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President’s Message – January 2024

Osiyo, and Happy New Year! I hope 2024 is off to a fantastic start for you and your loved ones. The National Center has a packed agenda for 2024, and I can’t wait to see you at some of our events.

But first, I’d like to share some great developments that occurred at the end of 2023. For years, strengthening and growing the Buy Indian Act has been one of our top priorities. If you’re not familiar, the Buy Indian Act is a century-old law that mandates the Department of Interior, and later the Indian Health Service, purchase a certain amount of goods from Native-owned suppliers.

Despite the requirement, the Buy Indian Act was dormant for nearly 100 years until the Obama Administration revived it in 2013. The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act, long championed by The National Center, further strengthened the Buy Indian Act when it became law in 2020. In 2022, the Biden Administration laid out ambitious FY 2023 Buy Indian Act-related procurement goals for both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS).

The Administration announced these goals had been met or exceeded during December’s White House Tribal Nations Summit. BIA hit its 75% Native procurement target, while IHS was at 30% after it set a goal of 20%. More importantly, the total contract dollars were well above initial targets. BIA awarded $626 million in contracts to Native or tribally owned businesses; its goal was $325 million. IHS more than doubled its $200 million contract goal when it awarded $444 million to Native or tribally owned businesses.

We are thrilled with these numbers because it means Native-owned firms are performing the work on federal investments in Indian Country. I also believe it’s a clear sign the Buy Indian Act should be expanded to other agencies, starting with the Department of Agriculture. I look forward to continuing to advocate for Native-owned businesses that want to do business with the federal government.

Of course, procurement will be a focal point at the 2024 Reservation Economic Summit. We are just over two months way from the start of the 38th annual RES, where thousands of tribal and business leaders, entrepreneurs, government officials, subject-matter experts, artisans and more will showcase “strength in unity.” If you haven’t secured your spot at RES, you can still do it utilizing the early bird rate through January 11. Click here to register today and learn more about what we have in store at RES 2024.

Again, happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you in 2024.

Chris James
President and CEO
The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development