financial education

Strengthening Financial Avenues in Native American Communities

Year

Historically, Native communities defined currencies by their food, relationships, nature and tools to sustain a living. Over time, Native and Indigenous populations gave way to the use of paper money. These new social standards pushed them to adopt different ways to sustain their living, often, outside their reservations and communities, which may be critical in building wealth.

Many studies and reports point to poor choices, failure to conform to government policies and lack of knowledge on managing funds as reasons Native communities remain in poverty, which may not be the case. Several factors may contribute to money challenges Natives face in their communities. Learning more about how some Native communities build wealth and the financial challenges they face can help create a more equitable financial foundation for communities across the country...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Bolton, D. J. (2021, May 27). Strengthening Financial Avenues in Native American Communities. Money Geek. Retrieved from: https://www.moneygeek.com/financial-planning/financial...

Healing Our Future: Indigenous Wealth Building for Seven Generations

Producer
Native Governance Center
Year

What does an Indigenous approach to wealth look like? How can Indigenous wealth concepts help us heal our future? What are examples of wealth building happening in Indigenous communities?

Native Governance Center's Indigenous Peoples' Day 2021 event, "Healing our future: Indigenous wealth building for seven generations," provides viewers with an overview of Indigenous wealth concepts and a deep dive into how Indigenous people are building wealth in their communities. It also explores how Indigenous ideas about wealth can help all of us heal for the next seven generations. The event features stories from three Indigenous wealth building leaders: Dallas Nelson, Tasha Peltier, and Dani Pieratos.

Citation

Native Governance Center. Healing Our Future: Indigenous Wealth Building for Seven Generations. Oct. 12, 2021. Youtube video. Accessed Apr. 28, 2023. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMswM6rzo84

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Jamie Fullmer (Part 2)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer, former chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, shares what he wished he knew before he first took office, and offers some advice to up-and-coming leaders on how to prepare to tackle their leadership roles. He also discusses what he sees as some keys to Native nations developing diversified, self-sufficient economies that can be sustained over time.  

Ian Record:

"So, Jamie, you served two terms as chairman of your nation. I was wondering if you could share with us what you wish that you knew before you took office that first time."

Jamie Fullmer:

"That's a great question. There's a lot of things I wished I knew before I took office, but when it gets right down to it I think that politics is a unique and challenging role, because in essence you're a public servant to the community, but you also have responsibilities as a public figure. And so I think one of the initial challenges was not recognizing how much of both of those things took of my time and my life and so had I known that before I would have been able to prepare for it before getting into office. But it consumes you rather quickly and your time becomes very precious because you have few moments of time to yourself and you have few moments of time when you're not expected to be in the public setting. And so with that said, I think that's the first thing I wish I had known before taking office. I think the other thing is, having never been involved in politics, not really knowing the process of any of the formal processes of running government, and so it was kind of a 'learn and lead at the same time' process, and if I would have been able to know initially what kind of steps I could have taken I might have been able to do some homework and really have a good feel of how to move the legislative process forward, how to take advantage of team building opportunities early on, and then also I think learn more about how to better enhance the institutional framework of information sharing. Not only being able to have access to it, but having everybody else have access to it so that we were on the same page when we were dealing with political issues or community issues or economic development issues in that sense."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned time management and we've heard this from other tribal leaders that that's one thing that you just...you can't anticipate in many respects coming into the job. I remember Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of the Navajo Nation, said once that that really puts the onus on you as the tribal leader to first prioritize your work and then in those places where you can, delegate your work to those people that are within the administration of government who've been hired to do those sorts of things."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. The delegation issue is sometimes challenging, because even in the delegation process you have to meet and learn and get to know the staff and they may not be staff that you've chosen. And some political systems have a system where a new leader comes in and they're able to choose their executive team. Our system wasn't like that. The executive team that's in place is what you work with and it's really a council decision to choose those folks. Of course the chairman has a say, but if there are people already in existing positions you'd like to hope...especially in my case, I believed that the chairman before me had good sense of who they wanted. And so if they felt it was good for the nation, I respected that I could keep that same frame of thought. That challenging part though is getting to know who has the skill sets in different areas. They might have a certain title, but they might have skill sets in other areas that are a good fit for delegation of duties. And I think the other process in that is that there's the time management issue, it's also important to have good support staff to help manage the front end, the telephones, the documentation that comes in in stacks daily, and kind of arranging a schedule that helps you to meet not only your daily priorities, but also to address any of the community issues that come up where members want to have some time with the chairman in the office, and then arranging that with the travel that's necessary to do business on behalf of the tribe. So you live in a suitcase part of the time and then when you're home, you're really relying on others to keep you on track and on task."

