Carmen Davis Speaks to Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure During Indian Country Business Leaders Panel

Native Business Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor Carmen Davis (left), an enrolled member of the Makah Tribe and also Chippewa-Cree and Yakama, recently spoke on a virtual panel entitled Indian Country Business Leaders for Biden. She participated at the request of Clara Pratte (right), Diné, Tribal Engagement Director for the Biden campaign.

Indian Country leaders connected virtually July 30th with Clara Pratte, Diné, Tribal Engagement Director for Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign, to discuss economic development, infrastructure and entrepreneurship in Tribal communities. 

Carmen Davis, Native Business Publisher and Executive Editor, President of Davis Strategy Group and Owner of Native Style Clothing, was joined by Patrice Kunesh, Director of Pehín Haha Consulting; Lance Morgan, Ho-Chunk, Inc. CEO; and Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and Congressman Raul Grijalva also participated in the panel discussion.

Davis brought her unique perspective as a Native American entrepreneur who has traveled Indian Country extensively for 21-plus years, visiting hundreds of Tribal Nations and engaging in conversations about economic diversification, innovation and sustainable business growth with Tribal leaders, executives and small business owners. 

“I’ve visited so many Tribes and have seen first hand the great Tribal business successes across Indian Country and the strides we have made as Native people in economic development,” Davis shared during the virtual panel. “But I have also seen the challenges and witnessed the frustration of so many who just can’t seem to get ahead.” 

Native Business, Davis explained, provides a platform to showcase Tribal success stories, while highlighting challenges “in the hopes that together we can build better opportunities for the future generations of Indian Country,” she said. “In short, we can proactively change the narrative.” 

As part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, focused on building back the economy better than it was before the COVID-19 crisis, the Presidential candidate has committed to ensuring equity in bold infrastructure and clean energy investments. “Crumbling infrastructure is a barrier to growth and prosperity,” his plan states. 

Infrastructure is absolutely vital. Infrastructure is the backbone of economy and business,” said Davis, acknowledging, “As you all are aware, the needs of each community run the gamut.” 

Pivotal to Biden’s campaign promise is providing water infrastructure for clean, safe drinking water across Tribal lands, and deploying or granting Tribes access to reliable, affordable, and high-speed Internet for their jobs, businesses, distance learning, emergency services, telehealth and more. 

Households without access to broadband are locked out of an economy that is increasingly reliant on a virtual connection. “We need to connect the dots on broadband, housing, roads, water, and healthcare etc… so that we can fully function as sustainable Tribal Nations and create true economies in all of our communities,” Davis underscored. 

Davis asked the hard questions, such as: “How can we effectively run a business or Tribe without the ability to have our basic needs met?”

Indian Country is committed to self-sustainability, self-sufficiency and self-determination, and the pursuit requires access to 21st Century infrastructure. 

“We just need the tools. We cannot do this with our hands tied behind our backs,” Davis stated. 

“Investing and building Tribal Infrastructure is the cornerstone in building long-term prosperity for Indian Country,” she continued. “A strong infrastructure allows our people to create true economies on our reservations and allows us to keep hard-earned Native dollars circulating amongst, and benefitting, our people.”

“However,” Davis articulated, “we need robust support from a President who understands the needs of Indian Country, and is willing to fight for that.”

She expressed the need for a President who understands Indian Country and identified ways that Native Nations will benefit from federal support. Indian Country requires: 

  • meaningful large-scale and comprehensive funding of Tribal infrastructure across Indian Country, 
  • removal of barriers to technical assistance for Native entrepreneurs and support for Indigenous small business growth,
  • support for the Minority Business Development Agency and the work it does for minority small businesses in Indian Country, and
  • commitment to the Credit Reinvestment Act truly including Indigenous people, and mandating banks and financial institutions provide a statement outlining their commitment to serving all communities.

“It is imperative that we have a President and administration that respects Tribal sovereignty and our treaties and allows Tribes to self-determine their own futures so that our younger generations are provided a better and more prosperous future,” Davis said. “As an indigenous woman, a mother, a wife, and a business owner, I want to see all Indigenous people prosper, and become self-sufficient and reclaim our self-sovereignty — just as our ancestors claimed their self-sovereignty each and every day of their lives.”