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A National Association Focused on Human Resources in Indian Country Has Big Plans to Expand

A human resources-focused organization for Indian Country wants to grow its impact and reach. Founded by four Tribes in 1996 as a grass-roots effort, the National Native American Human Resources Association (NNAHRA) provides education, networking and resources to human resources professionals across the country — including offering crucial Tribal Human Resources Professional Certification. Today NNAHRA is more than 2,000 members strong, and attendance at the association’s annual conference consistently exceeds 500 people.

The NNAHRA Board of Directors recently announced plans for strategic expansion. It’s assembling a new advisory council to help catalyze the growth.

Tal Moore, a descendent of the Pueblo of Isleta who has worked in Indian Country throughout his 30-year professional career, will help NNAHRA carry out its mission and introduce bold, new HR initiatives. Appointed NNAHRA Director of Development, Moore will spearhead NNAHRA’s evolution from holding one annual conference to hosting additional regional summits at Tribal properties nationwide throughout the year. He also intends to increase NNAHRA membership substantially.

“We look forward to gaining many new members and composing an advisory council of passionate people ready to share in our mission of streamlining Tribal human resources across the nation,” Moore told Native Business.

The two-day, complimentary summits for HR professionals in Indian Country will cover topics like Tribal policy-making, compensation, benefits, training and development, employee relations, and potentially technology and Human Resource Information Systems.

“The summits will be regional to some degree but national in the sense that anyone can attend them. We’re looking to start this year with one summit and build more in the future — possibly hosting two to three summits in 2020. We’ll look to expand based on demand and interest,” Moore said.

For people who want to grow their knowledge of HR in Indian Country beyond the events, NNAHRA will deliver what it’s calling “cornerstone training sessions” online — free to members and available at a cost for non-members. Moore anticipates NNAHRA will launch those sessions in May or June this year.   

As Director of Development, Moore will drive NNAHRA’s efforts to increase membership — targeting more HR directors and HR employees at Tribal governments and enterprises, though the organization will strongly focus on drawing Tribal leadership participation.

“We have real solid membership from most of the HR departments across Indian Country. A solid estimate is about 75 percent of all Tribes are represented at NNAHRA. What we’re looking to do is expand that membership to other HR directors and staff members, and Tribal leadership. We’re focused on getting our elected officials more familiar with HR. We’re also looking to expand among other teams that work with HR internally, like finance,” Moore said.

The NNAHRA Board

NNAHRA business is conducted by an elected Board of Directors, who serve two year terms on a volunteer capacity. The NNAHRA by-laws require that anyone serving on the board additionally work directly for a Tribe.

“They can’t be a consultant or a business owner that’s providing work for the Tribe,” Moore explained. “I share that because these board members, being volunteers, have full-time jobs. They work full-time in HR across Indian Country. For example, Judy Wright, who is the president of the board, is the vice-president of human resources for Valley View Casino & Hotel [owned by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in Valley View, California]. You also have Suzanne Clem, NNAHRA treasurer, who is the training/employee development manager for Wildhorse Resort and Casino [located on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon].”

The board’s primary focus has been orchestrating and driving attendance to NNAHRA’s annual conference. “We’ve never missed a conference. It’s grown from 40 people to over 500 HR professionals in Indian Country and Tribal leaders,” Moore said.

The seven-member elected board will appoint the advisory group. Elected advisory board members will likewise serve two-year terms, and they can be reinstated for years in continuation.

“We’re looking at six professionals [for the advisory board] to start. We’re looking at professionals in HR, as well as those who are not in HR, because we know we need some guidance and some leadership in areas outside of HR to be a robust group. We already have HR professionals; now we are looking at people in marketing, public relations, finance and grants administration — and people who have been elected to state or federal office. We’ve made some movement on the dial. There are two women in congress now who are Tribal members, and we’d like to see if they would be interested in participating in the advisory group,” Moore noted.

While praising the board, Moore added that a point of pride for the association is that NNAHRA assisted Indigenous relations in Canada in establishing their HR association. “Several years ago, a First Nations member attended our conference and loved what she experienced. She approached the NNAHRA Board, and she asked us how to start an association in Canada. Now she is the president of CAHRMA, which stands for Canadian Aboriginal Human Resources Management Association. We go to each other’s conferences. It’s really wonderful that we don’t think about the boundaries. Of course, the laws are different, but what we deal with in HR regarding the human factor is the same. We take pride in our partnership with CAHRMA,” Moore shared.  

