Heartland Center for Leadership Development


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From the Keeping it Rural Conference, held by the BC Rural Centre, October 7-8, 2019.

Provided by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2019.


Copyright 2019, Heartland Center for Leadership Development. Used by permission.


Looking out the window of a crowded office in Polson, Montana, one can picture a tipi village where the employee parking lot is now—a combination tourist attraction and outdoor sales show room for the traditional Plains-style tipis made by a local company that markets them throughout the nation. The company owner, and the person with the idea for selling the tipis, is a Native American who is a “serial” entrepreneur—someone who has started several businesses over time, then sells them off and starts another.

The Flathead Indian Reservation, which occupies more than one million acres from Montana’s scenic Flathead Lake all the way south to Missoula, has nurtured hundreds of Native entrepreneurs and, at the same time, has multimillion dollar tribal-owned enterprises with multiple locations throughout the nation. One of those enterprises, S&K (for Salish and Kootenai) Technologies, does $80 million in business with clients ranging from the Smithsonian Institution to the Department of Defense. Another is a Flathead Lake resort with a small casino. Another, Flathead Stickers, makes lath, turns posts and manufactures survey sticks. The tribes also own a hydropower dam currently leased to Montana Power.