I recently attended the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development conference in Las Vegas where I was on a panel with my dear friend and colleague Richard Huebner, President and CEO of the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. On this panel, Mr. Huebner and I addressed the issue of how Native enterprises could be successful with Corporate America. .
This was my second consecutive year of attending this impressive gathering of Native enterprises and Tribal nations. And for me this has become a personal journey of connecting to parts of my forgotten but glorious past. My African heritage is self-evident. Not so with my Native past. Recently, with the benefit of genealogical research done by one of my relatives we have been able to firmly establish the Native connections that bind me to this community.
We have learned that my mother’s maternal grandmother was born Choctaw and my mother’s paternal grandmother was born Shawnee. The Choctaw lineage is lost in history, but we were able to trace the Shawnee history directly to the Shawnee legend, Tecumseh. This revelation sparked great interest in this historic figure and his peripatetic journey around what became the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky to unite Native Tribes in the effort to hold on to their traditions and their land.
Tecumseh fought the Americans and aligned with the British during the War of 1812 because the land hungry Americans continued to make and break treaties stealing Native lands and decimating the Native environment. Tecumseh was one of the first pan-Native leaders who saw the need to unify Natives to protect their interests.
At this NCAIED conference this week, I was able to witness that the spirit of Tecumseh lives on. Today Native tribes are still struggling for recognition of their lands, resources and rights. NCAIED has the leadership and the focus to build Native wealth through entrepreneurship and business development.
Tuck has a unique role in this effort. Many may not know that Dartmouth was founded by British royal, prior to the formation of the United States of America. That royal, realized the damage that was being done to Native cultures and provided the resources to start a school that would help train natives and Dartmouth was formed in 1769. One of the first students at Dartmouth was Samson Occum a Mohegan. Since its formation, Dartmouth has graduated more Natives than all of the Ivy League schools combined.
I am in the right place. But we need to reconnect the current efforts in MBE programs to this rich tradition of Native development. You can help by providing the resources we need to fund Native leaders to come to Tuck MBE programs. I hope to hear from you.
In your service,
Dr. Fred McKinney is the Managing Director of Minority Business Programs. You can find Dr. McKinney's biography on our staff page. Learn more about our MBE program offerings and see our list of programs here.
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