Martin Harvier: Building Sustainable Economies: The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Story

Native Nations Institute

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.

Resource Type

Harvier, Martin. "Building Sustainable Economies: The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Story." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2010. Presentation.

"I'd like to welcome you all here this morning. I'm grateful for this opportunity I have to speak. Again, my name is Martin Harvier. I know this conference is for newly elected officials so how many of you are actually newly elected officials? Do you know what you're getting yourself into? Actually I'm in the last year of my four-year term. This year my term expires, and I've already decided to throw my hat back in the ring and see what happens. But it's been an experience. To be honest with you, the position that I'm in I didn't expect to be here. I went the night they had nominations for the positions that were being offered that night -- the president, vice president and council members -- and an individual got up the night of the nominations and pronounced my name as a vice president nominee and I was kind of surprised and taken back. And I just thought about my life opportunities that I had that I didn't take and I thought, 'You know what, I'm going to go forward with this.' I felt very humbled that I was picked.

I was actually born in Parker, Arizona. I'm not sure if you know the state of Arizona and where Parker's located. It's actually on the western boundary. It's the boundary of California and Arizona. The tribes that are there -- the Chemehuevis, the Mojaves, the Navajo and the Hopi tribes -- are located in La Paz County in Parker. My dad was a full Native American. He was Tohono O'odham and he was Pima, half and half. And my mom, she was actually born in Fort Worth, Texas. She's Anglo. She said she's Cherokee, but they all say that. I'm a quarter Pima and a quarter Tohono O'odham. I was actually enrolled in the Gila River Indian Community, which is actually west of here also. The tribes that are represented in Gila River are represented in Salt River where I reside. In 1996, I relinquished my membership from Gila River and I was adopted into the tribe of the Salt River in 1996. I'm not sure how many of you know one of our former presidents Ivan Makil. He was the president at that time and I call him daddy because he was the president and he accepted my enrollment. So I call Ivan my father since he adopted me into the tribe in 1996. But I've been a member of that tribe ever since then and like I said, I feel very humble to serve in this position, being an adoptee into the tribe, and it's been I think a learning experience for me. And I'm sure all of you will have a good experience and there'll be some bad experiences, but I really enjoy it.

I'd like to go ahead and get started. Just a little bit about our community. Again, there's two tribes, the Akimel O'odham, which are the Pima tribe, and the Xalychidom Piipaash, which are the Maricopas. The Maricopa tribe actually resided in the Yuma area again, which is along the Colorado, which is the western boundary of Arizona. And the history says in the early 1800s there was an uprising in that area and that the tribes that were located there were chasing the Maricopa people wanting to kill them, to destroy them and when they chased them as far as into the Pima territory, which is now Sacaton, they said that the Pimas made an arrangement with them that if they would help, if the Pimas would help them, that they would help the Pimas fight their enemies, which at the time were the Apache tribe. So what happened, the Pimas and the Maricopas banded together and they killed all, the history said they killed all of them except one, and they sent him back to the Yuma territory and told him not to come back here because the Maricopa and the Pima were now one tribe. So that's how the history tells us that the Pimas and the Maricopas came together. And they resided in the Gila River Reservation, which is Sacaton and the reservation is pretty large. The Pimas and the Maricopas are known as farmers and they farmed that area. And the settlers, when they came in they were really impressed with the produce that was produced by the Natives there, the irrigation systems. And so that's what they did until the settlers came in up east and they started damming up the river and so the water stopped flowing. And when the water stopped flowing a group of the Pimas and the Maricopas headed north up to what now is the Salt River Reservation.

Right now we have, as of December 31st, 2009, our enrollment stood at 9,110 members. And I'll just kind of give you a view of our community. I want you to kind of look at this outline right here, this red area. I do that because in our community, in January 10th of 1879, [President] Rutherford B. Hayes by executive order gave this land to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and at the time it was 680,000 acres of land, which encompasses Phoenix, Tolleson -- if you know that area -- all the way down to Chandler. And actually boundaries of the Gila River Reservation, it comes up and it follows the canyon, the Salt River all the way up into the Salt River Canyon. Again, it was 680,000 acres and approximately six months later, because of pressure from the settlers that were in that area, it was changed to this, which we now have our land and again that piece was established June 14th 1879. Again, six months later it was changed to what we have now, which is 52,600 acres. So in the span of six months we lost approximately 630,000 acres. I wanted to show this picture to you also and just keep in your mind this area right here, the western boundary. Again this is Scottsdale area. As far as location to our community this is Scottsdale, you've got Tempe boundaries here, Mesa, Fountain Hills, and so we're surrounded by these surrounding cities here. So that's our community and again I want you to think about this part when we go into our discussion.

