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Published On: Mon, Dec 3rd, 2012

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Holds Inaugural Native American Enterprise Meeting

Dec. 3 | Jared King

Washington Office Director Addresses Economic Development Issues

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today hosted its inaugural meeting of the Native American Enterprise Initiative. The Chamber launched the Initiative on Nov. 29 to promote the interests and agenda of tribes and tribal entrepreneurs. The Navajo Nation is an official member of the Initiative.

Navajo Nation Washington Office executive director Clara Pratte today told members of the Initiative that tribes need the proper tools to overcome regulatory burdens and hurdles in order to create an independent economy.

“The Navajo Nation faces a lot of economic hurdles. It can be very difficult to try to get economic development off the ground and running. The Native American Enterprise Initiative goes to the heart of what we feel is sovereignty and self-determination,” Pratte said.

“Tribes and tribal enterprises across the country face a unique set of economic opportunities and challenges as entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Indian Country continues to grow,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for Congressional and Public Affairs Rolf Lundberg in a news release issued last week.

Joining Pratte at the inaugural meeting were Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. Other tribal partners and enterprises present included the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the Native American Contractors Association, and the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.

Pratte thanked Senate and House members for their support of the American Indian Empowerment Act, and the Department of the Interior for the BIA leasing and regulatory reforms in Indian Country.

“When we reduce regulatory burdens, we succeed. We see an increase in employment and economic development. We see this initiative as a way to move forward, especially now when we’re dealing with an uncertain federal fiscal climate,” Pratte said.

Two thirds of the Navajo Nation’s operating funds come from the federal government. With Congress days away from a looming ‘fiscal cliff’ deadline of Dec. 31, the Navajo Nation continues to prepare for an uncertain fiscal outlook.

“We can talk about treaty and trust responsibilities, and how important it is for the federal government to fulfill those obligations, and it is critically important, but at the end of the day those treaties and trust responsibilities don’t write the checks, and the funds provided are often not enough. We need to increase our own private enterprises on our own tribal nations. We need to ensure that our own independent small business owners are not overly burdened with further tribal regulations. This means improving our own internal processes to make the best tax, regulatory and legal environment to create a private enterprise,” Pratte added.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Holds Inaugural Native American Enterprise Meeting