Buy Indian - Why Buy Indian

MNIBA wants to begin the conversation of “Buying Indian” in framing the long-tem
impact and contribution Tribal Citizen owned businesses have on tribal economic

Balancing Tribal Enterprise and the Private Sector
Gaming has significantly contributed to the economies within tribal communities and communities outside tribal borders.  If all the gaming entities and its employees were combined, it would rank in the Top 10 Employers for the State.  Gaming has changed the landscape of tribal communities and allowed Tribal Governments to develop needed infrastructure such as; schools, healthcare facilities, housing, community centers, roads, utilities, natural resource management, create needed employment opportunities, as well as expand and maintain services to its citizens.

Typically gaming and tribal government are the two main employers in tribal communities. Earnings by employees are not captured and re-circulated within tribal communities and are spent outside the community boundaries. Currently, Tribal communities are much more likely to experience high levels of leakage. This is because, many of the goods and services tribal members need are not available locally and therefore, most citizens travel great distances outside of their communities to make these purchases.

Diversifying, supporting and creating new private sectors will slow the leakage that currently exists.  The small business sector, driven by entrepreneurial Tribal Citizens will respond to the goods and service needs of community members.

Why Buy Indian – Why Buy Local?
Some leaders are revitalizing their communities by diversifying their local economies.
This is where “Buy Indian” plays a significant role in contributing to the health of the
economic landscape. Tribal citizens in the private business sector form the backbone of
vibrant and robust free enterprise economies within tribal nations. They diversify the
tribal economy, they improve the quality of life, they broaden the development effort,
they support the tribal community, and they strengthen tribal sovereignty.

Tribal citizens in the private sector impact economic multipliers in the generation of new jobs; forging of new networks and referrals; the emergence of new role models and mentors; they retain local talent; build community wealth; and strengthen the local tax base.  They also support other American Indian businesses/enterprises with their purchases.

If used wisely, multipliers provide Tribal Planners, Economic/Community Development
Departments and Tribal Leaders with estimates of employment, gross sales and income
that will result from new economic activity.

Comparison of the alternatives can help Tribal Governments achieve the greatest
benefit in planning and implementing long range strategies such as:

  • New commercial business and zoning law;
  • Long term planning for infrastructure development;
  • Reframing purchase policy and procedures that are supportive of Tribal Citizen owned business;
  • Turning unused/empty properties into Commercial Business Centers;
  • New loan programs or investment in Tribal Citizen owned businesses;
  • Analyzing gaps to forecast sustainable private business development opportunities.

How Tribal Governments Can Build Capacity in Tribal Citizen Owned Business
The most significant step a Tribal Government can make is the adoption of a “Buy Indian” resolution that includes supportive and enforceable policies.

Most private sector business owned and operated by tribal citizens is small business.  They typically charge a higher rate on services in the start-up phase of their business.  Creating supportive policies and set-aside purchases dedicated to Indian business will build capacity in those organizations and ensure they gain a competitive edge.  Tribal Citizen owned businesses are far more likely to reinvest in their local communities versus a large corporation who will take their earnings and invest it elsewhere.

Investing in Tribal Citizen owned business ensures a stronger future for the coming generations, and moves these businesses into the global arena, which in turn increases tribal economic multipliers.

This type of investment and approach will ultimately lead to sustainable economic growth, new jobs, increased self sufficiency/self-reliance and reduced dependence on Tribal Programs.

Commitment to research and identification of regional economic clusters and supply chains enables Tribal Planners, Tribal Economic/Community Development Departments and Tribal Leaders to effectively:

  • Build capacity and investment in Tribal Citizen owned businesses;
  • Identify Tribal Citizen owned businesses within the region that can work collectively to fulfill large orders and meet the supply and demand of Tribal Government and Tribal Enterprise;
  • Strengthen the ability to forecast the “ripple effects” of new industry and business expansions.

In closing, MNIBA firmly believes that the change we wish to see must begin with ourselves first!  MNIBA is challenging our partners and every visitor to this site to make a commitment to Buy Indian for one year!  We must each lead by example and send a strong message of support through our purchases.

Example Draft Tribal Resolution (PDF) - in support of Buy Indian-Buy Local presented at the Three Tribe Economic Conference, August 2008.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the above document. Click here to download it for free.


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