Ian Record:

"What advice would you give them? It's somebody that's never served in an elected office before -- what advice would you give them as somebody who's either considering running for office or say they do get elected and are getting set to take office, what advice would you provide?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think the best advice I would give in starting out is [to] remember the promises that you make you have a responsibility to keep. And so I believe that part of the political process is one of the challenges we face, because there's so many promises made in the pursuit of getting elected -- both in Indian Country and we've seen a lot of promises going on right now during the election season at large -- but when you get into office you are only a part of something that's much bigger than one individual and you can play an important part and you can play a very important role in the advancement of your nation, but the advice I would give them is, "˜Be aware and take the time to learn what the struggles are, take the time to learn what the system needs to help it move forward, and before you make any promises to the community, take the time to learn if those promises can be met.' And I think that's an ongoing challenge, so that I thin, that's an important part. It's also valuable and what I would tell the person is, be ready to commit your time. You're raising your hand and swearing an oath to your people, to your nation, and to God that you're going to follow through to the best of your abilities and it's a challenge to give the best of your abilities all the time. And so I think you need to figure out at the front end how you deal with your down time and how you deal with your low moments so that you can keep a good presence about you as a leader."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned the fact that keeping promises is really important once you take office, the promises that you make maybe on a campaign trail or as part of your platform to get elected, and you began to touch on this. Doesn't that make it your job to be very careful about what promises you make and really think strategically about the promises in terms of are they promises to maybe just a certain portion of the citizenry or are they promises to the entire nation, because as an elected official are you not representing the entire nation?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"That's a challenging question, because I think that obviously you serve your entire nation, but many tribes are organized where there are clans and there are familial priorities that take place, there might be village priorities, and so you may be really wanting to get in to address those issues. And depending on if it's a council position, that might be your role as a district councilor or as a village councilor, and so you do go in on those points that you're prioritizing. So with that said, I think the way that I reached out to the community was through goals. I had set goals based on what I had heard that the community wanted and that I felt like could be achieved in the period of time of the term in office or at least get some headway on historical processes that had gone on that hadn't been completed. And so there were some things that were challenges that I felt that I had the skills to help address and to put closure to that other leaders and other councils long before me had established and put into place and then there were other issues that had been initiated over time that I felt like needed to be at least started to being addressed. And so, rather than making promises because it's too difficult to make a promise, it was goals that I had set for myself and for our nation that if I were elected I would work on those goals."

Ian Record:

"And those two different terms send very different messages to your citizens, to your constituents don't they?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so because the goal is something you work toward, a promise is something that you try and keep."

Ian Record:

"Yeah. And you also mentioned this approach that you took when you took office which was continuing the priorities and the initiatives of previous administrations and that's not an approach that every tribal elected official takes. In fact, we've seen many that take the exact opposite approach. And I was wondering if you could talk about the difficulties you ran into with that or if it made your job easier, the fact that you were building on the momentum that had been generated before you came along."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think there's a point that's important. Really for me it wasn't about having the credit for getting anything, it was having our nation have the credit. And so my role was as the chairman, in my opinion, was to go in and assess our government, assess our enterprises, assess our community, assess our programming and look for areas that I could help strengthen it. And it didn't matter whether I was to start it or if it had been started by somebody else. It was obviously a priority to the community if it was already in place. And so maybe those needed to be updated or changed or some of the structures needed to be adjusted, but the idea wasn't to do any of that with the intent of getting credit for it. It was doing that because it needed to be done and accepting on the challenges that the community had set upon me about getting...there were certain priorities that they wanted addressed and so I felt it important to address those that I could."

