2015 Conference Photos

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Sponsors & Partners
The 2015 South Dakota Indian Business Conference was made possible through contributions and commitment from several sponsors and partners. This year's conference had more sponsors than any other past conference. The South Dakota Indian Business Alliance recognizes the following entities for their support and dedication to "Expanding Economies in the New Native America."

Black Hills Federal Credit Union
Bush Foundation
Dakota Resources
Dark Canyon Coffee Company
First Interstate Bank
First Peoples Fund
Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan
Four Bands Community Fund
Golden West
Great Plains Native Asset Building Coalition
Lakota Funds
Native American Bank
Northwest Area Foundation
Minnesota Indian Business Alliance
Montana Indian Business Alliance
North Dakota Indian Business Alliance
Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce
Scull Construction
South Dakota Community Foundation
South Dakota Small Business Development Center
Tanka Bar
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation
USDA Rural Development
VIP Properties

"It was a great conference. Now I know I need to get there to listen, to learn. What is good for Indian Country, is good for the entire State. Thanks for all of the work that goes into putting it all together."
Anonymous Conference Attendee, Feedback Survey

"The youth panel was excellent. Its good to see young people give input on issues facing our tribal communities. The youth will inherit our action or inaction."
Anonymous Conference Attendee, Feedback Survey

2015 Conference Highlights

The 2015 South Dakota Indian Business Conference, themed "Expanding Economies in the New Native America," was a three-day event that focused on celebrating successes in South Dakota's Native economic development field as well as exploring solutions to long-standing challenges that still remain. While past conferences had always been held in Rapid City, the 2015 conference was held in Deadwood. This destination location promoted a more intimate and exclusive event for conference-goers.

Download the conference program.
Download a pdf of the conference highlights.

The agenda, which was formulated through a combination of presentation proposals and suggestions from conference planning committee members, included a variety of panels and breakout sessions that shared best practices and were designed to spur solution-oriented conversations on forging Indian business in South Dakota's reservation communities and beyond. Session and panel topics were based on all four sectors of the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance's strategic approach to sustainability: Governance, Infrastructure, Finance, and Resources. New this year on the agenda was a special financing track called, "Expanding Access to Affordable Capital in Underserved Markets." This track was developed through SDIBA's strong partnership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve, and Office of the Comptroller of Currency. This track was also a key factor in attracting a stronger presence of finance professionals to the conference, which supports SDIBA's overall mission.

Over 175 tribal and non-tribal government and program representatives, practitioners, policy-makers, lenders, educators, nonprofit organization representatives, foundations, and entrepreneurs from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, Arizona, and Washington DC registered for the conference through an online registration system. Of those registered, 36% were from private businesses, nonprofit organizations, or foundations; 27% were from financial institutions; 16% represented tribes or tribal entities; 13% were from federal agencies; and 8% were from state agencies.

Top Panels and Presentations

Panel: All Roads Lead to Youth
During the 2013 South Dakota Indian Business Conference's "Rez Café" symposium, conference attendees analyzed successes and challenges to developing Indian business. A common theme that emerged was "all roads lead to youth." To open the 2015 South Dakota Indian Business Conference, a group of exceptional Native youth leaders and entrepreneurs shared how they are forging their unique paths for future success. The panel was moderated by Royalle Chasing Hawk and Lakota Mowrer of Four Bands Community Fund, and included Lexxi Hunter (Oglala Lakota Sioux), Sha'Teal Pearman (Cheyenne River Sioux), Trenton Casillas-Bakeberg (Cheyenne River Sioux), and Jessie Carlson (Cheyenne River Sioux).

Each of the panelists shared changes they'd like to see happen in their respective communities, their vision for the "New Native America," and how they see politics as a way to create community change. Each of the youth panelists spoke about addressing the educational inequities in their home communities. They believe more needs to be done for students, including better teachers.

