"Imagine Indian country 1,000 years ago, when we were the only inhabitants of this land. Our tribes had broad systems of commerce, and we bartered with each other for food and goods. Our ancestors developed extensive trade and commerce routes so effective that the U.S. highway system was later built upon them.
Much has happened since then, and those who came before us experienced many devastating losses. Our ancestors had to survive incredible adversity, but they made a way for us to be here today.
Those survival instincts live on in Native American business and tribal leaders today, in our desire to transform economic self-sufficiency for our reservations and Indian communities.
We know this road; we have walked it before. What makes us unique is that we have to overcome barriers to economic development created by federal Indian policy. Our history is a confusing mix of federal actions taken toward American Indians which reflect the goals of either assimilation into American society or extermination. Either way, the effects have been dire on tribal commerce, culture, traditions, languages and lifeways.
We know what it is going to take to get us there. The key to turning around our tribal economies is to do it together. As Native American and Alaska Native people, we are survivors, and we are still here. But to gain true self-sufficiency for our people, we need to grow our own economies by supporting Native business."
Get the Story:
Margo Gray-Proctor: The Power of Indian country – Today. Tomorrow. Together
(Indian Country Today 2/16)