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High-Spirited, Packed-House RES Kicks Off in Vegas

The 2014 National Reservation Summit kicked off in high spirits in Las Vegas on March 18 with a morning full of inspiring speakers, award ceremonies, singers, dancers and drummers.

The 28th annual National Reservation Economic Summit—RES, for short—is taking place at the Mandalay Bay Hotel Convention Center in Las Vegas, March 17-20. While final attendance numbers weren’t available, it looked like a full house gathered in one of the center’s enormous ballrooms for the official opening of the event (forums on various topics were held the previous day). The day began with a blessing by Benny Tso, chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe on whose traditional territory the summit is taking place.

The RES event is hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED), a 45-yer-old nonprofit organization whose overall mission is to help develop and expand both tribal and individual American Indian businesses in the private sector and foster relationships between Indian enterprises and private industry.

The National RES has adopted the Cahokia Mounds located in what is now known as the state of Illinois for its theme and guiding inspiration. Cahokia was a city of 10,000-20,000 from around 1050-1200 C.E. and a bustling center of international trade. The goal of RES and the NCAIED is to create a new Cahokia, NCAIED President Gary Davis told the audience:

“Our people are not new to business. Our people did business before the Greeks, before the Romans, before the Egyptians. . . And our people knew that our spirituality, our tradition and our culture had to be carried forward each step of the way,” Davis said. He said that Cahokia drew people from Central and South America and as far away as New Zealand. “So when we talk about global trade please don’t listen to those words as if it’s something new for us. We’ve been doing that. Let’s remember that we can do that.”

Susan Masten, vice chair of the NCAIED and vice chair of the Yurok Tribe, introduced Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), who presented the Congressional Lifetime Achievement Award to Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) “This award is given to a member of Congress in recognition of heir support of American Indian businesses and economic development in our tribal communities and Alaskan villages. Introducing this tear’s awardee is one of Indian country’s champions,” Masten said of Young, a previous recipient of the award. Young described Thompson as “a friend” and said, “And I’m honored that you’ve presented him with the Congressional Award of Achievement for Alaska Natives and American Indians.” 

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Thompson was glad to hear that a Regional RES event will take place in Washington, D.C., June 24-26. “You need to bring your message to the people that need to hear it.”

Gov. George Rivera of the Pueblo of Pojoaque was given the American Indian Leadership Award. Robin Coffey, owner of Tribal Solutions, received the Native Woman Business Owner of the Year Award. And Ronald Andrade of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission accepted the Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award.

Keynote speaker Victoria Labalme was back by popular demand. A dynamic motivational speaker who combines her talents for acting, dance and mime with personal storytelling, Labalme moves back and forth across the stage, shuffling, bending, reaching, and twisting in constant mesmerizing motion as she uses her body to illustrate her words. Internationally renowned for her trademarked “Keynote Performances,” Labalme’s clients include Fortune 500 executives, sales professionals, entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

“You are more than you’re allowing yourself to be. We all are. And we hold ourselves back in all kinds of ways,” Labalme said as she began her performance. “And that’s what I want to talk about today, specifically, to give you a powerful tool, a powerful technique to tap into your unique gifts and talents, to express who you really are and to expand your business into something quite extraordinary.”

Labalme told a number of personal transformational experiences including how the trauma of the 9-11 attacks and the death of her mother soon after changed her direction from being self-absorbed to focusing outwardly on helping others. She described a near death experience while on a 25-day hike on a glacier in Alaska—“three people on a rope like little ants on a white path of sugar’’—and the crucial importance of trust and working together.

And she talked about the “through-line”—the core value that motivates each person through life—and illustrated it with a question: “If you were the star in a film about your life, what would you say is driving you as a character through your life? Why do you do what you do?”

In business, as in life, the most rewards come from serving the larger good by thinking, “How can I help?” rather than, “How can you help me,” Labalme said. “What is your noble intent? How does your every action whether it’s sending an email, making a call, sending out a promo—serve that?” she said. “Every time you communicate with your kid, your colleague, your employee, your client it’s an opportunity to express what really matters—your through-line—and it will pull business to you like you cannot believe. . . Because in business there’s a philosophy: The more people you help, the more money you’ll make. The more people you serve, the bigger your business will be.”