Opinion: Planning for a Native American century
"Indian people are blessed with rich cultural heritage, a gift which we have preserved, despite the adversity we have faced. In order for the economic recovery to take place, it will be important to change the basis on which business practices were designed. Tribes can help with this in many ways by operating businesses in a manner that coincides with traditional values. Let's start with an introduction of where the ideas presented here came from.

Ever since I was small my grandparents taught me about the importance of conservation. I am water clan in Hopi, so most of my teachings had to do with water. My grandmother would tell me to turn off the water when we brushed our teeth, and to take shorter showers. Wasting water was disrespectful. She would take me out to our family's ranch to show me about the springs. She taught me that water is living, that water is life.

When I was older one of the last conversations I had with my grandfather was about the role of my clan within this world. He told me that he is from the bear clan and that the bear clan holds the world in their paws. It is a great responsibility and I was part of that heritage. He told me to take strength from my bear ancestry.

More significantly, I was born for the water clan. He told me that it is the water clan's responsibility to care for the water of the earth so that all life can survive. It was at that moment that I realized where my desire to be helpful to all in this life came from. I am Hopi and we pray for and work for all life. This philosophy has transcended into my work amongst the business world and for economic development on the reservations.

In 2009 and 2010, I predict there will be periodic surges of growth in the economy. However, this will merely hide the underlying problem in our economy for a short period of time. A robust recovery will require a new playing field, one which must include new regulations in financial markets. Wall Street's insatiable greed must be replaced with a more sustainable attitude. This is where Native values can best contribute to an economic recovery. Native people have always cared for and thought about the welfare of future generations. The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy states: "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

We will achieve this when all businesses are held accountable for the social costs associated with their business operations. It should no longer be acceptable to realize profits at all costs regardless of the long-term effects on the health of people, the economy, or the availability of resources for future generations. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the Hopi."

Get the Story:
Jacquelyn Dyer: Plan for a new Native American century (The Alaska Dispatch 11/5)

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