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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 23, 2002 - Issue 55


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Indian Business, Entrpreneurship, and Supporting Each Other

by Suzanne Westerly Canku Ota Correspondent
credits: photos by Suzanne Westerly

“Any kind of positive eye-opening experience is so beneficial to a young mind and their development, that's what encouraged me! So we try to make those kinds of opportunities available,” said Paula Starr (Cheyenne-Arapaho), the vibrant Executive Director of the Southern California Indian Center (SCIC) headquartered in Orange County. Paula resolutely believes in the importance of “lifeplanning. Whether you use this agency or another agency, use us! That’s what we’re here for. We're here for the community, to provide whatever assistance we can,” she said passionately.

Paula was born in Oklahoma. “We were part of the Relocation. My parents moved from OK in the late 50's, so I grew up in LA County, and went back and forth. By the time I was in high school and college at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), things changed.”

“I realized it was okay to be Indian, that not everybody drank, and that not everybody beat up each other.” Paula realized education was her path. At UCLA and UC Irvine, she met “some really good Indian women role models to follow, so that really helped me to realize it's okay not to drink and it's okay to get an education.”

After getting her Masters in Lighting Design, she did stage work, then became a teacher, and a health educator. “Then about twelve years ago I started working at the SCIC and I've been here ever since.”

Paula believes that education and entrepreneurship are important for the future of American Indians. “Good things can occur when you start seeing how to apply yourself, instead of doing the Band-Aid approach, let's look at longevity for life.”

The Center sponsored a Youth Pow Wow and “Empowerment for Life Fair” last summer. “The concept is old, but for our community it’s new. I heard so many people say ‘you know what? I've been renting for 16 years, I didn't realize that I could buy a house.’ We had people from mortgage companies, consumer credit people, and literature available. Yes, you can buy your own house, your own car, start a business. There were several Chambers of Commerce there including our American Indian Chamber of Commerce in Southern California. The President of the Chamber is Tracy Stanhoff. She just got an award as Indian Women Entrepreneur of the Year. There again, education came in,” Paula said with enthusiasm. “Tracy graduated from Cal State Long Beach. She is Choctaw and Potowatomi, and she really got the Chamber working. She is on our Board of Directors and working with others on a National American Indian Chamber of Commerce,” (see sidebar)

SCIC serves the largest concentration of off-Reservations Indians in the country. A few things they do are assisting people in getting work experience, education, their GED’s, and in teaching “cultural enrichment, where the kids learn intertribal dancing, and parenting empowerment. The intertribal student council has organized and implemented their own youth conference,” Paula said proudly.

In her position, Paula meets with many school and government officials. One thing that is extremely frustrating to Paula is that “there is such a miscommunication with elected officials. We are always trying to educate them. Paula mentioned to a friend of hers who’s a Professor and a California Indian, that “we need a college course for anybody who wants to become an elected official. They must take this course just to be updated on current Indian issues and our rights and treaties.” They must then pass a test, she said. The Professor agreed.

And then there are the school boards and teachers. Paula said that most of them know “nothing about when we became citizens, or about the Indian Self-Determination Act. They don't know anything about Indians, and they don’t teach anything about Indians,” Paula said in exasperation.

She brightened up as she talked about the Centers WIA Program (see sidebar) teaching multi-media. It’s an exciting opportunity for the youth, which “is another reason the multi-media project is so important.” It will offer a new and exciting educational option for the Indian youth. “In the future we can go into the tribes and develop some kind of multi audio/visual system where those kids learn this tech stuff.”

“It's all about Indian business, entrepreneurship, and supporting each other. Roscoe and Eagle (see: Following in the Footsteps of His Grandfather) filmed the powwow, but first they had to write about a budget, with all the details, scripting it out and then edit the film.” Paula remarked that taking care of all the details from beginning to end was in itself a learning experience.

Paula envisions the certain growth of the program because, “we have so many talented individuals that are willing to come in and assist, that's what it is all about, our voices need to be heard,” she said with determination.

Southern California Indian Center (SCIC)

Paula Starr is the Executive Director of the Southern California Indian Center.

SCIC is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit community based organization, incorporated in 1968 to create, develop and implement programs and services for American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians that will promote social and economic self-sufficiency. to promote, foster and encourage programs for the general welfare, education and social benefit of American Indians.

SCIC programs include: child services, foster care, tobacco education, health & wellness, senior citizen, department of labor training and job placement, family violence prevention, preservation of cultural and sacred sites.

To find out about their Employment and Training Programs, call a branch of the Center located in a country near you.

Los Angeles (213) 387-5772
Fountain Valley (714) 962-6673
Commerce (213) 728-8844
Van Nuys (818) 994-6744
Riverside (909) 955-8029
Antelope Valley (661) 723-3213
Bakersfield (661) 328-6206

Southern California Indian Center's Education Component
6055 E. Washington Blvd.
Suite 700
Commerce, CA 90040
(323) 728-8844
FAX (323) 728-9834
Web Site:

U.S. American Indian Chamber of Commerce Formed

The U.S. American Indian Chamber of Commerce was formed last October.

Paul Bresette, a member of the Bad River Band of Chippewa in Northern Wisconsin, and vice president of the Native American Business Alliance is now also the business alliance official of the new Chamber. He said one very important thing the Chamber will do, is to help pull together Native American businesspeople who have lost contact with their tribes and heritage because they moved to urban areas.

"The largest population of Indians is not on the reservations; the largest population is the urban Indian," said Bresette.

One of the founders of the new Chamber, Gene Bloomfield (Choctaw and Cherokee), is the president of the American Indian Chamber of Texas. He feels the national organization will give Native American businesses a voice in Congress and in decision-making fields of the corporate world.

With the local Chambers and the national group, Andrew Lee, director of the Project on American Indian Economic Development at Harvard University noted that because of the steady growth of Indian entrepreneurs, reliance on government funding, will be much less of a focus.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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