Tal Moore, NNAHRA Director of Development, said that NNAHRA is looking to expand its 2,000-plus membership base with more HR directors and HR staff members, and the organization is strongly focused on growing Tribal leadership participation. (Courtesy NNAHRA for Native Business)

Tribal Human Resources Professional Certification

In recent years, the NNAHRA Board has channeled its focus into offering Tribal Human Resources Professional Certification (THRPC).

The THRP Certification Program, introduced about eight years ago, provides an opportunity for HR professionals to become trained in crucial HR topics, issues, laws and regulations unique to Tribal organizations and enterprises.

“More than 1,000 people have received THRPC certification by completing the four-day program, and passing the exam. The certification is critical, because HR in Indian Country is vastly different from HR at other small companies or corporations. THRPC sets a standard for the Tribal HR industry,” Moore explained.

NNAHRA’s greater goal is to eventually be at the national table for human resources regulations and law.

“Because federal laws for employment are almost all silent as to the applicability to Tribes, it’s a great opportunity for the Tribes to establish what those rules and codes should be for the Tribe. But it’s challenging because some Tribal leaders don’t understand that. They lead by policy or handbook, and it puts a lot of gray in the interpretation for HR people. That’s why THRPC and NNAHRA are so important,” Moore underscored.

As NNAHRA shifts into higher gear, the organization will begin to fill staff positions, in addition to enhancing its website — streamlining access to membership resources and information. Moore intends to develop at least a couple new positions by the end of the year, pending Board approval. “It will be up to the board to approve them, but one position would be for an event planning manager who would work on the conference and summits. Another position would be a grants administration manager. By the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, we’re looking to add two to four staff members,” Moore said.

NNAHRA’s 23rd Annual Conference takes place September 23-25, 2019, at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The venue is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. NNAHRA’s regional summits will likewise be hosted at Tribally owned properties.

Funding Organizational Growth

Among the many ways NNAHRA hopes to fund its expanded initiatives is through receiving grants. That involves some organizational shifting. “Right now, we are a 501(c)6 which means that it is a non-profit established for the benefit of members only. We’re looking to take that to a (c)3, so we can expand the benefits for NNAHRA, and obtain grants and work on training and development programs and workforce development programs,” Moore said.

Moore spoke broadly to the organization’s general priorities:

“We’re looking for partners in the advisory group to be a compliment to HR. The ultimate goal for this year and next is to get the board members at a national table, so the board can attend conferences outside of NNAHRA and be a voice for HR. For example, in a couple of weeks we’re joining NAFOA. Judy Wright and I are going to NAFOA to meet with Dante [Desiderio], their Executive Director, and Jennifer [Parisien], their Financial Management Policy Specialist, and have them mentor NNAHRA as to how NAFOA has progressed. NAFOA was in the same place as us about five or six years ago where they did not have staff; it was a voluntary group, and they hired Dante. From there, they now have five or six employees in varying capacities. We’re looking to join in partnership with NAFOA, because HR and finance have a lot of complimentary focuses. The partnership with NAFOA is not formalized. We are looking at them as a mentor,” Moore said.

About Tal Moore, NNAHRA Director of Development

Moore has worked with Tribes for nearly three decades, primarily in the space of human resources, organizational development, strategic planning and performance improvement.

He’s served in roles directly for several Tribes — as Chief Organizational Development Officer for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ Economic Development Authority and as the Chief HR Officer for the Pueblo of Sandia. While holding the chief administrative officer role for a Navajo Nation hospital, he helped the institution transition from Indian Health Services’ oversight to Tribal ownership. “We took them through self-determination and self-governance, and now they are a very successful operation,” said Moore, who then replaced himself with a Navajo member. Whenever Moore plays a consultant role, it’s for “knowledge transfer,” he explained, “and if I’m an employee, it’s about succession planning to get a Tribal member qualified and trained to take these positions.”

Moore additionally assisted the Grand Ronde Tribe in Oregon with managing their clinic.

Just prior to starting with NNAHRA in his new capacity as Director of Development, Moore worked for REDW, a well-known CPA and business advising firm with offices in Albuquerque and Phoenix.

Moore has been elected to the NNAHRA board for three terms, including one as president of the board. “When NNAHRA started looking at building staff, I raised my hand and volunteered, and that’s where I am today,” he said.

Among Moore’s goals at NNAHRA is to “enhance our revenues so we can provide more member services across Indian Country,” he said.

“The board of directors is thrilled to have Tal Moore as our Director of Development. We are confident that with his knowledge, dedication and commitment to NNAHRA and together with our Advisory Board, we are closer to each and every goal we’ve made to elevate the education, resources and benefits for our members,” said Judy Wright, President of Board of Directors of NNAHRA.

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