In mid-July 2018, Ben Cutrell, CAC apprentice, and Anastasia Buretta, CGS intern, traveled to Washington D.C. and attended the Emerging Native Leaders’ Summit (ENLS) hosted by the Native American Contractors Association (NACA). NACA is an organization comprised of lobbyists and government relations specialists that advocate for their members on Native American issues throughout the United States. The ENLS provides training for things such as business basics and Indian law and advocacy. This year’s summit focused on how Native American leaders increasingly play a role on the national stage.

Throughout the three-day conference, they attended an array of presentations and discussions designed to create awareness about the Native American community and its growing position in our nation’s commerce. Topics of discussion also focused on the Small Business Administration 8(a) development program and how this federal contracting source has helped to grow small, Native owned companies.

On the second day of the summit, they took part in a mock senate hearing. “It was actually kind of intense,” Ben said. He and Anastasia, along with a few others, represented Chugach as they led their group to a win. Afterwards, they were able to attend an actual senate hearing, which was about water rights for a Native American tribe. Ben and Anastasia described the hearing as a lot more intense than the practice session.

Aside from the summit, they were able to visit the Capital Building, the Washington Monument, the Supreme Court Building, the Smithsonian, and the International Spy Museum.

The whole trip—including travel, hotel, per diem, and the application fee to attend the summit—was sponsored by Chugach’s Shareholder Development department.

“This was a great opportunity to learn more about congress and how it impacts our people,” said Millie Johnson, Vice President of Shareholder Development and Relations.

“The three-day conference was a whirlwind. The variety of speakers including experts in the fields of advocacy, government relations, small business administration as well as, CEO’s and VP’s of several Native American and Tribal Corporations was inspiring, and I learned more than I thought possible,” Ben said. “The trip was a once-in-lifetime experience.”

For Anastasia, the trip demonstrated the importance of having a voice for Native Americans. “I would say that the most valuable part of participating in the NACA Emerging Native Leaders’ Summit was seeing how important it is to advocate today for ourselves and our people. I left knowing that it’s possible to make positive changes for our people or community, and that there are others willing to help,” she said.

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