Like many Native businesses, NATIFS was present at the 2024 Reservation Economic Summit, known as “RES,” put on by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

Held in Las Vegas, the event is designed for attendees to network, gain opportunities, attend business development sessions, and take advantage of one-on-one consulting, all centered around American Indian Enterprise.

Highlights from this year’s attendance included bringing several staff members to participate, including Alexis McKinnis, Operations Leader, Ana Garcia Castellanos, Education Coordinator, Jackie Lam, Assistant Manager @ IFL Market, Kate Hoff, Strategy and Resource Development, and Linda Black Elk, Educational Programming and Community Outreach Leader. Sean Sherman, Executive Director, did two keynote presentations, and an excellent article was written about him in Res Magazine.

Both talks were well received, and Sean’s recipes were served to two separate groups at the conference, including the conference’s “40 under 40” awards ceremony, recognizing 40 emerging Natives from across Indian Country who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication, and made significant contributions in business and/or in their community. Menu highlights include bison meatballs with wojape, sun butter bars, turkey tostadas, and more. The importance of NATIFS’ contribution to serving culturally appropriate cooking to an audience like the one at RES cannot be overstated. Large conferences such as this one are usually relegated to hotel banquet food, and this menu is one of the ways that NATIFS makes a valuable difference.

Our organization also hosted a table throughout the conference, staffed by Ana and Jackie, where they were able to spread the word about our larger work, including two of the products that NATIFS has helped develop– Indigi-Baby, a baby food using all Indigenous-produced ingredients, and Two Sisters Tea, which features blends created by our Herbal Educator Francesca Garcia, and her sister, Jessica Ferlaak. 

Ana and Jackie also presented the End Cap Food Access programming we are developing, which is a way for tribes, community centers, convenience stores, and tribal regions to have a curated set of Indigenous products easily available to put into their retail location to increase access to Indigenous products and healthy food options. 

Jackie, who hosted the table for three days, said, “For myself and Ana, the connections that we made were really exciting. It was inspiring – it was a really good way to refine our explanation of the work that we do – trying to encapsulate it and spread that message across America and internationally.” 

Since NATIFS, IFL, and Owamni are all Minneapolis-based businesses, it’s imperative that we stay on a national, and even international stage to continue to spread the message of all of our entities’ important work. 

“It felt like whatever we’re interested in here in Minnesota, they are interests that everybody in the Indigenous community has,” Ana added. “I see it. And I feel like it’s really important that we get connected as an organization with all sorts of businesses that are not only related to food sovereignty but that we get out of our own space. That was a big benefit of us being there.” 

Operations director, Alexis McKinnis, was able to take advantage of business operations and HR panels specific to Indigenous enterprise. 

“I think it was interesting that we had a big group there, but we have people kind of focused in different areas and almost on different tracks, said Kate Hoff, to recap.

“We were out of our bubble,” Ana concluded. “We had the opportunity to help people for the first time understand what we do. It was a big responsibility. We had a great opportunity for them to not forget what we said, and just be as great in our service while we were there as possible.”

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