National Conference Advances Native American Construction Education

Indian Health Service, Principal Deputy Director, Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee addresses the conference attendees during the lunch general session keynote on Thursday, November 7.

Architects, Engineers, Planners, Lawyers, Contractors and Tribal Government Officials delivered the latest in industry trends, policies and best practices in their respective and specialized fields of knowledge last week at the Construction in Indian Country 2019 National Conference.

Positioned to assist industry practitioners, Tribal government agencies/divisions, and Tribal enterprises for building in Indian Country, the conference provided opportunities to learn, network, share stories and honor Tribal sovereignty, Nation-centered building and past accomplishments.

This year’s Trailblazers in the “Built Environment” were put front and center during the talking circle discussion, keynote addresses, achievement awards and breakout sessions. Conference attendees had full access to presenters between sessions and during the welcome and tradeshow receptions. 

Tribal leaders such as Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez joined the Talking Circle to discuss policy, economic development, infrastructure, Indian gaming and upcoming construction projects. “On the Navajo Nation there is a big influx of money. We want to leverage those dollars, there is money available,” Nez explained.


“There is an opportunity, while we are trying to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. and to take advantage of [the] Buy Indian Act,” he continued. “We need to step back and look at where the opportunities are, look at what can we [build] on the Navajo Nation that can benefit everyone.” 

Moreover, top government officials such as Indian Health Service (IHS) Principal Deputy Director Rear Admiral (RADM) Michael D. Weahkee addressed upcoming construction projects in the southwest region, such as clinics and hospitals mandated and budgeted by the current administration.

Tribal Leaders Talking Circle panel (L-R): Moderator, Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today; Treena Parvello, Director of Public Relations, Desert Diamond Casino; Travis Treasey, White Mountain Apache Councilman; and Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation President.

“[IHS] faces several challenges related to access, quality and management operations of our facilities,” Weahkee explained. “I’ve challenged all of our team members to explore how we can relieve stress and burdens, by partnering with our sister agencies, academia and community-based organizations.”

“I appreciate the partnership happening here with [CIIC],” he continued. “Specifically, in the work you all do, what you’re meeting about, constructing [healthcare] and sanitation facilities. We have strong partnerships with [EPA], [HUD], and [USDA] all of whom have funding that we blend with IHS funding to build facilities and other projects.”

In addition, the conference recognizes quality design and construction in the built environment with achievement awards for individuals, companies, and construction in Indian Country that have substantially contributed to the enhancement of Tribal communities. 

Souers Construction, Inc., Leon Shirley Architects and Navajo Housing Authority’s Kayenta AZ12-050 Project; Seven Generations Architecture + Engineering, ‘Gateway to the North’ masterplan and conceptual design; Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino Expansion; Peterson Zah, Former Navajo President and Chairman of the Navajo Nation were the 2019 Outstanding Achieve Award recipients. 

Lastly CIIC-ASU program board members, advisors and personnel express their gratitude for its Turquoise Sponsors, PENTA, Oakland/Arviso Construction JV, Salt River Project, and Desert Diamond Casinos along with its community partners, Indian Country Today’s, Mark Trahant and NATIVE A+E, Media Sponsor.