Māori grow indigenous business links at US summit

By Aroha Mane

Members of Te Ohu Whai Ao have travelled to Las Vegas to attend RES2020: Reservation Economic Summit, an indigenous business summit.

Co-Chair Rachel Petero says the event will help the Māori business development trust gain a better understanding of how to grow the Māori economy through business collaboration with indigenous peoples.

RES2020 is a network of like-minded indigenous peoples, not just for business but also for issues at the forefront of indigenous communities.

“Today is really a tribute and support of indigenous women, so it's the missing and murdered indigenous women we represent today, that's why we're wearing our kākahu," Petero says. 

"That's really us being here to tautoko and to recognise other indigenous women and the challenges they are facing as well, not only in business but as women in general.”

Each year, the summit brings together indigenous people from the United States, Canada, the Pacific and Aotearoa so that indigenous can work with indigenous.

CEO for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, Chris James, from the Cherokee Nation, says part of that partnership includes Te Ohu Whai Ao.

“I think the ultimate goal for us is to continue the collaboration and maybe eventually we'll make some deals. That would be some education deals, maybe some trade agreements, some ideas or a connection, indigenous to indigenous trade," James says.

"I think that's very important but also how we can succeed together in economic development in our homelands.”

Petero says one of the themes that resonated with her was the low number of indigenous women in the tech industry.

“If you look at the statistics here, so there are 25 per cent wāhine in tech. Of that 25 per cent, point three per cent are Native American women. I know that we face the same challenges in Aotearoa as well and getting more women into tech. So if you look into the statistics a bit deeper, getting Māori women into tech is even a bigger challenge.”

Te Ohu Whai Ao chairperson Richard Tauehe-Jefferies says there are also business opportunities for other indigenous to invest in Aotearoa.

“One of our main priorities is to look at investment here, asses other indigenous opportunities and build relationships. There are so many variations and money to be made. We know the casino and gambling industry is big here. They may look to invest with us.”

The four-day conference ends tomorrow.