Ian Record:

"You've been working with a number of tribes across the country, particularly in the Southwest and Pacific regions, on diversifying their economies. In that capacity -- in working with other tribes and also based on your experience with your own nation -- I was wondering if you could paint a picture for us of what you believe a full-fledged Native nation economy looks like."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. One of the challenges, the initial challenge that I see is that people have a different viewpoint of what 'economy' means. There's a lot of different arenas that are placed around the idea of an economy, but from a governmental perspective and from a societal perspective, that economy is a tumbling effect whereby, when revenues come into the system, those revenues advance themselves throughout the system. And I'll give an example: money generated from gaming comes to run the government. There should be something...then the government pays its employees and then those employees use that money to buy goods and services or pay bills. And so from an economic point of view, your ambition is to keep the money that's generated in a nation in that nation as long as possible. And so from that point of view, the economies are built to create more opportunity and generate more cash flow and protect the money that has come into the nation and keep it there for awhile. With that said, economic development is the process by which tribes create those kinds of business enterprises that will generate that opportunity.

And a lot of times, what gets confused there is the idea of economy has taken on, at times, the viewpoint of small business development. And I am definitely for small business development, I think it's a central part of an economy, but there are also other ways that generate economy, like creating infrastructure creates a baseline to build small businesses on, building housing creates opportunities for people to stay in the community so that they can pay and live in the community, which creates another set of economic values. You also bring in your, you keep your talent pool localized when you have job and work opportunities for those folks; they don't have to move away to go get a decent job. And so there are a lot of things tied to economy but I think the...my idea as a strategist and what I do with my company is we really focus on where the tribe's at and its structure, because economies are really tied to strong structures and institutionalized systems. They're really planned out and thought because there's a lot of money at stake in any type of venture -- business venture, enterprise development venture, acquiring businesses -- and so government is usually a reactive type of system, most bureaucracies are reactive in nature because they're political and business is more proactive in nature because it's usually driven by goals and end-production processes. You want to reach a certain budget, you want to reach a certain level of profit, you want to reach a certain level of job creation. And so with that said, there's more planning that takes place at the front end.

So from a tribal perspective and looking at tribes as nations, as sovereigns with the ability to create whatever they'd like, economic development to me takes on a number of scenarios. One is developing a strong government of laws, which include economic development, commercial laws, corporate laws, zoning laws, taxing laws, any other kind of law that can benefit the nation as a government. With that said, then you also have to have the legal system that can enforce those laws. A solid legal system is another key component to a strong economy. Another piece to that as well as that is the ability to create opportunities for individual members within the tribe to build business and so creating programming that will raise the initiative to have small business and entrepreneurship in the community. Those are other opportunities. And the government itself being proactive in supporting and promoting business within the community really takes on another level of public relations and commitment to helping to share information about the tribe and the tribe's capabilities and abilities, because many times when tribes are trying to develop an economy they want income and finances from other places to come in to generate more income locally. And so if you're looking for investors or partners or joint venture opportunities, it's very important for a tribe to recognize that they're going to be scrutinized by outsiders if they choose to take that path."

Ian Record:

"So really what you're...within this discussion of laws and institutions and structures and infrastructure, you're really describing essentially an environment-based approach to economic development and not just a venture-based approach to economic development, where you as a tribal council are trying to figure out, "˜Well, what business are we going to get into?' But really what you're saying is that tribal leaders need to be focusing on, "˜Let's create this environment for economic opportunity, whatever that opportunity might encompass.'"

Jamie Fullmer:

"You are exactly right with that point of view, because the environment is where the government has the most control, creating the laws, creating the systems, creating the policies that guide the direction. With that proper environment, the tribe or its members or private investors who come in to do business in the tribe have an opportunity to actually be successful because the environment is an environment of success. And so with that thoughtful planning at that -- in the environmental process -- it allows your economic development arm or your planning arm or whatever a tribe calls it, some call them 'authorities' and some call them 'enterprises' or 'boards,' it allows that arm to really do a good and effective job, because first of all they have something that they can go and promote and secondly, it challenges them to stay strategic in their thinking. If you have a specific zone where commerce can happen, you know the limits and the boundaries of where to do the commerce. It's just one example."

