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In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives passed a bill today that will strengthen support for Native American entrepreneurs. 

The Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ), would pave the way for more funding and expanded services for the Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) at the Small Business Administration. If passed into law, the legislation would codify the ONAA under federal law and establish a new administrative role for the agency. 

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Currently, the ONAA primarily provides limited outreach efforts utilizing a small staff, and can be unilaterally disbanded at any time. Codification under the above act would protect the ONAA and expand its services to include field offices, tribal consultations, training and counseling, and the ability to make grants.

In turn, that would enable the ONAA to provide crucial support for Native American entrepreneurs at the heart of the office’s mission, according to Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and a former tribal economic development executive. 

"Our economy depends on the success of our small businesses. That’s especially true in tribal communities where Native-owned businesses are crucial employers on reservations and their surrounding areas,” Davids said in a statement. “I’m proud that my bill, which breaks down barriers for Native entrepreneurs, passed the House with strong bipartisan support, showing us all that support for Native communities goes beyond party lines.”

Crane echoed the sentiment, saying that codifying the office would improve Native business owners’ ability to “access the SBA’s programs just like anyone else.” 

“These communities don’t currently experience adequate access or outreach,” Crane wrote. “It’s essential that they receive specialized expertise to assist them in navigating the unique complexities of running a business on a reservation — complexities mostly created by the federal government. As the representative for over half of Arizona’s tribes, I’m pleased to see the House pass our bill, which would serve tribal citizens of AZ-02 well.”

The bill still needs to pass the Senate, where it advanced out of committee last year, before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature. 

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About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Author: Chez OxendineEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Chesley Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is an Oklahoma-based reporter for Native News Online and its sister publication, Tribal Business News. His journalism has been featured in the Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Native Oklahoma Magazine, and elsewhere.