Harvard Honors Blackfeet
| Honoring Nations|
Harvard honors Blackfeet
By Jared Miller, Great Falls Tribune, November 3, 2005
|Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. || |
Blackfeet Tribal Councilman Fred Guardipee was on hand to receive the award.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who was in Tulsa for the annual meeting of the National Congress of American Indians, also attended the ceremony.
Created by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in 1999, Siyeh Development Corp. was based on what was then a radical concept.
The tribal council essentially agreed to relinquish power over tribal money-making enterprises to a private, tribal-owned corporation and its board of directors.
The idea worked.
Siyeh quickly turned the tribe's ailing bingo hall from a money sieve with a history of gaming violations to a moneymaker.
In the next six years, the corporation bought or created five other businesses, including the heritage center, a cable TV company and a bottled water company.
People involved with the project say the model works because it keeps tribal politics out of tribal business. That's not always the case when the tribal council has direct control.
The corporate model also emphasized profit over job creation, and actually increased reservation employment.
Siyeh Development now employs more than 100 people, and in 2004 had an annual payroll of more than $1 million.
The corporation is owned completely by the tribe. The tribal council appoints the board members.
The road to success hasn't been without bumps. One major obstacle has been convincing tribal members that it's a good idea to let Siyeh run tribal business affairs.
Some elders, long acquainted with a system that puts the word of the tribal council above all else, are suspicious of the new system. Partly for that reason, Siyeh has been the focus of controversy on the reservation.
Darrell Kipp, the Harvard-educated chairman of the Siyeh Development Corp. Board of Directors, said it's now becoming clear that Siyeh is an integral part of the tribal government.
"I think the award, although it is to Siyeh, represents an award to the Blackfeet Nation itself for its foresight to move ahead in a business-like way to develop its resources," Kipp said.
The award comes with a $10,000 purse. The money is to be used to help other tribes learn from Siyeh's successes.
Fitzpatrick said Siyeh will come up with a plan for the money, which must be approved by the Harvard organization.
The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development was founded in 1987 to understand and foster social and economic development among American Indian nations.
The awards program is five years old and is co-directed by Manley A. Begay, Jr., Joseph P. Kalt and Stephen Cornell.
Reach Tribune Regional Reporter Jared Miller at (406)791-6573, (800) 438-6600 or at email@example.com.
Honoring Nations Press Release
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