ver the past decade, “buy local” campaigns have proven to boost community economies throughout the United States. It may begin with a local restaurant buying fresh farm products, such as eggs, dairy and vegetables from the local farmer. In turn, the local farmer buys his farm supplies from the local farm supply store. The local farm store buys local advertising from the local newspaper…and on and on.
Some cities utilize their local chamber of commerce to spur the buy local concept. Other cities, have established non-profits that promote the buy local principle. The premise of buying local goes beyond simply putting more money into the pockets of the local business owners. In most cases, when put into practice, buying local creates jobs because local businesses produce more goods and services.
Imagine how prosperous American Indian tribal economies would be if tribes purchased goods and services from tribal business owners. When gaps are discovered (the lack of goods or service), the tribe would incubate new businesses to fill the gaps in goods and services.
According to statistics released last year from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned businesses comprise 1 percent of the total U.S. economy. With American Indians and Alaska Natives making up 2 percent of the total population in the country, there is room for substantial growth of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned businesses.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye mentions the need for business creation among American Indians in speeches he makes at national American Indian conferences. He says that 80 percent of the contracts he signs on behalf of the Navajo Nation go to non-Native businesses because of the lack of Native businesses.
One area President Begaye does not have to worry about is insurance. The Navajo Nation is among the 400 tribes that purchase insurance from AMERIND Risk, which was founded in 1986. The premise was then and continues to have an insurance company that helps keep Indian money within Indian Country.
AMERIND Risk provides property, liability and workers’ compensation insurance for tribes, tribal governments, tribal businesses, as well as individual property coverage and employee benefits. It is the only 100 percent tribally owned and operated insurance provider committed to Indian Country.
Derek Valdo, president and CEO of AMERIND Risk, shares a vision that includes the possibility of creating a financial institution that is 100 percent owned by American Indian tribes.
“The next big thing I think for AMERIND RISK is our ability to really unite tribes to see that there is power in numbers. I’m actually pretty excited we are having some discussions with some other tribal CEOs and some councils saying, ‘Hey, what if we put all our money together and create a financial banking institution that is 100 percent owned by tribes?’” ponders Valdo.
Whether or not Valdo’s vision comes a reality, AMERIND Risk already is doing its part to keep money in Indian Country. TBJ is proud to feature Derek Valdo (Pueblo of Acoma) in the July cover story, where you can read more about the success of AMERIND Risk.
(Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation)
Levi Rickert may be reached at 616.299.7542 or