NANA Development wins corporate-advocate award, a first for Alaska Native firm

Lauded for "unwavering support" of its shareholders, NANA Development Corp. recently became the first Alaska Native company to win the corporate advocate award presented by the National Center of American Indian Enterprise Development.

NANA Development, a subsidiary of NANA Regional Corp., won the Corporate Advocate of the Year Award at the center's 25th annual Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair in March in Las Vegas.

The Alaska Native company, serving shareholders with roots in Inupiat Northwest Alaska, has encouraged business development to foster a promising future for its people, a press statement from the center said. The center, headquartered in Mesa, Ariz., was created to promote economic development in Indian Country.

NANA Regional's president and chief executive Marie Greene accepted the award. In a speech, she outlined the unique responsibilities Alaska Native corporations have to their shareholders as a result of the 1971 federal law creating the firms.

Those corporations all work to improve Alaska Native lives, she said. NANA has provided cash dividends, jobs and scholarships for shareholders while creating important social and cultural programs, including to preserve the Inupiaq language.

She briefly touched on the fact that federal 8a contracting benefits created to help Native-owned corporations, as well firms owned by American Indian and Native Hawaiian, have come under attack.

The most notable attacks have come from some lawmakers, with critics charging that the benefits give Native corporations unfair advantages and contribute to wasteful spending. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, has been the most prominent critic, attempting to undo the program and questioning whether Native corporations return enough jobs and benefits to their shareholders.

"While we are happy to provide results to those who asked, I could not help but be surprised at the line of questions," Greene said in her speech.

Financial numbers and other data are important indicators of a Native corporation's success, but have never been the goal.

"After all, how much is self-reliance worth?" she asked. "How do you quantify the survival of a people, a language, and a culture? What is the cost of our traditions, or our subsistence way of life?

"We do not grow simply to increase profits or expand for expansion's sake," she said. "Native enterprises are a means to an end. They are the mechanism we use to ensure the survival of our people. They allow us to document our history, perpetuate our traditions, and they are the financial foundations on which future generations will be built."

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