Ian Record:

"I also wanted to follow up on another point from what you were just talking about and that is you were describing this tumbling effect that you should be building towards in terms of how you structure your economy and you mentioned this point where the tribal government, for instance, or the nation raises revenues through gaming or whatever other enterprises it may have. It may, for instance, collect taxes on sales by citizen-owned businesses, whatever the form of revenue might be, comes in the tribal government, it funds that government, it pays the salaries to those tribal employees and then you mentioned those employees go out and buy goods and services. And this is where the research shows, this is where that tumbling effect tends to stop in so many nations because there aren't places on reservation to spend money on goods and services. Isn't that really one of the biggest challenges that Native nations face is creating those on-reservation outlets for consumer spending?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"There is that challenge, but I think in that challenge there's also a broader challenge that we many times in Indian Country all over America don't view the value of us buying from each other, doing business with one another, purchasing goods and services from tribal members or Indian-owned businesses, because that's part of a larger economy, the Indian Country economy. And I believe that when Indian Country comes to terms with adding that type of value and seeing the value in really committing to ourselves and our own success that we will have the ability to create a very powerful economy, sub-economy in the United States. But breaking that down to the individual level and the individual tribe, if the money that is made from whatever enterprise the tribe has only comes in and it goes directly out, it only benefits the tribe in that one sense. If that money were to come in, for example...an example that's challenging, but that some tribes have done would be a valuable one is a bank where people, where the money's made and then they store their money in the tribal bank. Well, now the tribe has access to use that money to do other kinds of investment and lending and create another revenue stream. A mall that has groceries and services that the community and the employees of the tribe would use is another way because you create...the money stays in the community, people spend it there, and you create more jobs with the same original money that was brought in, but it has now doubled its value. And so the ambition of a tribe should always be to see how they can vertically integrate the economy so that it will...there's an opportunity for it to stay there and it can be broken down in a number of arenas. Tribes buy all kinds of different products and goods and services. It would seem reasonable that they are able to create business opportunities for themselves as a tribal government owning enterprises or for membership and buying and selling those goods and services from individual Indian tribal members or other tribal enterprises or their own tribal enterprise."

Ian Record:

"You're working with the American Indian Business Network, which is an initiative of the National Indian Gaming Association on this issue of Native nations and Native citizens 'buying Native,' and really on a more macro level where you're talking about an Indian country-wide proposition, where it's not just Native nations and people buying internally within their own nation but actually buying from other nations. So I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about the motivation behind that project and how it's taking shape so far."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. I'm real proud of National Indian Gaming Association's commitment to developing the American Indian Business Network firstly because they are very close to a very powerful economic tool for Indian Country -- which is gaming -- and they see the value in tribes diversifying their economies. With that said, the American Indian Business Network was created by NIGA as a separate entity owned and operated by NIGA to develop a network whereby tribes could partner and do business with one another, that they could promote and establish a way to sell their own products and services of their tribal-owned businesses that they have and then also to look at partnering with other Indian businesses and also really for the small business owner or the entrepreneur that tribes would consider purchasing goods and services from those Indian-owned businesses. And with that said, with all of those levels of involvement and investment, we're really ultimately helping Indian Country, all of Indian Country by doing that because all along that chain, that food chain, Indian households and Native American families are being fed. And so we're really being more self-serving and self-sufficient, but not only that, we're also able to help the non-Indian economy because many of our employees are non-Indians, many of the businesses that we have are in partnership with non-Indians, there's a lot of non-Indian investment in Indian Country, and so the idea is not to exclude people or to make it exclusive, but to make it inclusive where Indian tribes, their enterprises, their buying power and their selling power gives a value to sharing resources across the country in one form or another, which could lead to a number of different opportunities. But just the concept is a very powerful one where we're not just looking, we're not just saying, "˜I want to take care of my tribe.' We're saying, "˜We want to take care of all tribes,' not by saying we're going to have to spend all of our money on other tribes, but by saying that we're willing to commit to buying Indian goods and services when they're at the same quality and level of the non-Indian goods and services."

Ian Record:

"So it sounds like a rather immense, untapped economic opportunity that will have kind of transcendent benefits not just for Native nations, but for the larger economy."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so, yes."

