NCAIED’s Native American Global Trade Center at National RES Las Vegas 2013

When it comes to business and networking across Indian Country in the United States, the National Reservation Economic Summit (National RES) has been the place to go for 27 years.

This year, National RES is pushing Native businesses to think even bigger. At this year’s event, March 11-14 in Las Vegas, attendees will be asked to visualize their businesses on a global scale.

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED), which produces and hosts National RES each year, believes that Native businesses have ample capability – and every reason – to trade globally. The NCAIED invested in this belief wholeheartedly within the past year, by founding the Native American Global Trade Center. And the NCAIED has invited several renowned and powerful thinkers to Las Vegas next week to reveal the economic possibilities that await Tribal Nations on the international stage. Speaker Robert Miller, for example, is an Attorney and Professor at Lewis and Clark Law School and author of the book Reservation “Capitalism:” Economic Development in Indian Country. Robert Shade is the former Director of the Blood Tribe Agricultural Project in Alberta, Canada and has served as an international business consultant. He has recently become the Director of the NCAIED’s Native American Global Trade Center.  Together Miller and Shade will outline existing opportunities in the international business arena, and concepts for promoting it even more. Further, Bill Iseminger will remind us that Native Americans don’t have to break the mold when it comes to international trade. Iseminger is Assistant Site Manager and head of public relations at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near St. Louis. Cahokia, a testament to cultural, social and economic achievement of the Mississippian culture, has been incorporated into the Tradeshow Floor and Procurement Expo as a reminder that not only can indigenous people trade widely – we’ve already been doing it, for thousands of years.

“There is clear evidence that the Mississippians at Cahokia were engaged in long distance trade, which was probably controlled by the elite of their society,” Iseminger said. “We find large amounts of marine shell beads that were made from whelk shells from the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida coast; there is mica from the southern Appalachians; copper from around Lake Superior;
minerals from the Ozarks; and chert/flint from many sources in the Midwest. Thus, we see that commerce has deep roots in American Indian culture.”

Numerous regulatory, statutory and policy barriers have been erected since the time of Cahokia – but today, great minds are working to overcome them.

One high-profile effort came about in 2009, when the late Sen. Daniel Inouye introduced the Indian Development Finance Corporation Act, Senate Bill 439, on Feb. 13, 2009. Two weeks later, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega introduced a companion bill, HR 1607, in the House.

The legislation would have created an independent federally chartered corporation to function as a “development bank” for its Tribal shareholders. It would have been authorized to invest seed capital in tribal economic development enterprises, and provide federal guarantees for tax-exempt tribal development bonds.

But for Alan Parker, Chippewa-Cree, that wasn’t good enough. At the time, he proposed that the bill be enhanced to authorize tribes to create a Tribal Trade Development Corporation.

The bill didn’t pass, but the seed was planted – and Parker has been working ever since to see that it grows. Parker directs the Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and serves as co-chair of the Committee on Indigenous Nation Relationships within the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). There, he is coordinating treaty negotiations to establish a United League of Indigenous Nations that would act as a cohesive force for economic enterprises. And as RES 2013 approaches, his proposal for a Tribal Trade Development Corporation is being debated by members of the National Congress of American Indians.

If they like and support the idea of having Congress pass a bill that would create a Tribal Trade Development Corp., then they can leave a copy of this draft bill with their congressional representative and ask them to sponsor the bill – that is, to introduce it into both the Senate and House,” Parker said.

 Meanwhile, Parker’s other creation – the United League of Indigenous Nations – has been signed by 84 Indigenous Nations.

 “I have been working with Frank Ettawageshik who is a tribal leader based in Michigan and also serves as the Chairman of the ULIN Board of Governors,” Parker explained. “Frank and I have attended numerous NCAI meetings over the past 5 years recruiting more members. At each meeting, Frank convenes a ULIN meeting and discusses relevant topics such as the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

 The League has also been working on a market analysis of various tribal trade products, Parker said, adding: “We also hope to have President Obama contact the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, and point out to them that there has been extensive study done of the commercial exploitation of Tribal and Indigenous Cultural Properties thru the use of Copyright and Trademark laws.”

 Parker’s work complements the NCAIED’s newly minted Native American Global Trade Center, which stands ready to help corporations and tribal enterprises attract both domestic and foreign investment, on their own or in a consortium, and advance their global trade activities both at home and abroad.

 With initial funding through sponsorship support from the Forest County Potawatomi Nation and United Parcel Service, the NCAIED has initiated three global councils.  They will function as think-tanks, consortiums and action platforms for Tribal Nations through tribally held enterprises, Alaska Native Corporations and Tribal business leaders to consolidate their economic power and work collaboratively to facilitate international trade opportunities, job creation and domestic economic development within Indian Country.

 The three areas that have initially been identified are:

  • The Global Business Council
  • The Global Agricultural Council
  • The Global Natural Resources Council

 The National Reservation Economic Summit is an ideal setting in which to hone the near-term progress of the Native American Global Trade Center, and exchange ideas at this exciting time of Native Business expansion onto the global stage. Input and collaboration is encouraged!

 To learn more about global initiatives in Indian Country, consider attending the following presentations at RES 2013:

  • Tribal Business Leaders’ Forum, 1-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12th.
  • Innovating Our Future with Technology, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 13th.
  • NCAIED’s “Native American Global Trade Center” – Unifying Indian Country to Engage in Economic Development Opportunities Globally, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13th
  • “N2N” ENTERPRISE – Uniting North American and South American Tribal Enterprises, 10:30 -11:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14th

 For more information about NCAIED’s Native American Global Trade Center, please email:

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