Networking in the City
Urban American Indian professionals and entrepreneurs often find that living in a city can create challenges because of the lack of immediate contact with their community. However, living in urban areas does not have to mean living without an American Indian network.
While many people think of American Indians as living out in Indian Country (the reservations, pueblos and other rural locations often seen in movies), most don't. According to the US 2000 Census, 65 percent of American Indians live in metropolitan areas. Many American Indians landed in these spots as a result of federal assimilation and relocation policies, while others chose to move in pursuit of jobs.
Because urban American Indians are often a long way from their respective tribes and other tribal members, even cities with dense American Indian populations may lack American Indian neighborhoods. This can make it difficult to network, locate new business opportunities and access resources.
However, by tapping into cultural and business associations and centers in cities, American Indians can build networks across neighborhoods. For entrepreneurs, these organizations can also become a means to build business.
Professionals and small business owners can tap into a number of resources:
- The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development: This program of the Minority Business Development Agency provides management and technical assistance to American Indians nationwide. The service is available to individuals on and off reservations and offers help both to startups and established businesses.
- National, State and Local American Indian Chambers of Commerce: These organizations provide members with a chance to network and work together to build their local economies. Many chambers also offer access to training and other resources to help small business owners. The Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce, for example, offers business conferences, networking and professional development opportunities as well as cultural events such as powwows.
- Community Development Corporations: In some cities, American Indians have joined together to create community development corporations. One example is the Minneapolis-based American Indian Neighborhood Development Corporation. This group's development efforts have included the Franklin Business Center, a small-business incubator.
- Urban American Indian centers, like the American Indian Center of Chicago, offer cultural and business resources, including a range of sponsorship events.
While living in a city can be challenging, there are opportunities for American Indian entrepreneurs and professionals to network and build business prospects while supporting community growth.