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CSKT Economic Development Office informs Elders of three-year economic study

By B.L. Azure

SPCC Elders Committee member Louie Adams comments on the CSKT economic development project. (B.L. Azure photo) SPCC Elders Committee member Louie Adams comments on the CSKT economic development project. (B.L. Azure photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Economic Development Office gave the SPCC Elders Committee an update on the office and an upcoming three-year study about the economics and employment opportunities on or near the Flathead Indian Reservation. The three-year study is funded by an Administration for Native Americans (ANA) grant.

“We want to improve the reservation economy to provide for better economic opportunities, especially for tribal members,” said Economic Development Office Director Joe Dupuis in his presentation to the Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elders Committee at its February meeting last week.

“The Tribes can’t employ every tribal member that is why we need to look for other sources of employment,” said Janet Camel of the Economic Development Office. “We will also be looking at ways to provide support for tribal entrepreneurs.”

The first year of the study will focus on the regional economy to help determine where there is the best potential for sustainable employment opportunities on and/or near the Flathead Indian Reservation. The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research will assist with the survey of tribal members about their career goals, job skills, and education and training needs as well as barriers to employment.

“We want to bring back the questions we develop for the survey in April or May for your review,” Camel told the Elders Committee. The survey will then be sent to members of the CSKT from ages 18 to 60 years this spring and it will need to be back to the Economic Development Office by mid-2014. “This is an opportunity to get a lot of good employment information.”

The second year will include the creation of a Sustainable Economic Development Plan that includes the use of information gathered from the survey of individual tribal members.

“I hope we get a good response to the survey,” Camel said. “It could help us build a program that will stay relevant over time.”

The third year of the project will include the development and implementation of a Pilot Training Program.

“We will focus on the potential job areas where the survey garnered the most interest, and look at the job trends on and off the reservation,” Camel said. “We will do some training and we will try to get some new businesses started.”

Joe Dupuis and Janet Camel of the CSKT’s Economic Development program discuss a three-year economic development project that seeks input from the tribal public. (B.L. Azure photo)Joe Dupuis and Janet Camel of the CSKT’s Economic Development program discuss a three-year economic development project that seeks input from the tribal public. (B.L. Azure photo

Also to get some changes in thinking about working for the CSKT.

“We hope to stimulate a change in thinking that the tribal government can provide employment for all its members. People say that the Tribes should do this or do that. This is an opportunity for individual tribal members to do for themselves,” Dupuis said. “The Tribes spend a lot of money that immediately goes into the hands of non-Indian business owners. We want to see tribally owned businesses get their hands on that money. We also want to match employment opportunities with the jobs that are out there. Tribally owned businesses will help create more employment opportunities.”

“We need to have more forest jobs,” said SPCC Elders Committee member Stephen Small Salmon.

“One of the most successful programs we have done was the cordwood program,” Dupuis said. “It was hard work that at its height had many, many families making a living off of it. They were responsible for themselves, their families. When the program ended a lot of those folks suffered. I would like to see more of that type of work available again.”

“The cord wood program was good,” said Steve Arca. “If I could I would like to make it on my own. It’s tough finding work out there. A job is good for self-esteem. I am excited to see this effort moving forward. This will be great for our people if it accomplishes creating more jobs.”

“I believe the Tribes can come up with a lot of jobs. The cord wood program was a good thing. I made $100 a day when I was in my 70s,” said SPCC EC member 85-year-old Pat Pierre. “I look at this economic development as a way to make people and their families better off. Helping our people help others should be the number one priority.”

“Economic development, we’ve been doing that for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said Greg Dumontier, of the Economic Development Office board. “This is for our well being and it is not beyond our grasp. We need to do this from our own cultural standpoint.”

Dumontier knows a bit about economic development. He was the main — lone at times — driver of the CSKT’s monumental and historic entrance into the world economy with the establishment of S&K Technologies, Inc., The CSKT-owned corporation has spawned six subsidiary businesses with offices throughout the United States and Saudi Arabia. They all bear the cultural accruements of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people.

For more information, contact Joe Dupuis at 675-2700, ext. 1342; Janet Camel at 675-2700, ext. 1256; or, Becca Hendrickx at 675-2700, ext. 1276.

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