As far as our enrollment, the 9,000 members, half of that, 50 percent of that we are told is under 18 years of age. So our population, a lot of it again is under 18. As far as our land base, again there's 52,600 acres, 19,000 of that is held in natural preserve and that encompasses our sacred mountain, which we call the Red Mountain. If you go into that area, you'll see the Red Mountain, it's very beautiful. And behind the mountain we have only a portion of the river now that flows. Right now the river is actually flowing pretty good because of the rainfall and the snow that we have. They're releasing water through the river. So the river through Phoenix is actually running right now, which is really nice. And right now we have about 12,000 acres that's under agriculture. And just to let you know, right now we do not have any community members -- like I said the Pimas and Maricopas were known as farmers -- we do not have any community members that farm. The land that's being farmed is from outside and they're leasing the land from the community members.

Just wanted to go back here now and talk about our for-profit enterprises. We do have a casino. We actually have two casinos. It's called Casino Arizona. We're actually right now in construction. We have a soft opening, which we'll be opening April the 15th. That's tax day, so if you guys want to spend your tax money or you need tax money to pay I encourage you to come to our new casino that will be opening. It's actually a 15-story resort with 498 rooms, with restaurants, everything you can think of that's there. That's the two casinos that we have. And we also have Saddleback Communications that provides communication to our community members and all the businesses that is encompassed in our community. We have the Salt River Materials Group, which is a sand and rock operation and also with that we have a cement plant, which isn't located in our community. It's approximately 120 miles north in the Prescott, the Cottonwood area, but our community does own the cement plant. We have DevCo, which is a real estate management and development [company]. It goes out and finds those that are interested in developing in our community and they work with them. We have the Talking Stick Golf Course, which is two 18-hole golf courses that's located right next to the new resort that's coming up; it's operated by Troon Golf. And the spring training facility that's under development, I don't want to say this too loud because the two teams that will be housed in our facility is the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks who are in their last year of being here in Tucson. And I know Tucson got kind of upset when they found out that they were leaving. Next year they will be down in our area and that's the first time that any spring training facility has ever been built in Indian Country so we're pretty happy about them making the agreement to build in our community. And then we have a Salt River Landfill, which has been in our community for quite a few years and for the longest time that was the moneymaker for the tribe until the casino came along. We do have non-profit enterprises. Our Salt River Financial Services Institution, we'll get into that a little bit more. Our Salt River Community Housing Division, our Salt River Education Department and the Salt River Community Children's Foundation. The Children's Foundation organization has been put together, employees are able to, if they wish to donate through their payroll and it goes to a foundation that helps the youth in our community and things that the children need. And then the other governmental services that the government provides for as far as public works, just the regular government services and programs that we have. Again, that's the map.

Today we're going to be talking about, as far creating an environment for a community member-owned business, the opportunities, access to contracting, technical assistance, coaching and education, financing, access to capital and the policy making, the procurement and vendor relations. Since the 1990s in our procurement policy for the tribe, community member preference was included as far as language in the procurement policy but there was never another step, it was just there. So nobody really knew what to do for the community members that wanted to start a business. They didn't know what to do; they didn't know the process. But even though there was no process we just wanted to point out that even though that wasn't working we have two community members that have nationally recognized companies. One of them is Pima Awards and the other is O'odham Ki and they're a construction company and the other one is awards. I think anything that we get in our community as far as when people come and they give them gifts, little trinkets and whatever, our Pima Awards, which is our community-owned business, provides those, tournaments that they have, T-shirts they give out. We got to Pima Awards, which is a community member-owned business. The O'odham Ki Construction, they've built a lot of buildings in our community. Not only in our community, but they've done a lot of business off the community and they got their business started off the community. They got started off the community and then they're coming back on to the community. Requests were made to support building community-owned businesses and that request came primarily from these two individuals that started. And they knew how hard it was to get started and how hard it was to work through the government to get things going. So they came back and they requested to the community that we need to start supporting the community-owned businesses. And then the council created a technical assistance and lending entity to support the development of the community-owned business system. We'll get into that as far as the technical assistance.

