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Giving Back to Indian Country: The Higher Mission of AMERIND Risk (advertorial)

Whoever coined the phrase “Indian Giver” owes Indian Country an apology in more ways than one. While often seen largely as recipients of philanthropy, many Tribes and Tribal entities report giving millions of dollars in cash and kind to Native American groups and individuals as well as to neighboring non-Indian communities.

Because most of this giving goes largely unnoticed, it is critical to shine a light on the unheralded heroes like AMERIND Risk, for whom philanthropy is not just lip service, it's a way of corporate life. In its own words, “It's our higher mission.”

A 100-percent, Tribal-owned entity created in 1986, AMERIND Risk has raised more than $150,000 for its Protecting Tribal Families Emergency Fund through its annual golf tournament alone since the event’s inception in 2004. The fund’s purpose is to assist uninsured American Indians when disaster strikes.

This year, though, on the tails of its annual golf tournament, the only-100 percent, Tribally- owned insurance provider will donate monies raised to two additional beneficiaries: the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. The highly successful 13th Annual Protecting Tribal Families Golf Fundraiser was held on April 27 at the Twin Warriors Golf Club on the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico—AMERIND's own exquisite back yard.

At the fundraiser, Native philanthropist and four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III showed up to create awareness of the critical needs. He said he was also pleased to “walk side-by-side” with Derek Valdo. “He's evolved into one of the brightest young CEOs in Indian Country while leading AMERIND Risk,” Begay remarked. “I appreciate his willingness to take a thorough approach to serving our communities and am proud to be affiliated with AMERIND Risk and their initiatives.”

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Maddison Long, age 10, a bronze medalist in the 2016 Junior Olympics, a participant in Begay’s NB3 Foundation junior golf program, and Junior Pro for the tournament, raised $570 for beneficiaries. Teeing off for 57 participants at Hole 15, she shot best ball 20 times for much older, male golfers. “I'm just really good at swinging a golf club,” she admitted. At this rate, she'll soon be an individual philanthropist in Indian Country.

Course host Lawrence Montoya, the Governor of the Santa Ana Pueblo, expressed support for “the program that AMERIND is perpetuating.” Montoya said, “It was great to have the festivities at the golf course, but also to have the sister Tribes present to support it as well.”

Ron Solimon, from the Laguna Pueblo, who serves on the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) board of directors, played in support of stopping violence against women. He was not alone. His particular interest was due to the influence of and appreciation for the leadership of Deleana OtherBull, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. He credited her with being an outstanding young leader, and praised her as a strong educator about violence in Native communities. “The more educated we become about domestic violence against Native women and women in general, the more we can apply and draw from to make us better human beings and protectors,” Solimon said. “We need to apply what we learn to our past and future interactions and experiences as Native American males in order to effect changes in our behavior toward women—individually and collectively.”

But AMERIND’s giving doesn't stop at the 18th hole. AMERIND’s Board has a corporate philosophy of giving back to Tribes, to the tune of nearly $500,000 each year. It annually allocates these funds to Native organizations, such as the National American Indian Housing Council, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and the National Congress of American Indians, plus another $45,000 for Native American scholarships. AMERIND also has a perpetual Community Outreach program that provides modest donations for projects that educate Native Americans on risk and home safety, or otherwise improve and protect the lifestyles of Native American families. And since 1993, it has awarded $1,000 to each of the three winners annually from its National Safety Poster Contest for Native American Youth.

AMERIND's stellar insurance service and management practices result in returns of millions of dollars in reserves to member Tribes that they in turn can donate or otherwise use for Tribal development. With that business acumen and integrity, in addition to this annual event, AMERIND comes full circle with its founding principle of “Tribes Protecting Tribes.” AMERIND is now looking forward to the bounty next year will bring for Tribes as it further expands into helping Tribes build broadband networks using the same philosophy and concepts that have afforded it such remarkable success to date.