Native Business Magazine Founders and Publishers Gary (right) and Carmen Davis (left) pose with Nicole and JC Seneca, founder of Six Nations Manufacturing, a tobacco manufacturing plant on Seneca Nation territory. (Photo by Henry Wei for Native Business Magazine)

The impact of the Native Business Summit was nothing short of profound. Hosted May 13-15th at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Summit inspired, motivated and informed — while channeling that energy into tactical business and economic development advice to achieve long-term success.  

“I’ve been to a lot of conferences but #NativeBusinessSummit2019 by far had the best vibes, educators & presenters I’ve encountered so far. There was a lot of love & support and it was an excellent first experience for my girls. We all left feeling inspired & ready to conquer & keep conquering our dreams & making a difference and that is PRICELESS,” Nicole Seneca shared on social media, underscoring the value the Native Business Summit provided her entire family, including her daughters. Nicole’s husband JC Seneca founded Six Nations Manufacturing, a tobacco manufacturing plant located on sovereign Seneca Nation territory in upstate New York.

Beyond attendee feedback, Native Business TV’s video wrap ups offer the best 360-degree view of the dynamic Native Business Summit experience. But to put it into words, the Summit delivered a slate of the highest-caliber keynote speakers, production-level entertainment, unparalleled networking, and forums, panels and breakout sessions that dug deep into issues and topics of relevance to economic development and entrepreneurship across Indian Country right now and for future generations to come.

The message that economic development and entrepreneurship are integral to Indian Country resounded throughout the Summit. Native people need look no further than our ancestors for inspiration and motivation to achieve self-sufficiency and prosperity.

As Gary Davis, founder and Publisher of Native Business Magazine, impressed upon the audience in his Opening General Session speech:

“What we need to remember is that those before us practiced these ways every single day of their life. It’s what kept us sustainable, it’s what kept us vibrant, it’s what kept us thriving as communities. Today, we don’t need to look at entrepreneurship as something new, we need to remember that we were and have always been entrepreneurs from Cahokia to Tenochtitlan to places throughout South America. We have always been who we’ve been looking for, and that self-sovereignty, before there was even the term sovereignty, has been what has sustained us, and kept us thriving as a people. It is why we are here today.”

More than 300 Native Business Summit attendees also heard dynamic speeches from a top-tier slate of keynote presenters, including Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum; Bridget Gonzales, Chief for the Office of Legislative, Education & Intergovernmental Affairs at the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce; Mike Sommers, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox; Navajo Nation Vice-President Myron Lizer; Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana; and Cherokee Nation Treasurer Lacey Horn.

To highlight a few particularly moving speeches: Principal Chief Baker expounded on the Cherokee Nation’s $2 billion impact on the state of Oklahoma and its establishment of the first Tribally owned medical school. “We are going to grow our own doctors right here in Tahlequah,” Principal Chief Baker said.

A accomplished entrepreneur, Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer capitalized on the notion that entrepreneurship is innate within indigenous people and “Indianpreneurship” or the private sector is necessary to grow thriving reservation economies. His administration is committed to fostering financial literacy entrepreneurship across the Navajo Nation reservation through initiatives such as “Buy Navajo, Buy Local.”

Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer spoke to the power of the private sector to reservation economies at the Native Business Summit. (Photo by Henry Wei for Native Business Magazine)

The film Food Sovereignty debuted at the Native Business Summit, highlighting the MHA Nation’s trip to the Netherlands to meet with the Dutch Ministry and operators of the most innovative agricultural technology in the world to inform the MHA Nation’s food sovereignty initiative. The Tribe aims to convert compressed natural gas from the numerous oil wells on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota to power sustainable greenhouses, modeled after the cutting-edge solutions forged in the Netherlands.

Central to Chairman Mark N. Fox’ speech was the Tribe’s commitment to develop agricultural solutions at scale, because “feeding ourselves” is pivotal to overcoming federal dependency and affecting economic empowerment and change. “You have to have buy in, and you have to have commitment,” emphasized Chairman Fox, adding, “We have to do things on our own in order to move forward.”

