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Wampanoag Trading Post and Gallery

WASHINGTON — Native-owned small businesses have a new resource for help in dealing with losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The National Congress of American Indians said Monday that it had received $1 million from Google.org, the tech giant’s philanthropic arm, to support a Small Business Stabilization Grant program. 

ncai logoNCAI plans to issue $5,000 grants to 170 Native-owned small businesses that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. Companies can use the funding “to address their most urgent needs,” including making payments on small business loans, maintaining employment, paying vendors, and purchasing equipment or software to enable their business to transition to e-commerce. 

“Native-owned small businesses serve as the lifeblood of many tribal communities across the country,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “These businesses provide critical jobs and income to tribal citizens and their families while at the same time enriching the quality of community life by providing goods and services to local residents and the public at-large.”

The latest initiative follows $250,000 in grants Google.org provided to NCAI earlier this year to offer immediate help for Native-owned small businesses at the onset of the pandemic. The company also is working with NCAI to offer “Grow with Google” training for Native-owned businesses and Native Americans seeking employment. 

According to Google, the digital training will help more than 5,000 Native business owners “to better leverage their online presence by April 2021.” 

In a blog post, Google highlighted the example of Mashpee, Mass.-based Wampanoag Trading Post and Gallery. After receiving support from NCAI in the first round of Google funding, the store, which sells pieces made by Indigenous artists, hired part-time workers and supported an additional six Native artisans.

“The funding helped us expand our business by (allowing us to) acquire new art, hire a part time employee and plan for winter workshops,” owner Danielle Greendeer, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation, told Tribal Business News

Additionally, the store is workshopping and screening Native films, including for the “Mashpee Nine” documentary, which serves part of the business’ mission to educate people about the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. 

“Offering this film to the public at no charge is part of our commitment to educate our community about the history of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” Greendeer said in the blog.  “For the Mashpee Wampanoag people, it is important to tell the history from our perspective and educate the public on the challenges that our Tribe is still trying to overcome. The survival and evolution of our art is an example of how resilient our culture is.”

An application for the Small Business Stabilization Grants is available on the NCAI website. Business owners must provide proof of tribal enrollment, the current annual operating budget for the company, and photos of goods and services. 

The application asks Native small business owners to describe their largest challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan for using the funding and what kinds of non-financial support could help the sustainability of the venture.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated with comment from Danielle Greendeer.