Strong Women/Strong Nations 9: Panel 3, Business Leadership, “Strong Women/Strong Nations: Native American Women & Leadership” is a day-long symposium examining the complex identities of Native women through lively, insightful discussions by elected tribal leaders, activists, artists, and business leaders about the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities confronting women today. This segment features a panel discussion entitled “Forging New Ground and Giving Back.” Nearly half of Indian-owned businesses, which contribute billions to tribal, local, state, and national economies, are owned by Native American women—and that number is growing. The panel focuses on the innovative leadership of Native American women who are not only forging new ground in the private sector but also giving back in powerful ways to impact the lives of their tribal nations, communities, and women. Moderated by Clara Pratte, the panelists include Michelle Sparck (Qissunamiut), Co-founder, ArXotica Inc.; Michelle Sparck (Qissunamiut), Co-founder,
ArXotica Inc; and Karlene Hunter (Oglala Sioux), CEO/Co-founder,
Native American Natural Foods.
Clara Pratte, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Lupton, Arizona, serves as Acting President and CEO of NOVA Corporation. At NOVA, she leads the executive team and manages the day-to-day operations of the Navajo Nation-owned, award-winning IT services firm. Prior to joining NOVA, Pratte led the Navajo Nation’s advocacy efforts for all federal policy matters, managing a team of advocates at the Navajo Nation Washington Office. She also served the Obama administration as the National Director of the Office of Native American Affairs of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She was formerly at the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration with the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
Michelle (Macuar) Sparck, Along With Her Triplet Sisters Cika And Amy Sparck, Is The Owner Of Arxotica, A Botanical Skin Care And Toiletries Company. A Member Of The Qissunamiut Tribe Of Chevak, Alaska, She And Her Sisters Were Inspired By The Natural Resources Of Their Region And Its People And Culture. Sparck Has Had A Seasoned Career In Public Service, Working With Both Government And Non-Governmental Organizations That Benefit Alaska Native Tribes. She Has Also Co-Authored A Chapter In Northern Lights Against Pops: Combating Toxic Threats In The Arctic. Sparck Handles The Bulk Of Arxotica’s Day-To-Day Operations Including Research, Networking, Social Media, And Sales. She Utilizes Traditional Gathering Knowledge In Wild Harvesting In The Tundra.
Andra Rush is founder, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Rush Group LLC, a Michigan-based automotive manufacturing, logistics, supply chain management, and freight transportation company, which operates Rush Trucking Corporation, Dakkota Integrated Systems, and Detroit Manufacturing Systems. Rush launched her first company in 1984 with a ,000 loan from her parents and her credit cards WOMEN NATIONS Native American Women & Leadership to buy a van and a pair of pickup trucks. Today, her companies employ nearly 4,000 team members, creating sustainable jobs in underserved communities. She was recognized by President Barack Obama during his 2014 State of the Union address for innovative job creation and manufacturing ingenuity. That same year, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Karlene Hunter is CEO and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Ms. Hunter has more than 25 years of experience working on educational and economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where Native American Natural Foods is based. The Kyle, SD, company, founded with her longtime business partner Mark Tilsen, is the second business Ms. Hunter has started on the reservation. In 1996, Hunter and Tilsen created Lakota Express, a direct marketing and customer care management company. Hunter has received numerous awards, including the 2012 Vision Leadership Award from the Specialty Food Association and the Natural Foods Industry’s prestigious 2010 Cliff Adler “Heart in Business” Award.
The symposium was webcast and recorded at the Rasmuson Theater of the National Museum of the American Indian on March 18, 2018.,