When Mike Sommers, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, addressed the crowd, he praised the achievements of Oklahoma-based Big Elk Energy Systems, named in honor of CEO Geoff Hager’s Osage heritage. The manufacturer of pipeline equipment opened in 2014, “and a few months ago, it was named the fastest-growing manufacturer in the United States,” Sommers stated.

Sommers also offered perspective on the American Petroleum Institute’s commitment to increasing communication and building stronger relations across with Indian Country. “I know that in Tribal communities, the concerns are much more fundamental. They’re about preserving hard-won sovereignty, and protecting sacred lands, artifacts, traditions and resources,” Sommers said. “For my industry’s part, we’re committed to listening, to respect, and to transparency. We seek to be reliable partners to Tribes, Alaska Native and First Nations communities as they pursue economic development opportunities.”

In an incredibly poignant and moving keynote speech, Cherokee Nation Treasurer Lacey Horn invited the crowd to meditate on what the concept of legacy invokes for them.

“If you are in this room, you are committed to giving your best self, and contributing your talents for the benefit of your family, your community and Indian Country. What are your own personal and business goals?” Horn asked. “And how far into the future will your legacy take us all? We are all called to be leaders, to meaningfully contribute to the greater good. We are the ones our ancestors prayed for.”

For 8 years, Lacey Horn, a member of the Cherokee Nation, has served as Treasurer for the largest Tribe in the United States. (Photo by Henry Wei for Native Business Magazine)

Beyond powerful speeches and top-notch entertainment, more than 300 Native Business Summit attendees benefited from a variety of breakout sessions and forums on topics including small business, agriculture, corporate diversity, energy, professional development, gaming, cybersecurity, food sovereignty, finance, government contracting, Native cuisine and brewing, broadband, enterprise, infrastructure, e-commerce, economic development, banking, empowering Native women in business, entrepreneurship and human resources.

A session and Native Business Podcast focused on industrial hemp as a profitable agricultural commodity. An attorney who presented on the panel noted:

“I’ve attended hundreds of conferences over the past 25 years, and yesterday’s Summit set a new standard for excellence in organization, presentation, and substance. Congratulations on the tremendous success you are creating, and I look forward to working with you and Native Business Magazine again soon.”

When planning the Native Business Summit, Gary and Carmen Davis asked themselves: “How can we drive value, maximize impact, affect legacy, and empower folks across Indian Country to endeavor to do better each and every day?”

It’s necessary to unite Indian Country together to engage in vital business and economic development conversations to move the needle forward. Now that energy will continue through Native Business Magazine,, the Native Business Podcast and Native Business TV.

“We’re transferring that information, that wisdom, those insights from our panels, our sessions, our networking, and we’re sharing with it people across the world through our magazine, website, the Native Business Podcast and Native Business TV,” Gary Davis said.

“We had some of the most amazing people in Indian Country doing great things in business right here at the Native Business Summit. Years to come, I know the Native Business Summit is just going to grow exponentially and expand in reach and impact.”

Carmen Davis (Makah), founder, Publisher and Executive Director of the Native Business Summit, added: “We are continuing to receive great feedback about our inaugural Native Business Summit. Attendees have praised the overall production, the value of every panel and session, and the incredible networking. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Cherokee Nation and our presenting sponsor Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as many other sponsors who demonstrated their support for the Native Business Summit, which is committed to driving economic growth and success across Indian Country.”

Chance Rush (right), an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, dances with Native Business Magazine Founder and Publisher Gary “Litefoot” Davis at the VIP Networking Reception for the Native Business Summit on Tuesday, May 14th evening. (Photo by Henry Wei for Native Business Magazine)

Dancers perform at the VIP Networking Reception on Tuesday, May 14th, at the Native Business Summit, on the 18th Floor Sky Room of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Henry Wei for Native Business Magazine)