Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Native to Native Business: We Need to Defend and Redevelop the Concept

It is imperative that we identify, oppose and ultimately rid ourselves of any of the obstacles preventing Native to Native commerce. Even as states and their federal government continue to work to deny our free access to the American market, we need to draw an even more indelible line when it comes to interfering with Our commerce. No state should be allowed to dictate to a Native person the terms by which they can purchase, sell or otherwise trade with another Native person or in another Native territory. We are consumers of goods. For the most part, most of our consumption takes place off our territories. We need to network both as consumers and producers to ensure that we are keeping the dollars amongst us through as many exchanges as possible. We need to identify the products and services our people need most and work to anchor our businesses with Native clientele.
Even the Nation enterprises have a role here. Let the gaming enterprises promote each others facilities. Learn from and teach each other the tricks for success. Promote and carry Native products in the Nation gaming and retail facilities. For those Nations with a successful private sector, demonstrate the value and the strength that comes from it. Keep in mind that not all services or development require the expansion of Nation employment. Contracts for anything from travel to lawn care can create a private sector business opportunity.
We need to look for future opportunities. Gas, Gaming and Cigarettes have been done and while our place in these industries needs to be defended, asserted and even grown, we need to move beyond them. World class Flea Markets networked across Indian Country could serve as incubators for Native retailers. Products from artisans to farmers could be afforded the best physical and electronic means to get their products to market. Other types of development centers for business and technology should capitalize on our regulatory advantages. Such facilities could help to bring in leading edge manufacturing and investment, in particular from Native people. Green technologies and sustainable enterprises, with a look forward and more scrutiny of our past, should present genuine opportunities for the future. Asserting our role as the Earth's Care Takers should be a task we take seriously. Our future may depend on it in more ways than one.
We shouldn't be adopting an isolationist policy or attitude towards our commerce with the non-native community, but we need to re-establish our relationships and not allow ourselves to be separated socially, culturally or economically from each other. Defending our commerce with the non-native public can only be strengthened by a strong Native to Native economy. There should be a social component to our business development. Perhaps the dollar isn't the bottom line. Economic profitability is certainly relevant and extremely important, but the need to provide products and services truly needed by our people must be considered. As consumers we have to decided if saving a buck at Walmart or McDonald's is worth the trip, especially if it tips the scale for viability of a local business.
Let's begin a process of reassessing our needs and relationships. Let's really consider who and what we want to support.