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6th annual Construction in Indian Country Conference May 19 – 20

FORT MCDOWELL, Ariz. – The 6th annual Construction in Indian Country Conference took place at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort May 19-20.

The conference is devoted to all aspects of building in Indian country and includes a trade show of construction industry vendors. The conference draws tribal leaders and representatives, contractors, suppliers, engineers, architects, lawyers, school board members and officials from federal, state and local agencies.

Construction in Indian Country was established in 2001 by the Office of the President on American Indian Initiatives and the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University. The nonprofit organization was created to assist in the quality management of construction in sovereign American Indian nations while providing educational opportunities for American Indian students enrolled in the DEWSC.

This year’s conference included presentations on four tracks – Housing; Gaming, Hospitality and Retail Industry; Education; and Healthcare – and a new special session on Stimulus Funding Initiatives.

Among the many workshops were sessions called Culturally Appropriate Design; Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Solutions; Lessons Learned in Gaming and Hospitality; Creating Sizzle: From Concept to Completion; How to Create Sizzling Features For Your Guests’ Experience; Outrageous in Challenging Times; Health Care Construction and the Stimulus Package; and Stimulus Funding Initiatives. Other sessions cover construction law, funding and financing, and functional sustainability.

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The special session on Stimulus Funding Initiatives provided exclusive information and details on the approximately $2.5 billion in economic stimulus funding that will be made available to Indian country under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Panelists will provide up-to-date information on Recovery Act funding that will be awarded to tribal projects in the following categories: new school and housing construction, road and bridge improvements and workforce training. In addition, panelists provided an update on the Obama administration’s priorities for Indian country.

Keynote speakers at this year’s conference included:

• Bernadine Burnette, the vice president of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Burnette’s extensive resume includes a 17-year stint with the BIA as a tribal operations specialist; manager and general manager of Fort McDowell Yavapai Materials; member of the Wassaja Memorial Health Board, the Environmental Board, and the Education Board and founder and former board member of the Fort McDowell Youth Council, Yavapai against Substance Abuse, and Wellness Court Committee; member of the National Congress of American Indians, the National Tribal Environmental Council, the National Indian Education Association, the National Indian Gaming Association, and vice chairwoman of Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

• Keith M. Harper of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Harper is a partner in the firm of Kilpatrick Stockton and served on President Obama’s transition team. He has represented tribes and individual Indians before federal courts, Congress, administrative agencies and international forums in matters involving enforcement of the trust responsibility, expansion and protection of tribal sovereignty, enforcement of tribal treaty rights, protection of land and natural resources, ensuring religious freedom for Native practitioners and development of international instruments guaranteeing the rights of indigenous people. He also represented the plaintiff class of 500,000 individual Indians and continues to serve as class counsel in the landmark Indian trust funds lawsuit, Cobell v. Kempthorne.

• Aneva Yazzie, Navajo Nation, Chief Executive Officer of the Navajo Housing Authority. Yazzie has extensive experience and knowledge in the affordable housing arena, especially on tribal lands and HUD’s Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funding for Native American housing opportunities. Her experiences include the full range of leveraging available to Tribally-Designated Housing Entities that include: The first tax exempt-Section 184 collateralized bond financing in the amount of $25 million to build 317 single family lease-purchase homes; mixed funding with Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects for various new construction and rehabilitation projects in the amount of $10 million, and more. Her education background is in industrial engineering and she has worked 10 years as a private engineering/management consultant for Native and urban communities in the affordable housing arena combined with 14 years of public sector work with the Department of HUD and Department of Interior.

• Leo A. Daly III, chairman and CEO of Leo A. Daly, a U.S.-based international architecture, planning, engineering and interiors firm with 24 offices around the world. Daly leads a team of more than 1,100 design professionals who are responsible for a broad array of architecture and engineering projects in the U.S. and abroad that range from secure facilities for NORAD and the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, to contemporary structures, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, the North Terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.