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Native Students, Business Leaders Honored at RES New Mexico

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Four Native students recently received scholarships from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (the National Center), and the nonprofit also awarded three Native-owned businesses with awards at its Reservation Economic Summit (RES) New Mexico, held at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, on the Pueblo of Pojoaque, near Santa Fe, November 14-17.

The National Center awards four scholarships worth $5,000 each to Native American students – both undergraduate and graduate – and three business awards: The First American Corporate Leadership Award, First American Entrepreneurship Award, and the Jay Silverheels Achievement Award. The nonprofit honored the scholarship winners at a luncheon Wednesday, and business award winners at the Indian Progress in Business (INPRO) gala later that night. Winners of the Native American 40 under 40 were also be celebrated at the gala.

RELATED: National Center Names 40 Emerging Leaders in Indian Country

“These entrepreneurial and corporate leaders are driving the Native American economy, and the scholarship winners will define it in the future,” said Derrick Watchman, chairman of the Board for the National Center. “We are pleased to be able to share and celebrate their accomplishments with all of Indian Country, and look forward to their recognition at RES New Mexico.”

The business award winners are:

First American Corporate Leadership Award:

Tigua Enterprises Inc. (TEI) is the business holding company for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas. TEI’s operations include Facilities Maintenance/Management, Logistics, Supply Management, Retail Operations, Alternative Energy, Aquatic Centers, Border Patrol Security & Force Protection, Medical, Staffing, Fleet Operations and Petroleum Delivery and Distribution. TEI credits its success to the Pueblo people and culture, which is woven throughout its fabric. 

Jay Silverheels Achievement Award:

Mark A. Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, is the long-serving chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, having been elected in 1995. Macarro's vision for the Pechanga people is to see the Band strengthen its political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency by developing a diversified economy while maintaining its distinct and unique cultural identity. Macarro has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a traditional Luiseño singer, singing ceremonial Nukwáanish funeral songs at tribal wakes throughout southern California Indian reservations.

First American Entrepreneurship Award:

Monica Jojola, president of Montech, Inc., established her own company in 2011 after working at Datacom Sciences and Chickasaw Nation Industries (CNI) for more than 15 years. Albuquerque-based Montech was named the Star Client for the Procurement Technical Assistance Program. Montech is a certified SBA 8(a) Woman Owned Small Business and 100 percent American Indian owned. The company provides program management, organizational development, training/instructional design, and strategic planning. Jojola is from the Pueblo of Isleta.

This year’s scholarship winners are:

Keith Carr (Pueblo of Laguna): Keith is majoring in Business Administration at the University of New Mexico, and is expected to graduate in 2017. His plans following graduation include starting his own business and pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Daniel Sherron (Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma): Daniel is pursuing his MBA at Southwestern College in Wichita, Kansas, with an expected completion date in 2017. He has a background in assisting underprivileged Native American families, including administering Indian Housing Block Grants. He hopes to become involved in the tribal business sector, and also teach at the collegiate level.

Amber Tecumseh (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation). Amber is currently in the MBA program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, with expected graduation in 2018. Her concentration is American Indian Entrepreneurship. She previously worked in the accounting department at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort, and aspires to own and manage sustainable businesses in Indian Country.

Fiona Teller (Diné): Fiona is pursuing a master’s in International Development and U.S. Foreign Policy from American University in Washington, DC, with targeted completion in 2018. She is currently working with independently-owned coffee shops, and her goal is to become an expert in diplomatic relationships to help tribal nations in their business development plans.