Panelists offer a message of hope during the Success for Native America discussion
Indigenous community leaders in business, health and education told students to accept failure and learn from it. Success for Native America 2022 panel hosted Monday by Fort Lewis College and First Southwest Bank.
The event was created by Swarvoski Little of First Southwest Bank with the help of FLC staff members to address the challenges and rewards of being successful as an Indigenous person.
“As Native American and Native American students make up 46% of our student population representing 185 Alaskan Native tribes and villages, it is crucial that we continue to provide support and opportunity in a meaningful way,” said Jenni Trujillo, Dean of the school of education and training of the FLC. Acting Associate Vice President of Diversity Affairs in a press release.
Meet the panelists
Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere, a Diné and African-American woman, was selected as a panelist based on her business experience as the founder and CEO of Ah-Shi Beauty, the first Native American cosmetics and skincare company in the United States. United States.
Panelist Carma Claw, a Diné, offered her perspective as an assistant professor of management at FLC’s School of Business Administration.
Keana Kaleikini, who is Dine and Hawaiian, spoke on the panel as an environmental scientist and epidemiologist for the state of New Mexico and associate director of community medicine.
Dominic Martinez spoke as co-owner of Durango’s Leland House Suites and is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe.
Dr. Joshuaa D. Allison-Burbank, Diné and Acoma Pueblo, spoke as Associate Scientist and Faculty Member of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Founder and Executive Director of Rainbow Farms Therapy Group.
What is success?
Little hosted the event, asking panelists how they decided what they wanted to do. Kaleikini and Allison-Burbank said there was no direct path to their success.
“Success in Western culture is very much defined as having a career and making money and achieving that American dream,” Kaleikini said. “I think it’s important to note that success in Indigenous countries is a bit different.”
Kaleikini said lived experience can be just as important as education in determining the paths someone wants to take to find a definition of success.
Panelists were asked what advice they would give to their past. Some said it’s important to seek mentorship and learn from failures.
“If you go into business, prepare for setbacks and prepare for failure,” LaFrance-Chachere said. “There’s a lot of trial and error in life and there’s a lot of trial and error in business. These moments are stepping stones to your success. They learn steps.
Panelists talked about disadvantages and other challenges they overcame on their way to success. Some of the disadvantages noted were limited resources and discrimination. Most panelists said the way they overcome disadvantage is to network and find support through things like mentorship and community.
“Society expects us to succeed at the same rate as everyone else, and we’re constantly compared to those counterparts who, frankly, have far fewer barriers than us,” Kaleikini said. “One of the first things you need to do is figure out what those barriers are and find support.”
All panelists said they were hopeful for the future of Indigenous communities.
“As Indigenous communities, we are now at a point where we have Indigenous teachers, Indigenous lawyers, Indigenous doctors, landowners and business owners,” Allison-Burbank said. “Now we can speak in our own sectors, our own spaces, and be leaders and drive change.”
About 40 people attended the conference in person, and another 40 listened live online.
In the near future, the First Southwest Community Fund will begin offering a Native American loan fund to Indigenous people looking to start their own businesses. Funding for the loan program comes in part from the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Small Business Development Center in Utah.