Native Americans in Business
Native American communities and individuals have been working their way into economic prosperity for quite some time now. While some of this has been due to the impacts of government programs set up to assist native businesspeople, most of it has been an outgrowth of native ingenuity and innovation. Native Americans are in charge of some of the largest resource development companies, some of the largest restaurant chains, some of the largest casinos, and some very popular capital investment firms and financing companies all over the country. While these natives represent a wide range of economic interests, one thing they share is the way their heritage has influenced the way they handle their business operations.
One example of a businessman that made a big name for himself is David Anderson, the head of the "Famous Dave's" chain of restaurants. Dave Anderson is an Ojibwe native of Minnesota that grew up on and off reservations for most of his childhood. He was raised on traditional native values, and has applied those values throughout his business career. He helped to develop and create Rainforest Cafe, which has reached an immense level of profitability in its own rite. After attaining his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard, he worked for years to help struggling Native American businesses reach financial success. His dream was to open a barbeque restaurant, and in 1994 he was able to realize that dream. "Famous Dave's Barbeque" is now a major restaurant chain that can be found throughout the United States. In 2004, Dave Anderson became the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. It was a position that gave him the opportunity to find ways to help native communities thrive under increasing economic pressures. He currently runs a non-profit organization called the LifeSkills [sic] Center for Leadership, whose mission is to provide leadership training and assistance to at-risk youth in order to help them maximize their potential in life.
Native Americans have also become very influential in the financial world. Ho-Chunk, Inc. is a very successful example of native ingenuity applied to finances and economic development. Started in 1994 with a mission to advance the economic interests of the Winnebago Indian Reservation in Nebraska. Ho-Chunk, Inc. has taken a community with over 60% unemployment and turned it into one of the most financially stable communities in Native American society. They are essentially an investment firm that makes aggressive investment decisions that they think will benefit the Winnebago people, and they have found a great deal of success in this work. They currently employ over 1400 people and run some non-profit organizations. The most recent of these non-profits is the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation. This organization focuses entirely on uplifting the quality of life on the reservation through housing, economic, and educational programs. To help community employment, Ho-Chunk provides both necessary education support in the community and special consideration when applying for employment with Ho-Chunk. The goal is to employ as many Winnebago natives as possible, injecting greater prosperity into the reservation.
There are a number of successful businesses run by native individuals and communities out there-- far too many to list. Some of these businesses are native corporations that control natural resources in pristine wilderness, others are simply individuals that had a great idea and ran with it. In all cases, successful native business people consistently note a strong tie to their heritage that pushes them to succeed. Native American business people are also statistically the most likely to contribute extensively to the communities they've come from, with most money being contributed to programs that enhance the education of Native American youth.