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Winners of 2021 American Indian Business Awards Announced at Reservation Economic Summit 2021

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) honored the people, organizations, and businesses contributing to Indian Country and its economy during an awards ceremony at the 32nd annual Reservation Economic Summit. A full list of winners of the 2021 American Indian Business Awards is below:

Award Winner: Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ah-Shí Beauty

Native Woman Business Owner of the Year Award: This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership, management, quality performance and commitment to excellence as a successful Native American woman business owned.

Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere is the Founder and CEO of Ah-Shí Beauty, as well as owner of Four Arrows Logistics and Four Arrows Western Wear. Ahsaki, a Diné (Navajo) and African American Woman,  featured as one of six “Beauty Game Changers” in Harper’s Bazaar  for her work at Ah-Shí that is elevating Native American representation in the cosmetics industry. Ah-Shí—Navajo for “this is me, this is mine”—now has two locations, including one on the Navajo Nation, and ships worldwide.

Award Winner:  Jodi Archambault, Director, Indigenous Peoples Initiatives for Wend Collective

Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award: This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership in support of American Indian business and economic development.

Jodi Archambault currently serves as the Director of Indigenous Peoples Initiatives for Wend Collective and a strategic advisor for the Bush Foundation. Prior to that role, she worked for the D.C. law firm of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Edreson and Perry in 2015 after serving as a political appointee under the Administration of President Barack Obama. During her tenure in the Administration, Jodi served as the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior and separately as the White House Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Award Winner: Joe James, Chairman, Yurok Tribe

American Indian Leadership Award: This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership in support of American Indian business and economic development endeavors in tribal communities.

Joe James serves as Tribal Chairman for the Yurok Tribe. Chairman James has worked for Tribal Governments for the last 22 years in the areas of fisheries, water policy and law, infrastructure, protection of cultural resources, economic development and leadership. He has served as the Yurok Tribe’s Transportation Manager, Councilmember and started serving as Chairman in October 2018.

Award Winner: Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation, presented to Jeremiah Gideon, Capture Director, Tlingit Haida Tribal Haida Tribal Business Corporation

American Indian Business of the Year Award: This award is in acknowledgement of the success of an American Indian or tribal Nation owned business and its demonstration of excellent corporate citizenship.

Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation has made demonstrated efforts to support Tlingit & Haida by providing direct financial support, employment opportunities, as well as cultural artifact support and repatriation.

Award Winner: IBM Corporation

Corporate Advocate of the Year Award: This award recognizes the leadership team of a Corporation for demonstrating a sincere commitment to growing business opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native owned companies, helping to better the Indian Country economy for future generations.

IBM has developed and implemented a model that provides small Native American businesses with the infrastructure required to establish effective contracting and subcontracting relationships with large businesses and state and local government entities and allows IBM the opportunity to act as informal mentor to these companies. This model includes establishing and developing high level contacts with key members of Indian nations and government leaders; identifying and pre-qualifying numerous American Indian information technology firms and creating teaming agreements between the parties. This infrastructure development has provided positive results and helped to resolve barriers between tribal entities, Indian business and big business, resulting in new business relationships.

Award Winner: Laura Stensgar, Chief Executive Officer, Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel

Tribal Gaming Visionary Award: This award is in recognition of leadership demonstrated in the tribal gaming sector and efforts to advance opportunity for American Indian owned businesses.

Laura Stensgar has been with the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel since it first opened 25 years ago. She has served in various roles and was recently named as the Chief Executive Officer. The Coeur d’Alene Casino has grown from being a bingo hall to a resort destination employing more than 900 employees who work within the two hotel wings, an extensive gaming floor, event center, restaurants, and the full-service Spa.

Award Winner: U.S. Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS-03)

Congressional Achievement Award: This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership by a member of the United States Congress and in appreciation of that member’s support of American Indian business and economic development endeavors of tribal communities, Alaska Native villages, and American Indian and Alaska Native entrepreneurs.

A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Representative Sharice Davids was elected to Represents Kansas’ third Congressional District in 2018 — the same year she was named a Native American 40 Under 40 Award winner. Rep. Davids is one of the first two Native American women (along with now-Interior Secretary Deb Haaland) elected to Congress and continues to be an advocate for Indian Country entrepreneurs and small businesses on Capitol Hill. Rep. Davids has advocated for increased support for the Native American CDFI Assistance Program, pushed for funding for tribes in the American Jobs Plan, and recently introduced the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act of 2021. Read the National Center’s exclusive interview with Rep. Davids in the first edition of our publication, NC Magazine, by clicking here.