iResponse receives American Indian Business of the Year Award

 

March 28, 2019



A Rocky Boy business that helps tribes preserve and protect sacred tribal lands received a national award this week.

National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, an American Indian business and economic development organization for Indian Country across the country, presented iResponse with the American Indian Business of the Year Award.

iResponse CEO Alvin Windy Boy Sr. said he feels good about receiving the award and wants to grow his businesses to assist with tribes across the country.

“We want to take iResponse to another level,” he said.

The award was presented Monday during National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Reservation Economic Summit, which is running Monday through today this week in Las Vegas.

Windy Boy said he is proud about what iResponse has accomplished and the work he and his employees have done. He added that his employees are important to him, and his employees have a variety of backgrounds and are not all tribal members.

He said that while he is in Las Vegas he plans to acknowledge at least 30 members of iResponse’s past and present employees. He added that he is proud of the people he has had over the years, with many of his former employees either going back to school or advancing in their own careers after leaving the company.


iResponse is an online resource tribal communities can use to identify historic and sacred lands to prevent them from being damaged or destroyed by construction, Windy Boy said. It also provides consultation and archaeological research and creates a platform for tribal communities to speak with companies prior to construction.

Windy Boy worked with software engineers to create the tool to simplify tribal consultation requests as required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the iResponse website says.

Section 106 of the act requires federal agencies to determine if federally funded projects will impact historic properties — which includes Native American historical and sacred sites.

Windy Boy added that it is very important that tribes are involved with these projects.

Since it first began, iResponse has had thousands of successful requests and acceptances by both the government and specific industries, the site says.

“What we are seeing is that a lot of these projects have already destroyed sacred sites that are important to tribes,” Windy Boy said from Las Vegas in a telephone interview.

Windy Boy said that iResponse is open to any federally recognized tribe in the country.

Currently, iResponse is primarily used by the Chippewa Cree and Eastern Shoshone tribes. Windy Boy said that, for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, his business doesn’t get directly involved in the projects but does serve as a platform and a resource.


Between the two tribes, more than 23,000 projects have come through the iResponse system, he said, with more than 500 companies being involved since iResponse began.

Windy Boy said it is important that tribes get involved in any building process because, before construction on potentially historic land begins, archaeological reports are not always complete.

How iResponse came to be

Windy Boy, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s historic preservation officer, said he wanted to start iResponse after noticing large amounts of unprocessed paperwork from companies and communication departments across the country in 2005. He said that within an eight-hour day, he was able to review five different projects, only a small fraction of what needed to be done.

Windy Boy said that he had a conversation with Montana State University-Northern Institutional Research Director Jay Howland on creating a system more conducive to processing the large number of projects in a more effective manner.

He added that they later created a database system for recording these documents and historical archives, which has now become iResponse.

The issue of tribes not being involved in federal projects is very important to him, he said, as a former tribal leader and tribal chairman he was part of an initiative involving this issue back in 1995. He helped with an executive order signed by former President Bill Clinton and spent many hours considering how to get tribes involved with any projects that affect historic land. He said he wanted them to have a voice. Since then, though every president has ratified the initiative, tribes being involved has rarely happened.


Windy Boy said iResponse can’t provide tribal leadership with any information if the federal system doesn’t allow them access.

“I don’t blame this administration for wanting to create change,” he said, “but positive change has to have tribes involved.”

He said companies failing to consult tribes before construction has caused a great deal of damage to historical and sacred tribal lands. For example, at the site of a cell tower in the Sweet Grass Hills, people can still see sacred Native stone features impacted by the construction.

“That’s why it was so important for industries to bring tribes to the table,” he said. “So we can lend our eye.”

He said that in several cases the destruction of these sacred sites could have been avoided if tribes were involved.

One project that came out better with tribal involvement was in Saco, he said. Verizon wanted to build a cell tower, but after looking through the iResponse system, his team asked if they could go out and do a visual inspection of the land where they were planning to build.

“Sure enough, it was, essentially, going to be (disturbing) an old grave site,” Windy Boy said.

He said after working with iResponse, Verizon decided to move the project 100 yards to the west.

“We’re not about stopping projects,” he said. “We’re just lending credence. Someone was there, someone did something.”

Expanding iResponse

Windy Boy said he wants to grow iResponse to serve all the reservations in the United States.

“If I could get iResponse to service the 573 federally recognized tribes just on the system,” Windy Boy said, “for those tribal leaders to acquire the information on all these federal projects.”

He said he is working on taking iResponse to the U.S. Department to the Interior, Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation because they all have a number of ground-disturbing projects which could involve a number of historical sites.

“We as tribes aren’t really privy to a lot of those projects,” he said.

He added that modern technology is so advanced, elected officials have no reason not to know what these projects are and have some kind of correspondence.

He said that during the Reservation Economic Summit, he will also be speaking with tribal leaders from Canada about iResponse providing services to them as well.

Windy Boy said that after researching and reading into their situations it would be a whole different world to work in, however, he is excited for the opportunity.

iResponse is also working toward expanding its educational scope, with Windy Boy saying he will be debuting iResponse’s new educational plan during his trip to Las Vegas.

He said that his office has collaborated with the University of Montana and Stone Child College to make a “Two-Plus-Two” program available for students. Students would be able to attend Stone Child College while being involved with cultural resource management through iResponse for two years before transferring to the University of Montana for their final two years.


“It’s a great opportunity,” Windy Boy said.

 

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