, yeah, I definitely think that the pluses far outweigh the minuses there. So, yeah, you’re missing a big boat.”

Ian Record:

“As you mentioned earlier, you’re also keeping those dollars when you have those local outlets for spending by your people, you’re keeping those dollars circulating within the community.”

Diane Enos:

“Absolutely. You’re keeping employment within the community and just making more opportunities for your own people, ideally.”

Ian Record:

“Well, President Enos, we really thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your experience, wisdom and knowledge with us.”

Diane Enos:

“Wisdom? [Laughter] I don’t know about that.”

Ian Record:

“Well, that’s all the time we have on today’s program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute’s website at nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2011. Arizona Board of Regents.” 

Related Resources

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Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) President Diane Enos provides an overview of SRPMIC's effortto build a diversified economy, the institutional keys to make that effort a success, and the cultural principles SRPMIC abides by as it engages in economic development.

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Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Vice President Martin Harvier offers a brief history of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa's efforts to cultivate citizen-owned businesses and then do business with those companies.