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



Two Native Americans — Joaquin Gallegos and Wizipan Little Elk — joined the leadership team at the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior. Gallegos (Jicarilla Apache Nation/Pueblo of Santa Ana) was named special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Most recently, Gallegos was a law clerk to Judge Allison Eid on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and previously served as a legislative staff attorney to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He also was a legal fellow for former Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as a policy fellow to former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota at the Aspen Institute. Meanwhile, Little Elk — a citizen of the Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) — was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Previously, Little Elk served as CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corp., and formerly was deputy chief of staff to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs.


Real estate

The Gila River Indian Community completed construction on the two-story Blackwater Community School, located southeast of Phoenix, Ariz., according to a statement. Built on a 7.43-acre campus, the $25 million facility includes pre-school, the Family And Child Education Program (F.A.C.E.) and a K-5 grade school and features a classroom building, media center, multi-purpose building and cafeteria. The build-out took place over a two-year period. Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Building Co. served as the contractor on the project, which was designed by Tucson, Ariz.-based Breckenridge Group Inc. Rosendin Electric Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based electrical contractor, also worked on the project. “The Blackwater Community School is the heart of the community and celebrates the Gila River Indian Community’s heritage throughout the year,” Principal Jagdish (Jack) Sharma said in a statement. “Agriculture is at the heart of the Akimel O’Otham culture. Our educators take pride in our quality educational practices and the presence of traditions. This is the reason why traditional symbols of the culture are placed throughout the new campus.”


Higher education

Gordon Henry, an enrolled citizen and member of the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation, was appointed as the inaugural Audrey and John Leslie Endowed Chair in North American Indian and Indigenous Literary Studies at Michigan State University. In the new role, Henry, an internationally recognized writer, will work to “promote the transformational potential of literature,” according to MSU. Henry is a professor of 20th century and contemporary literature, creative writing, and Native American literature within MSU’s Department of English. Since 2005, he has served as the senior editor of the American Indian Studies book series published by the Michigan State University Press and in 2012 founded Indigistory, a community-based digital storytelling project. Henry’s poetry, fiction and essays are commonly taught in American Indian literature courses. Henry joined MSU in 1993. “Most everything associated with the Audrey and John Leslie Endowed Chair in North American Indian and Indigenous Literary Studies position speaks to the work I’ve done in the past and the work I hope to do in the future,” Henry said in a statement. “I also wanted to take this position as a way of foregrounding its future. I hope to set a precedent by having the position filled by a tribally connected writer, scholar, and community-centered tribal citizen.”


Cultural arts

Santa Fe, N.M.-based Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) announced last week that it inducted several new board members: Russell Sanchez (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Elias Gallegos, Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha), JoAnn Chase (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), Walter Lamar (Blackfeet Nation/Wichita Tribe), Angelique Albert (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) and Bill Lomax (Gitxsan). Additionally, L. Stephanie Poston (Sandia Pueblo) was elected as chair of the organization’s board of directors, succeeding Tom Teegarden. The board also selected Lomax to serve as vice chair and Albert as secretary. Scott Malouf will serve as treasurer. SWAIA is a nonprofit that runs the Santa Fe Indian Market, an Indian art event in operation since 1922. 



The board of directors at NAFOA presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Tadd Johnson, Esq. of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians. The award recognizes “our strongest Native American leaders who have brought about positive change for Indian Country,” according to the organization. Johnson serves as the Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations at the University of Minnesota and worked for more than 30 years as a tribal attorney, as well as a tribal court judge, tribal administrator and lecturer. Johnson also worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, including as staff director and counsel to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. Meanwhile, Benjamin currently serves as Chief Executive/Tribal Chairwoman of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, a position to which she was first elected in 2000. She formerly served as chief of staff to previous tribal chief executives and did a one-year stint as vice president of Grand Casino Mille Lacs. Benjamin is also on the board of American Indian Law Resource Center, the Minnesota Board on Aging, Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations, the U.S. Attorney General’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council and the National Indian Gaming Association.



Native Nation Events will hold the third annual Tribal Security Symposium on Oct. 25-26 at the Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine, Calif. The conference will discuss various security-related issues as they apply to tribal casinos, tribal hospitality and other enterprises. Topics include how the pandemic affected security protocols, responding to threats, combatting human trafficking, cloud security monitoring systems, new security protocols implemented in the wake of recent threats, artificial intelligence, and active shooter response, among others. Cost to attend is $795. Visit the event’s website for more information. 



The Native American Agriculture Fund is accepting applications for experienced agricultural producers to join the organization’s board of directors. NAAF says it is seeking applicants who have a leadership background, agriculture producer experience and a history of working with Native agriculture or tribal entities. Knowledge of philanthropy and nonprofit management is preferred. For more information, visit the NAAF website