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  • Writer's pictureRandy Soulier

Conducting Business in Indian Country

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

I find it fitting to share a subject I've been asked several times. "What is unique about working with tribes?" Below I'll share a story developed when I served on the board of directors for a county economic development corporation. The publication, #Business in Focus, had the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation being featured and had asked me to share thoughts on behalf of the tribal development corporation I was working for, the LDF Business Development Corporation (LDF BDC). The writer of the publication had asked for some background of the tribal corporation and what does it mean for us in the region and working with the Vilas County EDC. I shared that the interview was one of many examples of how the region and its leaders are coming together to put our best foot forward. #Relationships are strengthening and providing us with more horsepower as we work together to build momentum toward positive outcomes for the region, vs in silos that duplicate and not necessarily complement each other. What makes the #tribal corporation unique is as Native Americans, we walk in two worlds. One foot in modern America and the other foot planted in Tribal Culture. As an executive, then at the LDF BDC, each world influences our approach to creating jobs and revenue as the non-gaming arm of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. We constantly take inventory of where we come from in terms of Tribal People. Our Native culture and traditions are very well protected, as is our language. Ours is a world of traditions and cultural values we work to honor in our personal lives and professional decision-making. The Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Ojibwe provide guideposts. These include taking care of the environment and each other and making decisions based on how we believe it will impact people seven generations from now. We also seek sovereignty in a modern world. Our hunting and gathering traditions remain alive and strong in our culture. But the demands of modern society also require a diverse approach to creating a self-sufficient, sustainable community now and for generations to come. This is a world where diversified business interests provide jobs and revenue required for a community to not only survive but thrive. There’s likely nothing more modern than conducting e-commerce. Once you have access to the world in terms of high-speed broadband internet, it’s phenomenal how you can scale your businesses. And not only e-commerce but with hi speed access, going to college, reaching for graduate studies or holding a professional career without leaving home by working remotely are easily accessible.

Without question, there’s a pull between the two worlds I reference. It requires constant vigilance to ensure we are true to our core cultural values while building a solid foundation of diverse businesses that allow us to create jobs and revenue required for sound economic footing now and into the future.

That is why the LDF has partnerships with county EDCs, community action groups and many others outside the boundaries of Lac du Flambeau. From an economic view It’s a rising tide that raises all ships. From products and services, knowing how to come together bridges the worlds and it results in commerce and programming growth.

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