Three tribes collaborate for economic summit

WALKER, Minn. - Minnesota;s three largest tribes will host a large economic development summit and trade show meant to benefit Natives from their state and beyond.

The Northern Minnesota Reservation Economic Development Summit & Trade Show will be held Aug. 13 and 14 at the Northern Lights Casino Hotel and Event Center in Walker.

''This is a big event,'' said Lorna LaGue, one of the organizers. ''The lineup is very impressive; we've done a great job of pulling some very important people together for both our keynote presentations and multiple breakout sessions.''

The White Earth, Red Lake and Leach Lake nations, Minnesota's largest Indian nations, have pooled their resources to create this event with the intent of helping the state's entire Native population by educating them and providing them with economic resources. This is the second summit the tribes have organized; the first was held in November 2006 at the Shooting Star Casino.

LaGue said the summit caters to the economic needs of entrepreneurs and tribes who are developing economic development models.

''Educating the business world and public in general is severely lacking throughout the entire state of Minnesota and our region as a whole. There are a lot of misconceptions about Indian country ... we would like to create a buzz and get some good information out about the benefits of locating a business on a reservation or working with tribal partnerships.''

Organizers are optimistic that the event will specifically benefit their region and Native population. Their goals for the summit are ''to enhance business opportunities and foster economic growth from which the Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth tribal nations will develop healthy and self-sufficient communities.''

Along with networking and information sharing, the organizers hope that attendees will identify successful economic development models for tribal governments and strengthen Indian-owned businesses by promoting ''Buy Indian.''

While the event will benefit those individuals with Native businesses or those who are committed to utilizing Native resources, LaGue said the event can be attended by anyone.

''We promote partnerships, thus anyone interested in working [in any aspect] in or with Indian country is welcome to attend.''

The event will feature numerous speakers and breakout sessions.

The keynote speakers come from various backgrounds and will bring with them different degrees of economic knowledge. Megan Minoka Hill is the associate director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development's Honoring Nations Program. She will speak about the importance developing diverse tribal economies, or ''The Lifeblood of Stable Sovereign Tribal Nations.''

The second keynote speaker is Valerie Red-Horse, owner and president of Red-Horse Financial Group Inc. Her topic is ''Make it Happen.'' Since 1978, she has been assisting tribes across North America with their finances and her business has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Small Business and Minority Business Entrepreneur.

Terrance Nelson is chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation. As the third keynote speaker, he will talk about the power of tribal partnerships. The summit itself could be used as an example of cooperative success in Indian country.

Additional speakers include Amy Luz, president/CEO of Microenterprise Network Group, and Allan McLeod, of the Tribal Council Investment Group Ltd.

Dave Anderson, founder of the Famous Dave's of America Inc., will speak about his success as an entrepreneur. Anderson is of Choctaw and Ojibwe descent and his life story has been featured in two New York Times bestselling books.

When attendees of the summit aren't listening to keynote speeches, breakout sessions will be held that focus on a number of economic-related areas. Participants will develop skills in a number of areas including marketing, financing, entrepreneurship, small-business planning and investing.

The organizers believe the sharing of knowledge can be widespread and that the benefits of the summit will reach ''as far as it can possibly go. ... We are interested in working with anyone who can create a win-win situation.''

For more information, visit www.mntribalinitiative.org.