Ian Record:

"I would like to talk about another topic, broach another topic that's rather sensitive in a lot of Native communities, particularly among those who have experienced this newfound wealth and prosperity through gaming, and that's the issue of per capita distributions of tribal revenues. Yavapai-Apache Nation has a per capita distribution policy where it distributes a certain portion of its revenues to individual citizens, I believe on an annual basis, is that right?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"Yeah, that's correct."

Ian Record:

"On an annual basis. And I was wondering if you could talk about how Yavapai-Apache Nation went about developing the policy, what it took into account when developing that policy, and how the policy and how the process of distribution actually takes place."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. The per capita distribution and obviously the tribe's process of distribution was created for the membership -- and I won't get into any details to that because it's not my place or my authority -- but the distribution process was established because the community itself, as shareholders of the casino enterprise, felt as though there should be some distributions of that wealth. And the leaders over time had made commitments to doing that. When I got into office, it was very apparent that that was one of the things that was a priority to the people to get done. And so I made it one of my top and I think it was my first major initiative to move forward in office. The idea behind it was is that if we viewed the tribal membership as owners or shareholders of a corporation or a major enterprise -- which they are -- we viewed it much like a stock program in a private corporation whereby every year when business enterprises do well they might give their shareholders a revenue, a dividend, where they're sharing the dividend and that's how we really viewed it, that there's a percentage taken from the casino revenues and distributed to members each year at the end of the year based on the profit. And so with that said, I think the challenges; there were a number of challenges.

The first one is that when we put it together, there's the challenge of going through the process with BIA, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs takes its time in approving these kind of things, and so that was a challenge. And then internally the debate was, "˜How do we treat the dollars with respect to the individuals? Do we just give it to the adult members, do we give it to all members, is there any parameters that we want to put around the money?' Because it's not a lot of money. The council members at the time said, "˜We'd like to get the program started and we'd like for it to be shared and provided to all members.' With that said, we had to create a minors' trust program and so in that trust, there's an accountability of the money that comes in each year and how it's preserved for the individuals until they turn 18, which is the age that we gave and those dollars are accounted for by a separate accounting system. And I think the protections that we put into place or the monies don't come in through the tribal government, they go directly from the casino to the per capita account and then the money is distributed from there. And so that is helpful, too, to protect the integrity of the separation because it was approved, it was agreed on in our revenue allocation plan with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and so we really stay steadfast to that. And at the time, when we rolled it out, I think the challenge was is the people I'm sure wished that it was more than what it was and then I think the next challenge is that as we moved along we learned more about it because we would say, we would just...when we started, we wanted to get it out. And then along the way over the years we would kind of adjust it as needed, but the first year, the first issue was, "˜What if you turn 18 in the middle of the year? Do you get the money at the end of the year or do you have to wait?' And so that was one challenge. And then the next...so we had to set some timeframes on. If you turn 18 by a certain time during the year you are eligible for the dollars at the end of the year. So that was one challenge.

And I think another challenge was in dealing with elderly issues, that it might affect their Social Security benefits, and so we did try and find ways to manage that as well. But because it's young -- I think it's only been in place around four years or so now, maybe five -- but it was, we knew that we would have to work out some kinks and I think when it will be an impactful decision making down the road will be for those very young people that were maybe not even born or born when we started it that they'll have 18 years worth of revenue saved for them and at that point they may want to start considering some...putting in some safeguards for the individual, some requirements for them to get their money and those kind of things. But I think all in all, there's a lot of different positions on whether per capita is good or whether it's not good. I think in our case, because we viewed it as a distribution based on a shareholding, we had a little different viewpoint on it. Our ambition wasn't to subsidize the individual's life, it was to share in the overall profit of the, in our case, the casino. And so my own self, I have my own mixed emotions about whether it's good or bad, because I'm more in line with that the funds could be better spent providing programming, but I also recognize that the whole idea of gaming was to create an opportunity for quality of life of members. And so as you know and as we all know, every little bit counts, especially these days with everything being so expensive. And so if we create job opportunities, we create education opportunities, we provide social programming, and we are able to give distributions to help enhance the quality of life, then it's a positive thing."

