Lessons Learned serving as a Laguna Development Corporation (LDC) Board of Directors Member

It’s no secret that I’m on the Board of Directors of Laguna Development Corporation (it’s in my Bio here and on the company website, so it’s public).  I was appointed about 3 years ago this month by the Pueblo of Laguna tribal council based on my corporate experience and being a pueblo of laguna tribal member.  Since being appointed, I have seen and experienced quite a bit in the areas of gaming, hospitality, retail, and food & beverage.  Here are some lessons learned during this journey, in no particular order.  I will add to this list as more lessons come to mind.

  1. A Section 17 federal tribal corporation is a unique corporate entity, it is tribal community oriented.
  2. Non-tribal board members will likely struggle to understand the tribal perspective and way of life.
  3. Being an active and contributing board member will take more time than you think, more than 75% of my IBM vacation time off work went to being a board member.
  4. Corporate communication is hard to do well.
  5. Understanding sovereign immunity is fundamental and important.
  6. When $777,632 went missing in late 2014, it was a big deal.  Based on the cash share agreement this means the pueblo is out more than $500,000 for 2015.
  7. Tribal businesses seem to lack a “killer instinct” to dominate their market and be number one, they move forward very conservatively.
  8. Disappointment is part of having high standards of behavior and ethics.

Update … on January 31, 2015, my term expired and I am no longer on the Laguna Development Corporation Board Of Directors, long story.  I am grateful Laguna Pueblo gave me the opportunity to contribute back to my home community in the capacities I can.  I’m open and look forward to helping other tribes raise the bar and really compete in the business world off the rez.

– Dom

Dr George Blue Spruce Jr

Last night I attended the book signing of Dr George Blue Spruce Jr (Laguna Pueblo / Ohkay Owingeh) and was very delighted to meet him for the very first time.  The room was full of family, friends, & most of all future medical students.  Roughly about 100 people were in the room to hear Dr Blue Spruce Jr talk about his life story.  A story he finally wrote down into a book titled “Searching For My Destiny”.  I have a previous post on my blog here, which contain some of what I was able to find on the internet about him.

I particularly enjoyed his jokes and how he overcame adversity being the only American Indian among many groups growing up.  What struck me most was how Dr Blue Spruce Jr had to develop the independence and sense of self worth to continue alone for many years away from his tribal home.  His life dedication and thoughtfulness of others helped craft Indian health policy to benefit not only the tribes he was from but those of so many others as well.

I am proud to have met this man, and I sincerely hope to continue the conversation again.

Dr Blue Spruce Jr and the family allowed me to video the event and share it.  Here is the full MP3 audio & download link from his talk (almost 43 minutes long, and 20MB in size), and a highlight video.  Enjoy!

– Dom

Full Audio:


Highlight Video:

Searching for My Destiny

I received a email this morning from one of the email lists I maintain.  In it was a upcoming event of great interest to me personally because I knew this person’s family was from Paguate Village in Laguna Pueblo.

The email was about Dr Blue Spruce, Jr from Roxane Spruce Bly.  I was only aware of the family growing up in Paguate and was very surprised to learn more about this individual.

The email read:

Recognized as the first American Indian Dentist, Dr. Blue Spruce, Jr. founded the Society of American Indian Dentists and is currently an Assistant Dean at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health where he has motivated many Native students to attend dental school and return to their tribal communities to practice.

His recently published autobiography, Searching for My Destiny recounts his childhood growing up at the Santa Fe Indian School and his parents’ determination that their children obtain college degrees.  He describes the loneliness and challenges of leaving home and graduating from dental school at Creighton University as well as the excitement of a career that took him from Montana to New York City and South America.

Please join Dr. Blue Spruce Jr., his family, and friends to honor his contributions to Indian health and hear his personal memories of traveling between two cultures, facing prejudice, and conquering adversity to achieve the rank of Assistant Surgeon General of the United States.

Light refreshments will be served.

When:  Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 3pm
Where:  Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
2401 12th St. NW
Albuquerque, NM  87104

After reading this, I went about to find out what else more was on the internet, and here is what I uncovered for all the readers of my post here.

Here is the audio from the NPR event, the book review & interview start at about the 6 minute mark:

I have not read the book yet (it’s now on my list), but I’m sure there are some similarities in our paths dealing with mainstream culture vs native culture and learning away from home.  I’m really looking forward to the event honoring Dr Blue Spruce, Jr at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.  I’m sure there is plenty to learn from his journey.

– Dom

Maori Performance

I recently connected with a friend on twitter (@tlcgoodluck) and found out she works at the Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, NM.  My family and I were invited to a Maori performance at the school on 5/13/2010 (these performers traveled all the way from New Zealand).  We went and it was a great visit, I learned that many of the students at the school are from the surrounding tribes in NM and that a couple of the teachers were from Laguna Pueblo.  The real goal for my visit was to meet with the science/math teachers so I can present about engineering/business/career to the kids in the future.  It was a great afternoon seeing all the students, talking with several teachers, and watching the performance.  Here a brief video of the Maori visit.  Enjoy!

– Dom

* For better video & audio quality watch the 720p HD version.

Laguna Storytelling

The Laguna Public Library (in Laguna, NM) periodically holds events for the public that help promote & preserve the local culture.  This last Monday (5/10) the library had “Laguna Storytelling” with Chris Luther.  This hour long event was great re-introduction to the Keres language for me personally.  I was very appreciative that the library and Chris allowed the event to be recorded.  This video is just a small sample of what occured, the full video will be put on the computers in the library for others to also enjoy the event.

– Dom

* For better video & audio quality watch the 720p HD version.