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Here is a roundup of business news from around Indian Country.


  • The Valley Center, Calif.-based San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians now has greater autonomy to enter into leases on its reservation. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs last week approved tribal leasing regulations under the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership (HEARTH) Act. Under the HEARTH Act, tribes can seek BIA approval to implement their own set of laws to govern long-term leases of tribal lands, whether for residential, commercial, agricultural, renewable energy or other uses. Once approved, the tribes can sign leases without approval from the Secretary of the Interior. The San Pasqual Band’s HEARTH Act approval marks the 60th such instance in which federally recognized American Indian tribes have secured more control over their sovereign lands and the fifth under the BIA’s recently implemented expedited processing schedule, according to a statement. 


  • The Cherokee Nation signed an agreement to purchase the 162-acre Will Rogers Birthplace Museum in Oologah, Okla. from the Oklahoma Historical Society, The Oklahoman reported last week. Actor and columnist Will Rogers, known as the “Cherokee Kid” and “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” was born at the location on Nov. 4, 1879. The tribe expects to pay about $1 million for the property, which will continue in operation under its Cherokee Nation Businesses division that currently runs seven museums. “No matter how popular he was, Will Rogers was always a Cherokee, and he talked about it,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a report in the Tahlequah Daily Press. “He reminded people every day that there are native people of this land still alive and who remain a vibrant part of America’s tapestry. It is quite fitting that the Cherokee Nation will now have an opportunity to continue telling this story from such a unique perspective.”


  • Akima, a Herndon, Va.-based subsidiary of the Alaska Native-owned NANA Corporation, hired former IBM executive Jean-Francois Blanc as its Chief Growth Officer. Previously, Blanc was in charge of federal sales for tech giant IBM and held prior leadership positions focused on the company’s defense and intelligence markets, according to a statement. Blanc, who will report to Akima President and CEO Bill Monet, will focus on helping the 8(a)-certified federal contractor increase revenues and market share. Akima is an enterprise of the NANA Corporation, which is owned by 14,300 Iñupiat shareholders with roots in a 38,000-square-mile section of northwest Alaska, much of which is located above the Arctic Circle. In addition to federal contracting, NANA also maintains a diversified portfolio of commercial businesses in the mining, oil and gas, health care, education, construction and exploration.


  • Longmont, Colo.-based First Nations Development Institute has issued a request for proposals for its GATHER Food Sovereignty Grant program. The nonprofit plans to award as many as 13 grants — each totaling approximately $32,000 — to help advance “work that contributes to a vision of Native communities and food systems that are self-directed, well-resourced and supported by community policies and systems,” according to a statement. The Indigenous Peoples Fund of the Tides Foundation, based in San Francisco, provided the funding for the program. The deadline to apply is Jan. 14, 2021. First Nations Development Institute is hosting a pair of webinars this month on Nov. 11 and Nov. 17 about the application process. More information is available on the First Nations website.


• The National Indian Gaming Association bestowed its Chairman’s Leadership Award to the FireKeepers Casino Hotel, a gaming venture of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens praised the tribe’s efforts to help feed people in need in the community via The Fire Hub restaurant and Kendall Street Pantry in Battle Creek, Mich. The restaurant returns 80 percent of its profits to local charities. Stevens also cited Firekeepers’ recent inclusion on a Forbes ranking of the top 10 employers in Michigan, as well as the tribe’s efforts to support positive Native imagery throughout the state via its Native American Heritage Fund.