American Indian Investments

Friday, August 21, 2015

Enclosed in this report is an article by Jason Campbell, published in the monthly journal, Green Money. Jason began with an MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship at Gonzaga and has carved out a niche in the field of sustainable and responsible development. He was a catalyst for a project to build 20 “Leed Platinum” homes (very green) in the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana (Haven Gourneau, another of our Gonzaga graduates, is President of the Tribal College there). Jason has also assisted the Spokane Tribe to codify the principle of FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) with respect to development, especially mining on the Reservation. His story should be instructive to the upcoming Grant Program Committee meeting.

Our September Grant Program Meeting deals with all aspects of the Foundation’s grant making but the focus is on American Indians. This year we will entertain proposals from Dalhousie University in Halifax and the Center for American Indian Economic Development, part of the Franke School of Business at Northern Arizona University. We will also hear an update from Dr. Carlana Lindeman of the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative on the Principal’s Course. Sherry will give an update, which will include the Generation Indigenous Initiative and we will also have an update on Gonzaga’s Summit on American Indian Entrepreneurship next year, which will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the MBA-AIE first cohort’s graduation from Gonzaga.

September’s meeting will also discuss a “landscape” of Indian Country and where our programs fit within that landscape. This will be an opportunity to consider our strategy and the investments we have made.

For about 20 years we have focused on business and entrepreneurship education as a catalyst for economic development on Indian Reservations. However, we have always been willing to make investments outside of those confines when opportunities have presented themselves. Our investments in The Lakota Fund, CAPE and the CDFI Network, for example, are compelling from an economic development view but less so for education. Similarly, our investment in the Principal’s Course and the Dalhousie University proposal are not directly related to economic development.

Should we draw a tighter line and invest only in business and entrepreneurship education that is likely to lead to economic development on Indian Reservations? Or should we take a broader view that the trickle-down effect of education will lead to economic development? Should we have a view on funding on the reservation versus funding off the reservation? Does it matter to the Foundation whether or not native youth return to the reservation, advance American Indian causes from off the reservation or do neither? Discussion of these – and other questions that will arise - will help us hone our strategy for American Indian Programs.

Jason Campbell’s story is instructive because it begins with his graduation from a program that the Foundation pioneered to serve its strategy of business and entrepreneurship education as a means to economic development. In Jason’s case it did not lead to economic development (the way that we envisioned) but it nonetheless epitomizes empowerment, which is at the heart of Foundation grant making.