TITLE: Urge the Department of Commerce to Provide Adequate Business Development Assistance to Qualified Native American and Alaska Native Owned Businesses
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, for many years, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), part of the United States Department of Commerce, has provided grants establishing centers to provide assistance to minority individuals and minority owned businesses, including women, with regard to business start-ups and business planning; and
WHEREAS, in previous years, the MBDA has provided funds specifically dedicated to provide start-up business services to American Indians and Alaska Natives, which were called Native American Business Enterprise Centers, (NABECs); and
WHEREAS, during FY 2012, the MBDA changed the focus of its business development centers, expanding the region served by the centers and requiring that even those centers that had previously been dedicated to serving American Indians and Alaska Natives must target all minorities in the region, and also expanded the amount of start-up funds to be leveraged through the MBDA center, but without a significant increase in funding for the centers, thereby eliminating entirely the NABECs; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the United States Constitution, and Supreme Court cases such as Morton v. Mancari, (1974), the United States has a political, not a racial, relationship with Indian tribes and American Indians and Alaska Natives; and
WHEREAS, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order, No. 13175, which required all Executive Branch agencies to consult with Indian tribes and affected tribal organizations before making any policy decisions or changes in regulations that substantially affect Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Commerce made the changes to the MBDA Center program described above without adequate consultation with Indian tribes and organizations, changes which are substantial and which are contrary to the professed purpose of Executive Order No. 13175, and which run contrary to the expressed government-to-government relationship in the President’s Executive Memorandum issued in 2009, requiring all agencies to develop a meaningful consultation policy with all federally recognized Indian tribes; and
WHEREAS, the services provided by the NABECs to American Indian and Alaska Native owned businesses and individual American Indians and Alaska Natives were extremely valuable to economic development in Indian country, providing key management and technical assistance and access to procurement and financing opportunities, and should not have been diluted into larger minority-based service centers; and
WHEREAS, the reasoning behind the change from NABEC to MBDA centers was to create a “more cohesive program” and to “expand into the promotion of export initiatives and international deals in alignment” with the President’s National Export Initiatives, but the change has ignored the Presidential order to consult with tribes and tribal populations affected by the change and has also ignored the President’s emphasis on a government-to-government relationship; and
WHEREAS, the goals of the changes may be laudable but such changes place unnecessary and impossible burdens on the now renamed MBDA business centers, including a dilution of their functions and effectiveness within Indian country.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI hereby urges the Department of Commerce to consult with tribes to address the assistance gap created by the elimination of NABECs, fully recognizing the political relationship with tribes, and provide adequate business development assistance to Indian Country, which has among the poorest and most economically deprived areas within the United States; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI hereby opposes the changes that have been made to MBDA’s NABEC program, including the rebranding, and requests this issue be received by appropriate White House staff to ensure that adequate consultation is conducted with the affected tribal nations, and that adequate funding is available to ensure that all American Indians and Alaska Natives have adequate access to MBDA programming; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.