From 2000 to 2006, the Community engaged in the planning and development of the Community Development Financial Institution. The CDFI, the Community Development Financial Institution, is part of the U.S. Treasury and its funding is given, but there has to be a certification that has to be done by the tribe to receive that type of funding. So the community went through the process and they were given some funding underneath that program of the Treasury. The goals of the CDFI included development of full-service financial education programs for all community members. And I can tell you that through that program there have been numerous individuals, community members that have received education on financial education on how it works as far as trying to get a business started. And they also provide the loans, home loans for the community members. A lot of these things weren't available until this institution came about. Then the council created a non-profit CDFI on April 5th, 2006, called the Salt River Financial Services Institution and that's put in place again to help community members understand what they're getting into. A lot of times, community members know what they want to do they just don't know how to get started so that was put in place for the community members to go to get information on what they need to do. And a full-service individual and group technical support financial education and entrepreneurship classes were also offered. Next was the financing. The community member-owned businesses and people wishing to be entrepreneurs were missing access to capital. A lot of time our community members had no relationship with banks. They didn't know how it worked. When they tried to go get money, if you do not have credit history, we all know that they are not going to give you a loan to start anything up, so a lot of them fit into that category. They didn't have any banking history. That's what the next bullet point is, they were un-banked. That's what that means. They didn't have any type of credit history. The technical assistance allowed the creation of a lending program.

The technical assistance -- here we're talking about again is the Salt River Financial Institute. It was created to provide micro-loans to launch new entrepreneurs from ideas to action. And these micro-loans were loans that were for $50,000 or less, and sometimes that's not enough to get a business going, but at least it's there to help them to get started. Again, a lot of them had ideas, but they didn't have the finances to do it so it helped them act on the action that they had. The next one is the community and the policy making to support the entrepreneurship. The community is home to an active association of business owners. Again, the two individuals that I had talked about, they started the Salt River Business Association. We used to call it the Small Business Association. They got onto us. They said we're not the Small Business Association; we're the Salt River Business Owners Association. They made that clear. And so in 2005, the organization continued to work with the Salt River government to find avenues to create policies that community member business owners are friendly and by that meaning preference. They're given preference. One of the things that's kind of hard is that a lot of times the businesses that are coming in that are trying to get work didn't have the experience and a lot of times as an example of building a building and you want the best. You want to make sure they have the experience and know what they're doing. So a lot of them didn't have that experience and it was kind of hard for them to get started, the opportunities were hard to come by and so the community staff worked with the Salt River Business Association. In 2006, again the financial association was created to lend us support and right now the institution, the Salt River Financial [Services] Institution has a staff of about eight people and again people go in, if they have questions, they're there to help them. The Salt River government purchasing policies, again when opportunities are there, they go through the list, they see the community-owned businesses and they're given preference to have opportunities to do business with the community and again I kind of made example of the Pima Awards. When something comes up, they're given preference because they're a community-owned business.

The community office staff also developed a procurement preference language in the master commercial lease language of the Pima Corridor. When we started -- and I showed you the map of the community -- I made reference to the western boundary. The western boundary of our community, there's the 101 Freeway goes through there and when that was put in, that was strategically put in to create an economic development corridor through there. It's about a quarter of a mile in some areas, it's a nine-mile stretch and it goes from the southern boundary up to the northern boundary. In some areas it's wider than a quarter of a mile, but that area has been set up for economic development. We really feel it's important that since the community developed this corridor that we educate our community members on the potential opportunities that they're going to have in that area to have a business or to provide service for people that have businesses there. So that was some of the things that the staff has worked with as far as the business association.

