Violet McGuire of the National Native American Human Resources Association (courtesy photo)
DURANGO, Colo.-A Native American group has left its “comfort area” in the Northwest, first to go national, then southwestern.
Hoping to increase attendance and membership numbers, the National Native American Human Resources Association is preparing to hold its annual conference in Albuquerque, N.M., April 23-25.
The group became a national association two years ago, after more than six years as the Northwest Native American Human Resources Association. Its members mainly belonged to the four Columbia River tribes: the Confederated Umatilla Tribes, the Yakama Nation, the Nez Perce Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indians.
According to Violet McGuire, secretary of the association, over the years the Northwest organization had grown so much it attracted conference-goers from tribes as far away as Minnesota. When increased attendance continued, McGuire said, the association officers decided to become a national organization.
Now in its second year as a national group, the association decided to move its annual conference to Albuquerque in hopes of increasing membership and attendance, and to benefit from sources in the area, McGuire said.
“Moving to the Southwest out of the Northwest is a big step,” said Lorena Thompson, vice president of the association. “It will definitely be a challenge moving out of our comfort area.”
Thompson said there are many pros and cons of moving the location and time frame of the conference, which was usually held in June. She said many of the northwest tribes are only able to send one or two attendees rather than three or four because of the traveling expense. There are two other human resources conferences being held in Albuquerque before the association’s meeting, as well as the Gathering of Nations Powwow, she said.
“Our goal has always been to provide resources and networking opportunities with tribes,” said Thompson.
Conference workshop topics will include workforce development, performance counseling, internal investigations and career advising. The conference is targeted at human resources professionals, government officials and tribal department managers.
Thompson said the public’s perception of tribal employment is that tribes do not have to follow certain procedures within human resources, also known as personnel offices. However, she said, there are certain restrictions in tribal human resources that are not found at other employers.
The association treasurer, Jan Jacobsen, has worked for Yakama Forest Products, an enterprise of the Yakama Nation in Washington, for nine years. Jacobsen said the role of human resources in the tribal workplace is critical.
“Laws are always changing,” said Jacobsen. “You need constant training, to make sure you’re taking advantage of what is available.”
For members of the the association, the conference is a tool for networking.
“Every conference that I go to, I take what I learn back and present it to my co-workers,” said LouAnn Ortiz, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa.
Ortiz is the manager of the human resources department at Leech Lake Gaming, located in Cass Lake, Minn., which employs more than 1,300 people. Ortiz said the main problem casino employees face is re-entering the workforce.
Ortiz said that by attending Native American human resources conferences she is able to develop ideas that can tackle this problem and help change policies successfully.
Ortiz said she is happy the association decided to move the conference to Albuquerque. She said she hopes that the group continues to grow. She’ll continue to be a member, she said.
“I hope to be a part of the group that makes it successful,” said Ortiz.
Filed under: Indigenous | Tagged: Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indians., Confederated Umatilla Tribes, Human Resources Association, National, Native American, the Nez Perce Nation, the Yakama Nation | Leave a comment »