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Here is a round up of business news from around Indian Country. 

Food & Agriculture

• The Native American Agriculture Fund, a funder of Native agriculture and food programming, is accepting applications for its third annual round of grants through June 1. Up to $15 million in funding will be available for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, community development financial institutions and state and federally recognized tribes. Recipients can apply the funding for a variety of uses, including business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, advocacy, loan capital, regranting capital, agricultural infrastructure, farmer and rancher training, and climate resilience and conservation, among others. More information on the grants and application process is available at the NAAF website.

Tourism

• President Biden signed into law the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which will allow cruise ships traveling between Washington and Alaska a temporary fix under the Passenger Vessel Services Act. Canada’s closure of its waters to passenger vessels essentially would have forced a closure of the Alaska cruise ship industry because the PVSA requires vessels to stop in a foreign country. Many Alaska Native villages rely on cruise ships for tourist traffic to sustain small businesses and artists. “Alaska faced the need for a legislative solution to an outdated law that has threatened to prevent the cruise industry from returning to Alaska,” Russell Dick, president and CEO of Huna Totem Corporation, said in a statement. Dick said the move “will bring meaningful benefit to hundreds of households in Hoonah and tens of thousands of households across Alaska. … On behalf of our 1450 Alaska Native shareholders, our cruise port of Icy Strait Point and our village of Hoonah, thank you. Alaska is now open for business.” Huna Totem Corporation recently partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. to open a second cruise pier at Icy Strait Point, which was scheduled to open in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic. 

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Federal 8(a) contracting

• Milwaukee-based Potawatomi Training, an 8(a) certified HUBZone subsidiary of Potawatomi Business Development Corporation’s Federal Group, has entered into a mentor-protégé joint venture with defense technology contractor CAE USA, according to a statement. The joint venture, known as PTC Solutions JV LLC, will now pursue government contracting set-asides for small businesses. Leveraging Potawatomi Training’s 8(a) certification, PTC Solutions can receive direct Department of Defense contracts valued at up to $100 million and federal civilian contracts up to $22.5 million. “CAE has identified Potawatomi Training as an ideal joint-venture partner because of our small business teaming history, impressive growth, and 8(a) advantage,”  PBDC Federal Group President Greg Kolean said in a statement. “This strategic partnership is precisely the sort of outcome the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program was designed to achieve, and we look forward to partnering with CAE to better serve government customers. 

Higher education

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture awarded a $500,000 grant to the University of Arizona and Diné College to train Navajo youth to be water scientists through hands-on research experience. As well, students at Diné College also will learn about traditional and advanced water and wastewater treatment procedures. Under the program, six Diné College juniors will participate in a 10-week internship and two seniors will work with University of Arizona researchers as research assistants. The three-year program will focus on water sustainability and reusing processed wastewater, which could be helpful in addressing long-term drought concerns, according to a statement.  

Gaming

• Uncasville, Conn.-based Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, a venture of the Mohegan Tribe, last week named tribal member Ray Pineault as its new president and CEO. Pineault had served as interim CEO for the company since the end of March and previously was COO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment and president and general manager of the tribe’s Mohegan Sun Connecticut property. In the new position, Pineault is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the company and growth initiatives. “I have dedicated my career to ensuring the success of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, and I look forward to the immense growth, development and accomplishments we will achieve in this next chapter together," Pineault said in a statement. 

Government

• The Biden administration has named Anthony (Morgan) Rodman the executive director of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, a role he previously served in during the Obama-Biden administration. A member of the Cherokee Nation and Osage Nation, Rodman most recently served as acting director of the Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development. Originally from Oklahoma, Rodman is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Arizona School of Law. “Morgan’s breadth of experience and previous leadership in this role will help him once again successfully lead the administration’s all-of-government approach to strengthening our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribal governments,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

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