The Cahokia Mounds, just east of St. Louis, remind us of a time when Native people flourished, reaching spectacular heights as a society, an economy, and a people. And that’s why Cahokia is a perfect fit for the “National Reservation Economic Summit (National RES) Las Vegas 2013”, being held March 11-14 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Designers are already working to incorporate elements of Cahokia, a pinnacle achievement of the Mississippian culture, at this year’s National RES Business Trade Show, Procurement Expo and Artisan Market, where Tribes, Tribal Enterprises, Corporations and Native entrepreneurs from all over the country – and beyond – stand to build and expand their businesses.
“I believe our National Reservation Economic Summit is a modern day version of Cahokia,” said Gary Davis, President of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development. “Our RES event gathers together our Native People from all across North America, and even participants from around the world, and brings them into one location to do business and to talk about economic development – so that we can grow all of our communities.”
Cahokia, he says, represents “a further hope, that we as Native people remember that business is not new to us. It is at the essence of this year’s theme: ‘Honoring Our Past … Defining Our Future.’”
The Cahokia Mounds represent the largest archeological site in North America north of Mexico. By 1,000 AD, the community in and around the mounds boasted large communal plazas, grand architecture, elaborate pottery and established religious, ceremonial and residential infrastructure. By AD 1250, Cahokia was larger than London. Corn was grown in such abundance that it fed up to 20,000 people – and yielded a surplus. The culture was so powerful that it is believed to spread throughout the surrounding region and into the Midwest.
During one of many panel discussions at National RES, Alan Parker, attorney and Governing Board Secretary with the United League of Indigenous Nations will join Robert Miller, an attorney, Indian Law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School and author of the book Native American Capitalism. Together, they’ll discuss how Cahokia and the even more famous Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan illustrate long- standing international and inter-tribal trading traditions.
“This panel will examine the need for joint ventures between First Nations in Canada and Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations in the United States,” said Davis. “The panel will also discuss the short term and long term goals necessary … to re- establish business relationships with tribes throughout South and Central America,
in order to create a more tribally led, global and self sufficient economic development vision for the future of Indian Country.”
Adds Margo Gray-Proctor, Chairwoman of the NCAIED’s Board of Directors, “We have been here and we are still here … from wampum to wi-fi. We have been communicating and doing business with one another for well over a thousand years and our rich vibrant history as Indian people is signified by all that is Cahokia.”
The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development is the most established national, non-profit organization in Indian Country, having been solely dedicated to developing American Indian economic self-sufficiency through business ownership for 44 years. National RES, its signature event, is the largest and longest running American Indian business expo in the nation. It is also the NCAIED’s annual fundraising effort, helping to support its various programs and initiatives throughout Indian Country.
This year’s Business Tradeshow will include business exhibits from Fortune 500 corporations, tribes, tribal enterprises, federal agencies and small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The “Procurement Expo” will match Native American business sellers with participating buyers during a series of face-to-face meetings lasting two days, March 12-13. Newly integrated with the Tradeshow, the Procurement Expo will feature Fortune 500 corporations and federal agencies. An American Indian Artisan Market is held simultaneously within the Business Trade Show and Procurement Expo. Stay tuned for more details in an upcoming post.
As for the re-creation of the Cahokia setting for National RES, that’s an ongoing behind-the-scenes effort that’s sure to impress. Hannah Persons is account manager at Global Experience Specialists (GES), the marketing and logistics company that’s working on the presentation of the 2013 National Reservation Economic Summit.
She said she’d never heard of the Cahokia Mounds when Davis first approached her company about recreating them in Vegas. Over the past several months, her design team drafted six or seven different renderings in an effort to realize the vision of Davis and the NCAIED Board of Directors. The final version is now undergoing a custom build; the pieces will be trucked to the Mandalay Bay Resort and assembled in time for the start of the conference on March 11.
The mounds will greet attendees in dramatic fashion at National RES: “They’re going to be walking in through them,” Persons said. “As close as possible, you’ll have the feeling that you’re approaching the mound at Cahokia. I think that a lot of people are going to have many different feelings and emotions about it.”
Link to an educational video about the Cahokia Mounds: