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LAS VEGAS – The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (the National Center) recognized Native American business leaders, advocates, and corporations that have made significant contributions to their communities and fields during this year’s National Reservation Economic Summit (National RES). Award winners were honored for their tribal and business leadership, contributions to gaming, example to other women business owners, volunteerism, and public advocacy, among other areas.

“We are extremely proud of our 2017 Award Winners,” said Chris James, the National Center’s President and CEO. “They represent the best of our community – from business acumen, to advocacy, to volunteerism, and corporate responsibility. We look forward to following their careers and their continued contributions to Indian Country.”

The list of the 2017 awardees are as followed:

  • American Indian Business of the Year – RWI Benefits LLC. Based in Miami, OK, RWI Benefits is a wholly-owned Native American insurance management firm specializing in all lines of insurance including employee benefits, property and casualty, and worker’s compensation.

  • Tribal Enterprise Empowerment Award – Chugach Alaska Corporation.Chugach Alaska Corporation is an Alaska Native Corporation based in Anchorage. Its business lines included facilities management and maintenance; construction and engineering; technical services/IT; education; and oil and gas.

  • Native Woman Business Owner of the Year Award – Stephine Poston.Stephine Poston is the President and CEO of Poston and Associates LLC, based in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Ms. Poston is a member of the Pueblo of Sandia, and her firm’s client are primarily Native American entities.

  • Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award – Janie Simms Hipp. Janie Simms Hipp is the Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Previously, Ms. Simms Hipp was a senior adviser to former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, during which time she founded the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.

  • Tribal Gaming Visionary Award – Bernadine Burnette. Bernadine Burnette is the President of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Tribal Government in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She was named the 2012 Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), where she was previously a board member.

  • Congressional Achievement Award – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is the junior senator from Vermont, where he has served since 2007. In 2016 he ran for the Democratic nomination for President. His campaign plank included the following: “I will stand with Native Americans in the struggle to protect their treaty and sovereign rights, advance traditional ways of life, and improve the quality of life for Native communities.”

  • American Indian Leadership Award – Fawn Sharp. Fawn Sharp is the President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington. She was previously a lead counsel for the tribe and an administrative law judge for the Washington state Department of Revenue – Tax Appeals Division. She is the Vice President and Founding Member for the National Intertribal Tax Alliance

  • Corporate Advocate of the Year – Arizona Public Service Company. Arizona Public Service Company is based in Phoenix and is the largest electric utility in Arizona with over one million customers. Its focus on the Native American community includes an internal Native American Networking Organization (NANO) whose mission is to attract and develop Native American talent through professional development opportunities, assisting in recruitment and retention and community involvement.

  • Volunteer of the Year – Alicia White Bear. Alicia is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara) and currently works at the UT Southwestern Animal Resource Center in Dallas, Texas. She has a degree in Animal Science from Texas Tech, and she volunteers with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

    The awards are part of the 31st Annual National RES, concluding today at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada. National RES is the largest economic development gathering in Indian Country, bringing together over 4,000 Native American leaders, businesses and business owners, subject-matter experts, government officials, and others. For more information about National RES and the National Center, please visit res.ncaied.org.