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Honoring American Indian Heritage Through Strategic Corporate Service Planning

A column by Timothy Chavez about American Indian-owned businesses

As business leaders and members of our tribal communities, American Indian entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to utilize our corporate service and wellness programs in a way that extend value to and heighten awareness of the rich heritage of our tribes and nations.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 236,967 Native-owned businesses in 2007. These businesses—which exclude enterprises owned by tribes and Alaska Native Regional or Village Corporations—generated more than $34 billion in receipts that year.

The concept is simple. As business leaders bound by Native American traditions and values, we should encourage corporate wellness and service programs that positively contribute to our tribal communities. This action achieves two lasting results:

1) We engage our collective 184,000 employees in meaningful events important to our Native American communities. Under a corporate service program, this might include a book drive for rural American Indian youth or a volunteer day at the local Indian center. Under a corporate wellness program, this might include participation in a walk that benefits a cultural center;

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2) Driven by the underlying values that guide us as business leaders and members of the Native American community, we contribute to the sustainability and longevity of our traditions and culture.

There exist countless organizations, museums and tribal entities dedicated entirely to preserving American Indian and Alaska Native heritage. By simply identifying these entities and planning corporate service events around them, we as Native business leaders are helping preserve the American Indian culture for generations to come.

We have the unique responsibility to honor both our corporate obligations and our tribal heritage. Through simple, yet strategic corporate service planning, we offer our employees a glimpse into our tribal culture while supporting the organizations that preserve it. It is a win-win-win for the nearly 250,000 Native-owned businesses, their employees, and the tribes and nations that most influence our business leaders.

Mr. Chavez is a member of the Pueblo of Acoma and President of Keres Consulting, Inc., a Native American-owned firm that provides federal and tribal agencies with a range of professional services. Mr. Chavez can be reached at (505) 837-2104 or