Tribal Business News Briefs – Week of Jan. 13, 2020

Published January 13, 2020

CASINO BUSINESS

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe and the city of Norfolk, Va. signed two agreements that could bring the tribe’s proposed $700 million casino closer to reality, according to a report in Virginia Business. The agreements include an option for the tribe to purchase 13.4 acres of undeveloped city property as well as a development agreement.      

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The quartet of U.S. Senators from Alaska and Hawaii have introduced new legislation aimed at helping tribes attract new investment for community revitalization projects. U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) late last week introduced the Inspiring Nationally Vibrant Economies Sustaining Tribes (INVEST) Act. The legislation aims to make significant improvements to the existing New Markets Tax Credit program to more effectively reach Native American communities, including those in Hawaii and Alaska.   

SMALL BUSINESS FUNDING

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock last week awarded $320,000 to support the growth of 25 Native American-owned businesses across Montana through the Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant program, according to a statement. Each business will receive between $7,000 and $14,000 to help with costs related to land purchases, building, equipment, assets, technology, operational costs and working capital. The Indian Equity Fund builds partnerships with tribal governments by investing in Native American entrepreneurship and small businesses and encouraging economic development in tribal nations for the benefit of tribal communities and members. Business associated with the following tribes received grants: Blackfeet Nation, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Crow Nation, Fort Belknap Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux, Little Shell Chippewa Tribe and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Grants through the Indian Equity Fund are awarded through a competitive application process administered by the Department of Commerce. Funding awards require in-kind matching funds from grant recipients. 

Nusenda Credit Union has been awarded $250,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration‘s Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME), which helps low-income entrepreneurs gain access to capital. The funding supports growth-building and technical assistance for microenterprise development organizations (MDO) that serve business owners in low-income, minority, immigrant, and Native American communities in and around Albuquerque, as well as in rural Navajo and Hopi sovereign nations. 

MARKETING

Change Labs has launched a new digital application to connect people to Native-owned businesses throughout the Southwestern states. The Rez Rising website and a smartphone app for iPhone and Android users includes nearly 550 Native-owned businesses at its launch. Native American small business owners can list their business on the Rez Rising app and website for free. Change Labs is a Native-led organization that supports Native entrepreneurs and business owners. 

LITIGATION

A federal judge ruled that a county in northern Wisconsin violated federal law when it enforced zoning rules on land owned by tribal members. The 2018 lawsuit by the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa requested the court rule that Bayfield County had no zoning authority over tribal lands within the tribe’s reservation. The Red Cliff Band has its own land use ordinance that’s been in effect since 1993, according to a report by Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR). Tribal Chairman Rick Peterson told WPR that Red Cliff has the right to govern its members and lands as a sovereign nation. “We do not want a bad relationship with any municipality, any other governmental agency,” Peterson said. “But, at the same time, we are not going to allow any of these municipalities to infringe upon our sovereign right here in Red Cliff.”

NATIVE ART FRAUD

Three members of an international conspiracy to import knock-off jewelry from the Philippines and misrepresent it as Native American products have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraudulent scheme, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of their pleas, the defendants admitted that from January 2016 through February 2019, they conspired to design Native American-style jewelry and manufacture the jewelry in the Philippines with Filipino labor. The defendants also conspired to import the jewelry from the Philippines to Arizona without indelible markings as required by law, as well as displayed, advertised, and sold the jewelry to customers based on false representations that the items were made by Indians in the United States. The defendants face a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000. Their sentencing dates have not yet been set.

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