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Construction in Indian Country Conference Hosts 10-Year Anniversary Event

"Ten years strong" might be the best way to describe this years’ Construction in Indian Country Conference held in Chandler, Arizona April 29 to May 1 at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. The decade anniversary of the conference kicked off with a sold-out golf tournament and 500 registered attendees from over 50 tribes.

This year’s theme Honoring Our Past: Building Our Future was an important concept that was clearly threaded throughout the presentations and discussions that took place among conference attendees. Construction in Indian Country (CIIC) hosts this important forum for tribal members and industry professionals to learn more about all aspects of development in Indian county.

Diane Enos, chairwomen of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, posed an interesting question during a tribal leadership panel discussion: “How do we remain who we are, yet move forward?”

The tribal gaming industry has provided, among other things, the resources and the opportunities for tribes to embark on development throughout their communities. Industry professionals who work closely with tribes have become cognizant of the need to address and maintain a cultural relevance in their construction and project designs. JCJ Architecture, the firm who designed the award-winning Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino where the conference was held this year, has worked closely with Gila River tribal members in the development stages. “The traditional forms of architecture such as the Olas-Ki (Round House), Gu-Ki (Big House) and Vah-Ki (Rain House) are integrated into the overall planning and form of the facility as are contrasting forms and contradictions of the desert environment in which the Gila River Community has thrived for generations,” said Kristina Ennis, JCJ Design Principle.

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CIIC had a humble beginning in 2001, when a few tribal members were recruited on behalf of the Arizona State University (ASU) Office of the President on American Indian Initiatives and Del E. Webb School of Construction (DEWSC) to address how they can better meet the needs of tribal communities. “We needed to grow our own (educated professionals)” was the idea, said Urban Giff (Pima). He, along with three other distinguished founding members: Peterson Zah (Dine’), Wayne Taylor, Jr. (Hopi) and Jefferson Begay (Dine’), all of whom remain on the CIIC Executive Advisory Board today, helped to develop CIIC into a thriving nonprofit organization.

Their on-going goals are focused on educating tribes on the many aspects of construction and supporting Native students who are seeking degrees in the construction trades at ASU. Giff recounted how the fund was started “with a $100 dollar donation and a challenge to match that.” Today the program has raised $350,000 in student endowment funds. This years’ event will help continue to support CIIC’s efforts as they now work toward the development of a Center for Construction in Indian Country at ASU. Many people remain committed to the mission; currently CIIC is guided by an executive board and an advisory council that is made-up of many prominent business members and individuals in the construction and design industry. Their work has offered a necessary element to working with Indian tribes in terms of educating tribal members in all areas of construction to networking with businesses and organizations that serve tribes in the development industries.

This year’s event also added a new component, in collaboration with ASU OSHA Training Institute Education Center; some participants were also able to complete an OSHA certificate training program during the conference. For more information on CIIC email: