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Prospering Ourselves as Tribes Across Indian Country, USA

Prospering Ourselves as Tribes Across Indian Country, USA
Terrance H. Booth, Sr., Nishwilgun, Tsimshian Nation

The purpose of this article is to directly show the Alaska Native and Native American Tribes on opportunities of becoming an Economic Driving Force for Tribal Economic Development and direct enrichment of Indian Country, USA Tribal economies. This writer’s late father once said, “Tribal economic development in reality would be a re-discovery of who we are as tribal people." (Quote Ira C. Booth, Tsimshian Tribal Historian, Tsimshian Nation)
If we look within ourselves as tribal people and fully realize that we can readily discover that we can enrich ourselves as tribal peoples. Look at the buying power of Native American peoples from all of Indian Country, USA: “Native Americans’ buying power has increased from $19.6 billion in 1990 to $87.3 billion in 2010, and is projected to climb to $147.7 billion in 2017.” [1]
Several Alaska Native and Native American Companies or Corporations are tapping into tribal buyers and now are listed among Fortune 500 companies out doing other corporations who do not fully realize the buying power of Indian Country, USA. So we enrich ourselves by buying Native and in this day and age there is more Alaska Native and Native American Companies or Corporations that are being very successful.
Questions for reality check of what is available on tribal lands? Where do the people of any reservation go to buy groceries? Some tribes have partnered with grocery store chains who have located their stores on tribal lands. For several of the Indian Reservation consumers grocery stores are usually located off-reservation settings and this means tribal consumers have to go off-reservation to go by their groceries. Going off the Indian Reservation Settings means there is an economic leakage with dollars being spent off-reservations settings and a tribe has a poor tribal economy. What would be better is to have Native Grocery Stores strategically placed in prime locations on our Indian Reservations. This would keep the dollars spent within reservation settings and will start to improve the local tribal economy. Goal is to buy local from local owned and operated Native Companies.
Definition of economic leakage: “The exit of money from the economy through leakage results in a gap between what is supplied and what is demanded. If consumers spend their income outside of their community or country, then businesses must look elsewhere to make up for the loss of funds.” [2] Means dollars are not spent within a tribal economic setting and leaves the reservation instead of staying within a tribal economy. An Arizona non-profit did a recent study on buying local and what it means to the City of Phoenix Economy. Short summary in few words: “For every $100 dollars spent with locally $73 dollars stays in the local economy and $27 dollars leaves. $100 dollars spent in non-local company $43 dollars stay in local economy and $57 dollars leaves. Local works: In western Michigan, a 10% shift of spending from chains to locally-owned businesses would create nearly $140 million in new economic activity, add over 1600 new jobs to the area, and provide over $50 million in new wages.” [3]
What does buy local do for local tribal economy? “Buy Local -- Support yourself: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms -- continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.” [4] More on buying local: “Often the buy local campaign is linked to buying local food and agriculture products. With the thought when you make your purchases directly from a farmer, then the farmer then spends that money within the local community. But the ‘buy local’ isn’t just restricted to agricultural products. When you as the consumer and buyer spend your money at local, independent grocers, hardware, printing, or garages, and if these business owners and their employees spend their dollars at local independent restaurants, clothing shops, hair salons, lumber yards etc. Those dollars circulate within the community, and the greater sales tax revenues are garnered within your local community. The impact from $1 spent can ripple and multiply 2.5 to 8 times around increasing economic activity closer to home.” [5]
Question where does tribal government gets it office supplies? Is it bought from a Native Company or non-Native Company? Is the office supply company a local business or a national corporation? Consulting Services contracted by tribal government is it a non-Native Company or a Native Company? Consulting Services is it a local or national company? Utilities which is a huge economic leakage for tribes not having their own tribal utility company and tribes not having their own tribal utility company means dollars leave the reservation setting prospering off-reservation company instead of prospering a tribal utility company. Same question for Native Schools where does food services or purchases come from a non-Native Company or a Native Company? Same with all the tribal entities: where do they buy goods and services non-Native or a Native Companies? Are these companies local or national companies?
Studies showing economic impact of buying local: “In this study, Civic Economics analyzed data from fifteen independent retailers and seven independent restaurants, all located in Salt Lake City, and compared their local economic impact with four national retail chains (Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Office Max, and Target) and three national restaurant chains (Darden, McDonald’s, and P.F. Chang’s). The study found that the local retailers return a total of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14 percent for the national chain retailers. Similarly, the local restaurants recirculate an average of 79 percent of their revenue locally, compared to 30 percent for the chain eateries. What accounts for the difference? In a handy graphic, Civic Economics shows the breakdown. Independent businesses spend more on local labor, goods procured locally for resale, and services from local providers. This means a much larger share of the money you spend at a locally owned store stays in your local economy, supporting a variety of other businesses and jobs.” [6]
Arizona non-profit leads the way in buying local and the results: “SCF also provides high quality jobs to hundreds of workers and supports the local economy with millions of dollars each year in vendor purchases, creating a very significant economic impact in the region and the state. The fact that SCF Arizona makes a sizeable share of vendor purchases from Arizona companies greatly increases the multiplier effect in terms of the share of economic benefits that stay in Arizona. These local vendors, in turn, are also more likely to make purchases in-state, resulting in a cascade of economic benefits to the state.” [7]
This means if our Tribes across America can start businesses within reservation settings to stop the economic leakages of the reservation settings and with our Native buying power of $147 Billion by 2017 we can very much implement becoming the Native Economic Driving Force for Tribal Economic Development with direct enrichment of Indian Country, USA Tribal economies.

1. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, The Multicultural Economy 2012 (Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, 2012).
5. Ibid

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