Ian Record:

"You touched on a couple of the issues that the Native Nations Institute -- which recently published a policy paper on per caps and what Native nations needs to be thinking about as they develop their policies -- you touched on a couple of these critical issues. One of which is, when you issue a per capita distribution -- for instance particularly one that may fluctuate based upon the performance of the businesses or the enterprises from which the revenue for those distributions is coming from -- you have to be careful about what that's going to do to the eligibility of certain of your citizens for programs that they rely very heavily upon like Social Security."

Jamie Fullmer:

"The other challenge to that is if you expect...if you receive this much the year before and you only receive this much the following year, nobody's really happy about that. So one of the challenges as well is just growth, population growth. If you have a set percentage that you give and even if you make more revenues, if you have more births or enrollments in the year, it's still going to decrease the total payout. And so sometimes people assume that we are making less money when in fact, we're making more money, but we're growing faster than the money's growing."

Ian Record:

"Yeah and that's...I believe Native Americans are the fastest-growing population in the United States. That's going to be a huge challenge for those nations that issue per capita distributions moving forward, is it not?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I would think so, and I'm not real privy to any other distributions and values, but I would think that just that natural growth, something's got to give. If you've got a limited amount and you're growing here, well, something's got to give, whether it's programming or actual dollar distributions or both. It really depends on how well the tribe is planning for the future and that growth."

Ian Record:

"And it really gets back to this issue that we talked about earlier in our discussion about citizen education really, that you have to...because these issues like per capita distributions, these governing decisions that you have to make or at least lead in as elective leaders that you have to educate the citizens about what exactly all of this means. For instance, why is the per capita distribution amount down this year, or what does it mean when we're doing a performance based per cap or a profit based per cap based on a percentage of the revenue versus a flat amount every year?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"That is again another struggle area because not everybody understands money, especially in the context of being one piece of a percentage. And it's challenging for those that understand money and so it's even more challenging for those that don't, and I'm talking about the percentages and how the common person in their thinking, they think about themselves and, "˜Hey, my check's less than it was last year. We must be making less.' That's the common sense approach to things, but when you look at the bigger picture and you realize and recognize that, as you said, if it's performance based, if the performance isn't as good, it's going to go down. If the performance is as good and you've grown and your membership has outgrown the dollar amount, it's still going to go down and so there might be two reasons that it's going down, two very different reasons. One is maybe a not so good of a reason, the other one is a good reason. Having great performance and growing as a nation is what we hope to do. So again that leads into the whole idea of diversifying where tribes should be considering, how do they create other opportunities, not just for per capita, but if the tribe itself is growing and continuing to grow then all of the programming is going to be effected: the education programming, the health care programming, the social programming, how the governments are staffed, staffing issues, the space allocations, the building sizes. You can go on down the list all the way down to the size of the pipes for sewage and water and it's not a bad thing to grow, but it's an expensive thing to grow and I believe that's one of the challenges, getting back to the challenge of the finances, is the common citizen doesn't take that into account. And sometimes when you lay it out there and it is statistically done and drawn out, it's hard for people to really connect to how those statistics affect the future growth."

Ian Record:

"So it seems to be two things that jump out of what you're saying about trying to meet that challenge or fight that struggle is strategic thinking and planning first of all: anticipating what the demands are going to be on tribal governance and tribal administration moving forward with the rapidly growing population, the strains that's going to put on programs, services, infrastructure, etc. And then it's the issue of not just citizen education, but education in laymen's terms, that most every citizen can understand."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Financial education is a very important next step for Indian Country, well, the whole country, but when we focus on Indian Country, that's a great next step because tribes have gone from over the last several decades, many of them were very poor and there was a lot of poverty. There still is a lot of poverty. I don't want to take away from that, but for those tribes that have been able to climb out of poverty, now they have to learn how to protect their wealth. It's not just a matter of generating it, but how do we protect it once we've generated it because it is very easy to spend. They always say, the more money you make, the more money you spend. It's very easy to spend the money when it comes in because there are always needs and there are always wants that people believe are needs and so there's a never-ending demand for services and programming and opportunities for members. But at some level, the institution, the government, the Native nation government needs to look at how do we prepare for our future growth. So they have to do some trending, they have to investigate their current size, they have to investigate their future needs, whether it's land needs or water needs or space needs, they have to look at the need for civic buildings and growth in that area and then they need to look at what kind of enterprises do we need to do. A couple of things: bring in more revenue to the tribe itself and bring in more opportunity for the tribal members. And so that isn't just increasing per capita, it's increasing the quality of life per individual. And that's I believe most of our goals as leaders is our ambition is to create a quality of life for our people that is comparable to what's around us."

