Oglala Sioux Tribe

Finding innovative ways to expand development in economically depressed Native American tribal communities is the goal of the inaugural Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Economic Development Summit, set for next week in Rapid City.

Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regional tribal leaders have been invited to learn new leadership and business strategies as well as learn about resources that can be tapped to spur economic development.

The three-day summit is set for May 8-10 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel, 2111 N. Lacrosse St. Tickets are $350 per person and include the welcome reception, all sessions and meals.

"It’s a forum to see what other models are out there in regard to economic development, the importance of thinking outside the box,“ said Oglala Sioux Tribal Council member Valentina Merdanian.

Merdanian said tribal leaders need to work together to improve business opportunities, overcoming challenges posed by the lack of financing options for budding entrepreneurs along with encouraging existing businesses to invest in reservation country.

"Oglala Lakota County is one of the third poorest counties within this nation," she said. "Instead of just accepting that fact, it’s how do we change it?"

The event is a collaborative effort of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leadership Council, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Center for Indian Country Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

“USDA has expanded investments in Native and tribal community businesses, education, food security, housing, health care, and infrastructure,” said South Dakota USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Bruce Jones, in a release.

“This summit will continue our support and efforts to promote economic development and job creation in tribal communities,” he said.

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Expected to attend are elected tribal officials, federal and state government representatives, and private sector partners from the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

Representatives from South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Nebraska and western Minnesota have been invited.

Tribes are encouraged to sponsor instructional materials for the event at the $1,500 level.

The summit opens on Monday with registration and a welcome reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Highlighting Tuesday’s activities will be presentations by Joan Timeche, executive director of the Native Nations Institute, and Nikki Pieratos, project director for the Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Wednesday’s Summit schedule includes presentations from Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc., and Patrice Kunesh, director of the Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Panel discussions and interactive breakout sessions are also set both days. The full event schedule is available at eventbrite.com.

For more information, email Kim Tilsen-Brave Heart at kimtilsenbh@gmail.com.

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