The community and the policy making to support entrepreneurship, the procurement policy was written to be specific about what preference means and how it is implemented. Preference is given in succession. First, community-owned businesses. And in talking with staff...okay, well, second, the community member-owned businesses and third, other Native American-owned businesses. The community-owned businesses like we pointed out the enterprises that we own like the Salt River Materials Group. If there's anything that goes on construction wise, the community-owned businesses have preference. If there's other things that come in that we do not supply, just say like paper, if we need paper. If there's a community-owned, member-owned business that supplies paper, they get preference and that's the way it's been set up. And if we don't, if there's another Native American company out there that has it, it goes through the succession and then it just goes down the line, then we go to another Native American, if it's not out there, then we just go out and get what we need. The certification process was created. The intent of the certification process was to insure that organizations are not fronts.

My previous job before I came to work for the tribe, I worked for an asphalt company. And when an individual found out, that worked for the asphalt company, found out I was working for the tribe, he approached me and he asked me if I wanted to go into business with him as far as doing roads, laying down asphalt. It sounded really good. He said that I would be 49-percent owner of the company and that way -- actually 50 percent -- and that way we could go in front of council when job opportunities came. And because preference was given to community members we would get those jobs. And this was put into place to insure that those things wouldn't happen and I think it's important when you see things like this. I didn't think about it, I really thought it was a good idea. I was thinking, "˜Wow, we could make some money here.' But somebody informed me that when you use a front, and say I'd went with this individual and we did a road, after the road's completed, my partner leaves. Say six months down the road, and it's a one-year guarantee on that road, something happens to that road. Well, they're going to come after me; they're not going to go after the other guy. So I'm going to be responsible. And I think that's important and I think that's why a lot of Natives were taken by this, is that they need to know that they're responsible for anything that they do in Indian Country. After it's put down that they're going to be responsible, not the individual that used them as a front to get that project. So that was put in to make sure that there wasn't any fronts.

Certification of community member-owned businesses is based upon the community member owned no less than 51 percent of the business, community members perform active day-to-day, hands-on role in the management and operation of the business and the community member is entitled to no less than 51 percent of the profits of the business. Part of the policy, the procedures that go through of certifying community-owned businesses is that they are asked to show their taxes from the year before. If they say that they're a business, they need to show their taxes to prove that they are the owner of that business. And we've had community members that get upset and they say, "˜We're not going to do it,' but the community has held fast to say, "˜No, you will show us just because of the fact that we do not want fronts coming in and doing business like this.' So that was put in to help make sure that there wasn't fronts.

Right now in our community there are currently 27 preferred vendors on our list. We have six community-owned businesses, enterprises, twelve community member-owned businesses, and nine Native American-owned businesses. And today, total value of the community member-owned business contracts since October 1, 2008, is $10,747,540.30, which is quite a bit of money. I think it just shows the success of our community members. And what's next for the community in this arena? Youth entrepreneur camp; again our financial institute puts on a camp at Arizona State University to help with our youth. We really feel that's important. Our tribe does pay per capita out to its members. We have a lot of youth that have trust money and by the time they turn 18 they have quite a bit of money. And it's very important we feel as leaders that they know what they need to do when they get that money. A lot of them get it and they'll just throw it away and it's gone. This is an opportunity for them to learn. If they wanted to get into business, they can learn these at an early age. Again, the financial institute, the researching, the development of the Future Business Leaders of America chapter, to continue financial education and lending opportunities and refining policies to support and manage the creation of new opportunities for the community-owned businesses. So these are some of the things that we are doing as leadership in our community. We know how important it is of our members that want to be successful and we know there's a lot of them that have ideas and they have goals but they don't know what to do and the process. So we've been trying to set up ways that will help them and we think that's very important and our council supports these departments in doing that. So with that, thank you."

Related Resources


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.


Sister Sky CEO and Principal Partner Monica Simeon provides an overview of Sister Sky, a business Simeon co-founded with her sister Marina Turning Robe on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Simeon also explains how Sister Sky is working to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit among her nation's youth.


Martin Harvier, Vice President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Communty, and Monica Simeon, CEO and Principal Partner of Sister Sky, field questions from the audience about their roles in building sustainable economies for their respective nations.


Chief Terrance Paul shares the keys to a sustainable economy through examples from the Membertou First Nation.