GRIC Hosts NAFOA Fall 2023 Finance & Tribal Economies Conference at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
October 6, 2023
Gila River Indian News
The Native American Financial Officer Association kicked off its 2023 Fall Finance & Tribal Economies Conference on Monday, Oct. 2, at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. For two days, participants discussed the current trends in tribal economic development and shared resources with tribal financial professionals and tribal leaders, paving the way for innovative new ways to approach tribal economic developments.
On the first day, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis served as the opening speaker, welcoming hundreds of attendees to the Community as the host site this year. And in true host fashion, Community members provided a cultural opening performance by the Keli Akimel Hua Modk Cudk Dam dance group and color guard duties provided by the Pee Posh Veterans Association members and Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84.
“NAFOA offers best practices for everyone in these settings which is important because we’re in a truly historic moment when it comes to building out infrastructure in Indian Country and expanding our economic footprint,” said Gov. Lewis during his opening remarks. “Innovation and resiliency are what we want to harness during this conference and we’re honored to host you all here, the largest in the history of NAFOA, and offer our greetings and hospitality.”
Later that morning, Gov. Lewis served on the “An Innovative Approach to Funding New Construction in Indian Country” panel, where he outlined the new 105(l) lease program. During this time, Gov. Lewis shared how the Community utilized this new leaseback program from the federal government to build out the Gila Crossing Community School, Casa Blanca Community School, and the new Gila River Police Department facility.
Rodney Butler, Chairman of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and Mike Lettig, National Executive, KeyBank Native American Financial Services, served on the panel with Gov. Lewis and shared the successes being made and outlined the potential of the 105(l) program in Indian Country.
On day two, the morning session began again, demonstrating GRIC’s rich culture by performing Pee Posh bird songs and dancing for the audience.
Then, as the program proceeded, the Community showcased its groundbreaking strategies for water conservation. David DeJong, Project Director, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project, joined Gov. Lewis on the “Innovation in Water Management” panel, where they highlighted projects that have allowed GRIC to establish policies that fund projects that secure GRIC water rights, utilize solar-over canal panels, a return of the Community’s riparian wetlands, and fostering a healthy habitat for wildlife. Additionally, Gov. Lewis shared the unique ways this work contributes to conserving water that benefits all involved, including nearby communities like Chandler.
“Since time immemorial, everything we needed to sustain us, as a people, was found at the river so when we established our managed aquifer recharge sites we knew this would lessen our dependence on the Colorado River, but more importantly help us to protect the lifeline of our people using Gila River water,” said Gov. Lewis.
As the panel closed, Gov. Lewis imparted the Community’s progressive strategies for managing tribal resources to ensure social and economic longevity into the future.