AMERIND & NAIHC Kick-Off Joint Convention in Nashville

Derek Valdo (Acoma Pueblo), AMERIND Risk CEO, addresses attendees of the 2017 AMERIND Risk | NAIHC Annual Convention & Tradeshow, held June 27-29 at Music City Center in downtown Nashville.

Published June 29, 2017

AMERIND presents NAIHC with $200,000 check, announces $4M federal subsidy to deploy broadband to four Pueblos in New Mexico 

 NASHVILLE — This week, hundreds of Tribal leaders, executives and Native organization representatives descended on Nashville, Tennessee—homeland of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes. To kick off the 2017 AMERIND Risk | National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) Annual Convention & Tradeshow, held June 27-29, AMERIND Chairman Greg Borene delivered a heartfelt welcoming speech and presented NAIHC with a check for $200,000. The contribution honors NAIHC’s ongoing commitment to Native interests and housing in Indian Country.

Borene then introduced AMERIND CEO Derek Valdo to the audience. Prior to joining AMERIND 17 years ago, Valdo served as a development specialist at the Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority. With unique perspective and deep appreciation, Valdo expressed gratitude to Tribal housing employees for their hard work and the many hats that they wear every day. “Thank you again for all of you who work in Indian housing,” Valdo said. “You’re a counselor, you’re a creditor, you’re a social worker, you’re a housing manager—you’re everything to your community.”

AMERIND Risk Chairman Greg Borene presents AMERIND’s $200,000 check donation to Sami Jo Difuntorum, Chairwoman of the National American Indian Housing Council, on Tuesday, June 27, day one of their three-day joint convention.

Valdo continued to share his humble roots on the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, growing up in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted housing—the same housing that AMERIND Risk insures today. “I grew up in the houses you built for your Tribal communities; I went to Tribal schools. I got the opportunity to continue onto higher education, because people like you cared enough to build quality, affordable housing for someone like me,” said Valdo, who is serving his 13th year on the Pueblo of Acoma Tribal Council.

Valdo additionally announced the recent $4 million federal E-rate program subsidy to deploy high-speed, broadband Internet to four Pueblos in New Mexico, represented by AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI). Supported by ACI, the funding allows libraries at four Middle Rio Grande Pueblos—Santa Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo and Cochiti—to bridge the connectivity divide.

“We started this venture [ACI] a year ago. It wasn’t designed to make money,” Valdo said. “It was designed to make an impact on the economies of Tribal communities. I’m very pleased to say we were successful in our first E-rate application.”

Until now, the Internet revolution, as well as E-rate funding, has disproportionately bypassed Indian Country. Small, rural communities make up the vast majority of Indian Country, Valdo emphasized. Large telecommunications networks aren’t investing in bringing broadband Internet to remote areas. “So we have to do it ourselves. We have to think outside the box,” Valdo said. “I’m very pleased that the [ACI] initiative is bearing fruits.”

The E-rate subsidy to ACI is a huge leap forward for Indian Country. “This is the largest E-rate subsidy in the State of New Mexico this year, and it’s the first self-provisioned Tribal network since E-rate Modernization became an opportunity for Tribes,” said Irene Flannery, Director of ACI. “This is what E-rate was intended to do.”

The benefits of access to high-speed Internet are many: enhanced communication and safety, distance learning, telemedicine, online business and access to a global marketplace. Similarly, the advantages of Internet connectivity in Tribal education systems are limitless. During his speech, Valdo underscored the potential for Tribal language instruction and preservation at Indian schools.

By empowering Tribal schools and libraries to own and operate their own broadband networks through the E-rate subsidy, ACI will also pave the way for these Tribes to lay fiber-optic strands to extend broadband connectivity to Tribal communities. “That is the goal,” Flannery said.

The conference concludes today.

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