Ian Record:

"And ultimately, as a nation, it's really about promoting independence and self-sufficiency not just as the collective, but among individuals."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sure. I think there's a little bit of I guess it would be backlash at times when a tribe becomes wealthy, people get angry about that. And it's really challenging in America that's supposed to be a country that is proud that people can go from poverty to wealth and they promote it in every other major arena and every other major setting, but when Indian tribes become wealthy, there seems to be a backlash that we don't deserve to be as wealthy as the other individuals that have wealth. I think that's another challenge that we face is we're still viewed as...that we may still carry on some of this second-class citizen status when we're well beyond that in the 21st century."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to wrap up with...first of all, I want to get your response to a quote and this is a quote that we heard first from, we've heard it from several tribal leaders, but we heard it from one in particular, Chief Helen Ben from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council up in Saskatchewan, and this really gets it back to this issue of governing institutions and she said, "˜My job as a leader is to make myself dispensable.' And really what she was getting at is, "˜My job as a leader,' and she expounded upon this, "˜is to put our nation in a situation where we have that infrastructure,' that you've been talking about, 'that environment in place of rules and policies and codes where when I leave office not everything falls apart.' There's a sense of stability and continuity there. And I was wondering if you could address that issue with respect to your own nation and what's going on in that respect."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I think that my nation has been around for a long time, and there's been a lot of strong leaders and it's traditionally and culturally appropriate for us to have strong leaders. I think there's a balance between leadership and having a strong institution. Ultimately, I believe you need both because you can have a great institution, but if there isn't leadership steering it and keeping it moving and accepting the challenges that come up, then it can also stagnate. So I don't think that leadership is ever indispensable in my opinion. I think that leadership is a necessary part of everything that we do. With that said, a strong institution sure makes it a heck of a lot easier to be a strong leader and because you know what it is that you're wanting to accomplish and you know how to put to work the institution so that it can bring about the changes that the people want and need. And I think finally -- in my own nation as I said -- my ambition as the chairman was just to be a part of the growth, the ongoing growth, and I've never seen myself as anything more than that, never wanted to be more than that. That if I could say in my life that I contributed to my nation's growth in some way, then I feel like I have done my responsibility, and that holds true throughout my life. I feel like I can offer those same kinds of contributions to Indian Country as a whole and that's why I do what I do as the owner of Blue Stone Strategy Group. But back to the whole point of, I do believe that you have to have leadership, but I also believe that if you have a capable institution that you can plug folks into leadership roles, and as long as they have the necessary skills and ambition that there can be successes."

Ian Record:

"So in a nutshell what you're saying is that good governing institutions essentially empower the leaders to be effective."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I believe so. And there are those magnanimous figures out there that can, they don't need all of that around them to make it tick, but most of the people that sure does empower them to make wise and thoughtful decisions as opposed to reactive and crisis-oriented decisions."

Ian Record:

"Well, Jamie, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us. I've certainly learned a lot and I think Native nations and leaders across Indian Country will learn a lot from your thoughts and perspectives on not only what your own nation has been doing, but what's going on in Indian Country. We'd like to thank Jamie Fullmer for joining us today on this episode of Leading Native Nations, a program, a radio program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit our website: nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us." 

Minding Our Own Businesses: how to create support in First Nations communities for Aboriginal Business

Author
Year

The purpose of the project was to investigate what other First Nations have done to support their small business operators, and to create a process to look at what could be done in your community...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

McBride, John and Ray Gerow. "Minding Our Own Businesses: how to create support in First Nations communities for Aboriginal Business."  The Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University. Burnaby BC. September 2004. Paper.