This week, hundreds of Tribal leaders, executives and Native organization representatives descended on Nashville, Tennessee—homeland of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes. To kick off the 2017 AMERIND Risk | National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) Annual Convention & Tradeshow, held June 27-29, AMERIND Chairman Greg Borene delivered a heartfelt welcoming speech and presented NAIHC with a check for $200,000. The contribution honors NAIHC’s ongoing commitment to Native interests and housing in Indian Country.
Borene then introduced AMERIND CEO Derek Valdo to the audience. Prior to joining AMERIND 17 years ago, Valdo served as a development specialist at the Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority. With unique perspective and deep appreciation, Valdo expressed gratitude to Tribal housing employees for their hard work and the many hats that they wear every day. “Thank you again for all of you who work in Indian housing,” Valdo said. “You're a counselor, you're a creditor, you're a social worker, you're a housing manager—you're everything to your community.”
Valdo continued to share his humble roots on the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, growing up in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted housing—the same housing that AMERIND Risk insures today. “I grew up in the houses you built for your Tribal communities; I went to Tribal schools. I got the opportunity to continue onto higher education, because people like you cared enough to build quality, affordable housing for someone like me,” said Valdo, who is serving his 13th year on the Pueblo of Acoma Tribal Council.
Valdo additionally announced the recent $4 million federal E-rate program subsidy to deploy high-speed, broadband Internet to four Pueblos in New Mexico, represented by AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI). Supported by ACI, the funding allows libraries at four Middle Rio Grande Pueblos—Santa Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo and Cochiti—to bridge the connectivity divide.
“We started this venture [ACI] a year ago. It wasn't designed to make money,” Valdo said. “It was designed to make an impact on the economies of Tribal communities. I'm very pleased to say we were successful in our first E-rate application.”
Until now, the Internet revolution, as well as E-rate funding, has disproportionately bypassed Indian Country. Small, rural communities make up the vast majority of Indian Country, Valdo emphasized. Large telecommunications networks aren’t investing in bringing broadband Internet to remote areas. “So we have to do it ourselves. We have to think outside the box,” Valdo said. “I’m very pleased that the [ACI] initiative is bearing fruits.”
The E-rate subsidy to ACI is a huge leap forward for Indian Country. “This is the largest E-rate subsidy in the State of New Mexico this year, and it’s the first self-provisioned Tribal network since E-rate Modernization became an opportunity for Tribes,” said Irene Flannery, Director of ACI. “This is what E-rate was intended to do.”
The benefits of access to high-speed Internet are many: enhanced communication and safety, distance learning, telemedicine, online business and access to a global marketplace. Similarly, the advantages of Internet connectivity in Tribal education systems are limitless. During his speech, Valdo underscored the potential for Tribal language instruction and preservation at Indian schools.
By empowering Tribal schools and libraries to own and operate their own broadband networks through the E-rate subsidy, ACI will also pave the way for these Tribes to lay fiber-optic strands to extend broadband connectivity to Tribal communities. “That is the goal,” Flannery said.
During his general session speech, Valdo also emphasized AMERIND Risk’s substantial growth and positive transformation in recent years. “AMERIND Risk is 31 years old this year,” Valdo said. “We've had our best year ever in claims expenses.” AMERIND paid nearly $34 million in valid claims in 2016. AMERIND’s 2016 revenues reflect a 15% increase over 2015, and AMERIND returned $3.5 million in excess reserves to member Tribes last year. “We know at AMERIND that 100 percent of our revenue comes from Indian Country, so we are keen on hitting our targets,” Valdo said.
Valdo echoed Chairman Borene’s comments, urging attendees to network and share their stories with one another. A common theme throughout the convention and tradeshow is safety—at home and in the workplace. Numerous sessions educate attendees about ways to reduce risk of accident and injury, while highlighting the importance of adopting a workplace safety culture. “We need your help to protect our communities,” Valdo said.
AMERIND will also announce the three winners of its Safety Poster Contest for Native students at the banquet Wednesday evening, awarding each $1,000. The annual contest spreads awareness about risk prevention, like not playing with matches and not texting while driving.
There’s an App for That!
With literally a dozen breakout sessions occurring simultaneously in different rooms at the convention, AMERIND encourages attendees to download the event mobile app to prioritize and organize daily agendas.
Take Time to Meet the AMERIND Executive Team
On Thursday, June 29, from 2:15-3:15 p.m., take advantage of the opportunity to get to know the people behind the company you own. Shake the hand of AMERIND Risk executives including CEO Derek Valdo (Acoma Pueblo) and Chief Strategy Officer Geoffrey Blackwell (Muscogee (Creek)), among others.
AMERIND Risk and NAIHC greatly appreciate all sponsors, and would like to extend a special thank you to top level sponsors of the 2017 AMERIND Risk | NAIHC Conference & Tradeshow: FHLBanks, Virtus Group, Travois, AARP, Cherokee Nation, Interstate Restoration, Tribal Business Journal, BOK Financial, REDW LLC, All About Remodel and Wells Fargo.
Learn more about the 2017 AMERIND Risk | NAIHC Conference & Tradeshow via the mobile app, or visit amerindrisk.org/event/amerind-risk-naihc-conference-tradeshow.
About AMERIND Risk
AMERIND Risk was founded more than 30 years ago by more than 400 Tribes who united and pooled their resources to create AMERIND Risk to keep Indian money within Indian Country. AMERIND Risk provides property, liability and workers’ compensation insurance for Tribes, Tribal governments, Tribal businesses, as well as individual property coverage and employee benefits. It is the only 100% Tribally owned and operated insurance provider committed to Indian Country. In 2016, AMERIND launched a new business line AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI), which helps Tribes obtain high-speed Internet. To learn more about Tribes Protecting Tribes or for an insurance quote, go to AMERINDRisk.org.
Video: AMERIND Risk’s 30 Years
In June, AMERIND Risk also released a video titled “AMERIND Risk’s 30 Years,” celebrating its three decades of success serving Indian Country. The video explores why and how AMERIND Risk formed in 1986, its evolution and expanded services, and why AMERIND’s purpose as a public risk-pool of “Tribes Protecting Tribes” is integral to Tribal sovereignty and the collective self-determination of Indian Country. It’s told through the voices of AMERIND Risk executives including CEO Derek Valdo (Acoma Pueblo) and Chief Strategy Officer Geoffrey Blackwell (Muscogee (Creek)), among others. The video about AMERIND’s history offers insight into the people behind the business built by and for Tribes. AMERIND’s team is invested in sustaining and growing Tribal Nations. “Many times our elders talk about preparing for the next seven generations, preparing for the future. AMERIND has the same vision and passion,” Valdo says in the video.
Watch the video at amerindrisk.org/amerind-risks-30-years.