Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 12

Leveraging New Partners for Success RICHARD BOWERS

For centuries, sharing meat from the day’s hunt or cooperating in early agricultural endeavors was a way of life for Indians throughout North America. So it’s not surprising that a consortium of tribes is returning to its economic roots, with member tribes buying from and selling to each other, in a collective approach to economic growth and prosperity in Indian Country. Historically, Indian tribes have rarely worked well together. But these days are different. We’ve moved into the world of big business where cooperation is the key to success. Called the Native American Group, the consortium brings together Indian tribes from widespread geographic regions, and from varied economic circumstances. In addition to the Seminole Tribe of Florida,early participants in the consortium included the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Connecticut; the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin; the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California; the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Oregon; the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Colorado; the Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota; the Forest Band of Potawatomi Nation,

Wisconsin; and the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation, North Dakota. Our big-picture goal is economic development for more than 500 Indian tribes. We want to spread the wealth in Indian Country by encouraging more tribes to get into business and by offering more products and services to each other. The consortium offers a ready-made market for tribes with available products or the opportunity to develop them. To that end, the Native American Group enlisted the support of high- level administrators in the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, which recognizes the need and opportunity for tribes to establish successful business enterprises. Federal officials began helping to identify tribes to participate, and reaching out to others in government to pave the way to form a buying consortium that would circulate goods and services within Indian Country, along with government purchasing of consortium products. Still in the early stages of development, the consortium relies on the collective buying power of many of the most successful tribes, especially those with major gaming

operations and diverse business interests. The Native American Group is also focused on beef production, thanks to major herds of cattle managed by many member tribes and other tribes operating food service businesses that buy significant quantities of beef. Individually, the herds may not be large enough to sustain ongoing deliveries of meat to major customers. But when working together, the tribes can compete with many of the nation’s largest beef producers. The Seminole Tribe has launched its own brand of beef and began selling to some of the food service outlets at its hugely- successful entertainment complex in South Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. The Tribe’s initial push into beef production generated strong interest, but most prospective buyers required regular product delivery. This included the Hard Rock Cafe restaurants, the global restaurant company purchased by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. 5 Steps to Successful Consortium Relationships 1. Identify those groups that share a vested interest that you have historically worked with, but that you are not

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16 I Professional Performance

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