Hundreds of tribal representatives as well as American Indian advocates and supporters are expected to rally in Washington D.C. on June 16 in front of the U.S. Capitol to bring attention to advancing economic development in Indian country.
This is the second year that the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development will host a regional Reservation Economic Summit, or RES event, in the nation's capital, and the first time that a rally will be held, according to Gary Davis, president and CEO of the National Center, a nonprofit organization that assists American Indian tribes and their enterprises with business and economic development.
"While I think it's going to be a great way to assemble a few hundred people together and have leadership come and be part of it ... all of the folks joining down there will be making affirmative statements about a New Day economically for Indian country and a New Day Now," Davis told ICTMN, referring to the theme of the rally, which is meant to unite Indian country behind an economic development agenda. "I think the time has come for us to expect that we have the capability to move forward and understand and bring into fruition opportunity and determine what that opportunity may be."
Among those expected to take part will be Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who has been an advocate for the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians, Davis said.
The summit, which runs June 15-18, will be the National Center's sixth regional summit. As the National Center was looking to expand its regional summits, Washington D.C. seemed like a natural progression, Davis said.
"Indian country has a very unique relationship with the folks in Washington D.C., and I think that in so many different ways, the conversation always comes back to Washington D.C.,” Davis said.
On June 17, the chairman of the National Center, Derrick Watchman, will testify at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing. Watchman, who is president and CEO of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, will discuss challenges facing tribes and Native-owned businesses and how to overcome those barriers.
Like with past summits, attendees will be able to take part in sessions featuring a variety of topics, including energy, economic diversification, procurement, trade and more. An access to capital fair and an expo focusing on buying Native will also be held at the Washington D.C. RES Summit.
"From a tribal perspective, I think tribes are always looking at how they can increase economy in their communities, and in doing so, how do we reduce the bureaucratic stumbling blocks that keep that from happening in many regards," Davis said, adding improving working relationships with Congress and federal agencies in terms of issues related to Indian country is also a goal.
This upcoming summit will also be the first time that the National Center's Native Edge, an online portal designed to provide a variety of business opportunities in Indian country, will be fully operational, Davis said.Though there was a soft launch of the product earlier, the portal was tweaked based on input from a variety of sources. Now, Davis said, is the time for tribes, Native-owned businesses and others to engage with it.