The 2019 Reservation Economic Summit was the best attended RES in many years, with over 2,400 people gathering in Las Vegas for four days. While it would be impossible to capture all of the great things that occurred at RES, we wanted to do a quick highlight a few of the events, speakers, and programming that defined the week. Thank you to everyone who make the journey to Las Vegas and helped us celebrate 50 years of the National Center – RES would not have been a success without you!
The day kicked off with our annual scholarship golf tournament, where golfers competed in teams of four at the beautiful Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort and sponsored by Nike’s N7 line. These golfers helped raise funds for our annual business scholarships, which will be awarded to deserving Native American and Alaska Native students later this year. The Las Vegas Paiutes also took a group on a tour to give participants a first-hand look at the tribe’s commitment to economic diversification.
Back at Paris Las Vegas, our incredible artisan market vendors were already setting up, while attendees had the option of attending sessions focused on growing and managing their businesses, particularly those that work in federal contracting. A small group took a tour of Caesar’s Hotel and Casino to better understand its efforts to “go green.”
We kicked off Tuesday with our opening general session, with remarks from an impressive lineup of speakers, including National Director for the Minority Business Development Agency Henry Childs, Key Bank’s Head of Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations Don Graves, and former Ambassador Keith Harper. They set the tone for the week – that RES means business!
On Tuesday, and continuing on through Wednesday, the consulting room was open to assist small businesses with resources and provide guidance. The room was utilized by various tribal leaders and National Center staff to hold additional meetings outside of our scheduled sessions and speaking programs, which made it very convenient for attendees to do business on site. The Department of Energy also hosted meetings in our consulting space. In total there were over 150 individuals that utilized the space over the two days the space was open. A big shout out goes to Cherie Gordon, BNSF Railway who assisted with scheduling and worked with the team to help keep the room flowing and organized throughout the two afternoons.
Our Procurement Expo also kicked off on Tuesday, where hundreds of contractors and suppliers met with top procurement officers in both federal agencies and the private sector. It’s our way of directly connecting RES attendees with business opportunities.
Throughout the week, “energy in Indian Country” was a major theme at RES. We heard from Department of Energy officials such as James Campos, Director of the Office of Economic Impact; Anne Marie White, Assistance Secretary for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management; and John Sneed, Executive Director of DOE’s Loan Program Office. We had great sessions focused on various aspects of energy on tribal lands, including renewable energy, fossil fuels, energy and water infrastructure, environmental management, and Loan Programs. We are thrilled that DOE has become such a strong partner with the National Center.
In the evening, we hosted our 50th Anniversary Gala, which included a performance from the incredible Raye Zaragoza. At the celebration, we announced the winners of our annual business awards. These awards highlight individuals, organizations, and businesses that are making significant contributions to Indian Country. It was our honor to recognize their achievements.
On Wednesday morning we opened our Business Trade Show, where hundreds of Native and non-Native-owned businesses opened their doors to prospective customers and clients. It was a clear sign that Indian Country is indeed open for business.
One of our most attended sessions was one that focused on Native Women in Power and Leadership, where attendees gained insight into the empowerment of Native women in today’s professional world. It was moderated by National Center Board Member Margo Gray who is President of Margo Gray and Associates and featured Deana Jackson Zion Enterprises, LLC (our Native Woman Business Owner of the Year), Autumn Dawn Monteau, Ginger Sloan from Nations Global Services, and Danelle Smith, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System.
We also heard from a Native Women in power and leadership – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) – at our Wednesday luncheon. Though she was in DC, she addressed the crowd via video and announced the introduction of the Native American Business Incubators Act, designed to boost support for Native-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. We are excited to continue our work with her and in our nation’s capital, which is why we were excited to welcome staff from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a listening session on access to capital in Indian Country.
In the evening, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the 40 under 40 awards with a reception to honor the many past awardees who were at RES. This impressive and growing group will define our community’s future. Afterwards, country music star Matt Stillwell entertained the crowd with a performance to cap off Wednesday’s activities.
Thursday, March 28th
Before we concluded RES, we heard from several panels on various topics, including one entitled “Encouraging and Strengthening the Next Generation of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth.” Moderated by National Center Board Member Lillian Sparks Robinson, leaders from Native Americans in Philanthropy, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Cheyenne River Youth Project, and UNITY. The youth are our future, and these organizations are working to ensure they are given every opportunity to succeed.
If you missed out, don’t worry – RES 2020 is less than 11 months away! We hope to see you March 2-5, once again at Paris Las Vegas!