Native Business: Most Popular 5 of 2019

As we head into 2020, the Native Business team wanted to share some of our most popular stories from 2019. Native Business App users and NativeBusinessMag.com visitors like you determined the articles read, liked and shared the most this year. 

We’ve chosen 5 of the top stories published in 2019, ranging from an interview with NASA mechanical engineer Aaron Yazzie (Navajo), to a spotlight on a Makah artist’s collaboration with streetwear label Supreme, to an article examining how Tribes are earning millions by selling carbon credits while conserving forests. 

You can read summaries of all these stories and more below. Click on the corresponding links to read the articles in their entirety. 

We wish you a happy 2020, and as always, we hope you enjoy! 

Top Stories:

#1

First Tribally Affiliated Medical School to Change Indian Country From a ‘Desert of Primary Care Physicians to an Oasis’

In May, Native Business reported on the Cherokee Nation’s plans to educate future doctors on Tribal lands by opening the very first medical school in Indian Country at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. 

Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker underscored that the Cherokee Nation is plagued with many of the same problems as Tribal Nations across the United States, including struggling to attract a sufficient number of primary care physicians. 

“Our Native American doctors that are trained in Indian Country — it’s going to change us from being a desert of primary care physicians to an oasis,” he said at the inaugural Native Business Summit in May 2019. 

Read Native Business’ full article on the first medical school in Indian Country.

(Native Business has since interviewed Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, who noted that, statistically, “a doctor will practice within about 100 miles of where she goes to medical school,” he told Native Business. “So if we place it in Tahlequah, as we’ve done, we’ve given the entire region an opportunity to have this new crop of doctors.”)

The Cherokee Nation is opening the first medical school in Indian Country at W.W. Hastings Hospital, created in partnership with Oklahoma State University.

#2

Selling Carbon Credits Is Earning Tribes Millions While Conserving Forests

It’s an idea so simple that it sounds almost too good to be true: Tribes across the country are using their forest lands to generate income by selling carbon credits in the California emissions trading industry while preserving their lands for future generations.

“These type of projects focus on preservation of Tribal natural resources while still being able to derive revenue,” says Bryan Van Stippen, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and program director for the National Indian Carbon Coalition, “even if a Tribal entity has a commercial logging operation.”

California, which has the fifth largest economy in the world, launched its “cap and trade” program in 2013 with the goal of reducing greenhouse emissions to pre-1990 levels by 80 percent by 2050. Multiple Tribes from Alaska to Maine have received approval to participate in the program.

Read the full article on carbon credits and forest conservation

The sale of carbon credits can create opportunity to grow business and reinvest in native communities.

#3

Makah Artist Partners With Supreme on Line of Bomber Jackets

Streetwear label Supreme partnered with Makah artist Nytom, a.k.a. John Goodwin, to design a series of bomber jackets for fall. 

Supreme is known to team up with major corporations like Louis Vuitton and New York City MetroCards, so the collaboration with a solopreneur and Native American artist caught some attention — from streetwear fans to Vogue, which has charted Supreme’s meteoric rise from “cult skate shop to fashion superpower.” 

Supreme discovered the 71-year-old artist online. Impressed, it reached out to partner and leverage his stunning designs on their bomber jackets. 

Through the process, Supreme demonstrated what culturally respectful and mutually beneficial business relationships can look like between Indigenous artists and non-Native companies. 

Goodwin says his project with Supreme “strengthens our community by having original Northwest Coastal art featured on products seen around the world, and worn by celebrities and influencers. This has created exposure to our people, allowed us to speak about our issues, and most importantly, allows Native youth all over the world to see themselves represented on the big stage.”

Read the full article on the John Goodwin x Supreme collaboration

#4

A Tribally Owned Bank With $195 Million in Assets and Growing Shares ‘The Woodlands Way’

In 1996, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe purchased a local bank in Onamia, Minnesota, becoming only the third Tribal nation in the United States to own a bank. 

The Tribe renamed it Woodlands National Bank, and it became the first Tribal-owned bank to be granted a national charter. At the time of purchase, the bank counted $17 million in assets. Before the turn of the century, assets substantially increased to $25 million, prompting Mille Lacs stakeholders to open more branch locations.

Today, Woodlands’ seven branches have combined assets of $195 million. Woodlands National Bank specializes in small business loans, mortgages and consumer accounts.

Read the full article on Woodlands National Bank.

The original Onamia, Minnesota branch purchased by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in 1996. Today, Woodlands National Bank counts seven branch locations across Minnesota. (Photo courtesy Woodlands National Bank)

#5

NASA Mechanical Engineer Aaron Yazzie Discusses His Work on Mars

Aaron Yazzie (Navajo) waited nearly nine months for InSight to travel 140-million miles from Earth to Mars, accomplishing NASA’s eighth successful spacecraft landing on the fourth rock from the sun. While Yazzie didn’t work on the descent and landing, his pressure inlet is playing a pivotal part in InSight’s two-year exploration. InSight is probing into the Martian ground to get useful science about the planet’s interior.

While Yazzie watched the landing with bated breath, he completed his construction of the pressure inlet for InSight nearly four years ago. Yazzie will continue to stay involved with missions to Mars.

Today Yazzie is focused on “Mars 2020” — the next Mars Rover project. Yazzie is the lead engineer for drill bits. He’ll determine “how to control the drill and arm to acquire samples” from the red-rock surface of Mars. That project is slated for completion in May.

“The Rover is going to drive around and drill into rocks and scoop up soil samples and save them, so that eventually we can bring them back to Earth. It’ll be the first time that we bring anything back to Earth from Mars,” he said with enthusiasm.

Yazzie added: “I may even be in a control room to do operations while in flight.”

Coincidentally, Mars’ crust reminds Yazzie of the Navajo Nation.

“My family is from Tuba City, [Arizona] and every time I go back, it looks so similar. That’s something that I’ve been learning — that Earth and Mars are not that different,” Yazzie told Native Business.

Read the full article on Yazzie’s mission to Mars

Aaron Yazzie, Diné, earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. As a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Planetary Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

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