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Northwest American Indian business at a glance

Juarez assisting tribes at Seattle law practice

SEATTLE - Debora Juarez, former Superior Court judge and executive director of the governor's Office of Indian Affairs, has joined Williams, Kastner & Gibbs in the firm's Seattle office.

Juarez will concentrate on economic development in Indian country, providing legal counsel to tribes and their partners in a variety of business, environmental and regulatory issues.

Williams, Kastner & Gibbs offers a range of legal services to tribal governments, including counsel relating to economic development and inter-governmental relationships with federal, state and local governments. One of its attorneys, Rion Ramirez, Turtle Mountain Chippewa/Pascua Yaqui, is president of the Northwest Indian Bar Association.

Juarez wants to expand the scope and depth of the firm's growing American Indian law and gaming practice.

"Tribes today have sophisticated and complicated legal needs, and Williams, Kastner & Gibbs is uniquely positioned to serve them well," she said in a press statement.

Juarez was raised on the Puyallup reservation and is an enrolled member of Montana's Blackfeet Nation. She received her bachelor's degree in Federal Indian Law/Tribal Law with a minor in Anthropology from Western Washington University in 1983. She received her J.D. degree from the University of Puget Sound School of Law in 1987.

Juarez interned at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, through Santa Clara University's International Law and Human Rights program. She also participated in the University of Washington's Tribal Advocates Training program.

Most recently, she served as an investment banker and financial adviser with Morgan Stanley.

WorkFirst grants help families move toward self-sufficiency

YAKIMA, Wash. - WorkFirst, a state job-training agency, will spend $5,000 for an "Opportunities for Success" Conference for WorkFirst participants in the Yakama Indian Nation.

The conference will bring together WorkFirst participants, employers, community organizations, and tribal and government agencies at a one-day conference. Participants will learn about the resources available to overcome obstacles, find work, become self-sufficient and lead fulfilling lives.

Yakama is one of several Washington communities sharing $31,000 in seed-money grants for projects that move families from welfare to self-sufficiency and strengthen partnerships among local service providers.

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Among the projects funded in other communities: life skills workshops for teens whose parents are on welfare, bus rides for rural residents participating in job preparation activities, and housing sanctions for families who fail to look for work while on public assistance.

"Despite budget cuts and a tough job market, WorkFirst continues to be successful because of local collaboration," said Kelly Lindseth, of the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. Lindseth is WorkFirst's Local Area Planning liaison.

"Communities are demonstrating that with a little seed money and a lot of creativity and determination, they can make a difference."

According to Gov. Gary Locke's office, the number of families on welfare in Washington has dropped 43 percent since WorkFirst began - from nearly 97,000 in 1997 to 55,000 in June 2003. About 2 percent of Washington families receive assistance, the lowest point in more than 30 years, Locke's office reported.

Potlatch Fund raises $200K for economic development

SEATTLE - The Potlatch Fund raised $200,000 in 2003 to promote economic development, natural resource protection, education, cultural preservation, civic participation and overall health of Native people in Northwest Indian country.

The Potlatch Fund is a Native grant-making foundation and a Native leadership-development program. Tribal leaders founded the Potlatch Fund in December 2002 to inspire the Native tradition of giving in Northwest Indian Country, and to partner with mainstream philanthropy.

The Potlatch Fund, a tribally directed non-profit organization, was borne from a collective vision of Northwest tribal peoples at a Wisdom of the Giveaway philanthropy conference in Seattle in 2001.

The Potlatch Fund is now working to connect tribes with private foundations that can provide funding and technical assistance for economic development projects. "Only one-twentieth of 1 percent of foundational dollars typically go to tribes or tribal organizations," said Andrea Alexander, president and co-founder of the Potlatch Fund.

In December, members and employees of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation participated in a two-day grant-writing workshop in Nespelem, Wash.

"It was amazing to see the synergy flowing among the participants," said Colleen Jollie, tribal liaison for the state Department of Transportation. "One person would discuss their project and two or three others would jump in and say, 'Hey, I can help you and here's how I can help you.' It was great."

Potlatch Fund representatives are developing a year-round training schedule in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and, depending on financial resources, Alaska.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at