Expanding Access to Affordable Capital in Underserved Markets Track
This finance track was new to the agenda this year and was developed through SDIBA's strong partnership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve, and Office of the Comptroller of Currency with participation from SDIBA's Community Reinvestment Committee. It was comprised of a variety of panels, sessions, and roundtables designed for finance professionals with a desire to break into Native markets, expand business in Indian Country, or form innovative solutions that create greater access to capital in Indian Country. The track had a strong focus on Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and examined how they foster economic development.

How Data Governs Us
Tribes, tribal programs, nonprofit organizations, and many other entities rely on data to make important decisions. Often time, data about our reservations determines funding levels allocated for certain programs. However, much of the data available is inaccurate. This session, presented by Eileen Briggs of Tribal Ventures, showcased a reservation-wide study undertaken on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and analyzed the discrepancies between this study and other readily available data sources.

Tribal Nations and the Global Secured Transactions Movement
Like dozens of developing nations around the world, tribal nations are increasingly recognizing that a secured transactions law (often referred to as a UCC), together with crucial supporting filing system infrastructure, is a fundamental building block of sustainable economic development. In this session, attendees learned about the global secured transactions reform movement, its application to tribal nations, the resources that are available to tribes, and how two tribes have enacted and implemented a sound secured transactions law. This session was presented by Susan Woodrow, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Stephen Powell, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Courtney Two Lance, Oglala Sioux Tribe Finance and Credit; Joe Dunn, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; and Shantel Krebs, South Dakota Secretary of State.

Living Room Round Table: The New Native America Open for Business
This session examined common challenges reservation businesses face in recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified employees. The four panelists - Jeff Haverly, South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development; Lakota Mowrer, Four Bands Community Fund; David Reiss, South Dakota Department of Tribal Government Relations; and Nick Tilsen, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation - shared innovative and successful models for overcoming those challenges. Moderator, Sandy Burns of Project Solutions, led discussions and the panel concluded with a renewed call for the recognition of human capital in reservation communities, the development of both job-related and soft skills for workers, and for employers of all sizes and types to invest in workers and give workers a reason to invest themselves in their job.

Celebrating Native Artists as an Economic Engine in the New Native America
This year's evening event focused on celebrating economic opportunity for Native American artists as well as an encouraging cross-cultural networking exchange hosted by Dallas Goldtooth, famed activist, poet, traditional artist, powwow emcee, and comedian.

Hors d'oeuvres and refreshments were served while conference attendees had the opportunity to mingle and learn about projects and partnerships that have created economic opportunity for Native American artists. Various Native artists and their works of art were showcased at the event.


The South Dakota Indian Business Alliance facilitated an online post-event survey to garner feedback from attendees of the 2015 South Dakota Indian Business Conference. Of the 40 respondents, eight were from a federal, state, or local government or program; four were from a tribal government or program; eight were entrepreneurs or small business owners; seven were from a nonprofit organization; five were lenders or investors; and six were other types of respondents. Ninety-three percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the conference met their expectations, and 90% felt the conference was organized and well-thought out.

An overwhelming majority (89%) of survey respondents felt the topics covered during the conference were relevant to their work, and 97% either agreed or strongly agreed that the information they gained from the conference will help them improve their work. Of the survey respondents, 89% felt the speakers were engaging and knowledgeable on the subjects they presented. The favorite conference event among survey respondents was by far the youth panel. Other favorites mentioned were the keynote address by Mr. Waylon Honga, the session on "How Data Governs Us," and the session about Uniform Commercial Codes (UCCs). Many of the survey respondents noted the opportunities for networking and interpersonal discussion were valuable experiences as well.

Ninety-two percent of survey respondents said they plan on attending the 2017 South Dakota Indian Business Conference. Survey respondents stated they would like to see a stronger participation by tribes, and learn about tribes' economic development strategies. They would also like to learn more about governance and how it can support business development. Other topics of interest cited in the survey were entrepreneurial resources and youth employment.