Virtual 2020 Fall Conference

October 5-9, 2020


Opening Ceremony and Keynote

Opening Prayer Song
Shelly Morningsong, 2019 Native American Music Awards Artist of the Year & Multiple Music Award Winner

NAFOA Welcome Remarks
Cristina Danforth, NAFOA President

Co-Chair Welcome Remarks
Bank of America & Wells Fargo

Congressional Response & Prophecies 

The Coronavirus crisis created a flurry of activity in Congress with both political parties supporting tribal government relief. In some cases, Indian Country experienced historic placement in legislation with Congress recognizing the tribal government responsibilities of caring for their people while trying to shore up economic enterprises. While the placement of tribal governments in legislation and funding were significant, there were plenty of challenges with implementation and interpretation. Join our discussion with two key congressional leaders as we talk through lessons learned and what lies ahead for Indian Country in this and the next Congress.


Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01)


Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Entertainment Break

Join us for a performance by Shelley Morningsong (N. Cheyenne), 2019 Native American Music Awards Artist of the Year & Multiple Music Award Winner and Fabian Fontenelle (Zuni/Omaha), who presents Northern Traditional dancing, storytelling and traditional hand drum songs.

Leadership Defined by Crisis

Any crisis tests leaders in unexpected and interesting ways. Leaders are thrust into a role that requires the ability to effectively organize resources, become a calming and purposeful presence, and make difficult decisions. In short, they are required to rise to the level of the crisis. While we are far from the full impact of this crisis, we are gathering leaders to talk through how they have managed their own historic crises impacting their people.  Leaders will discuss the difficulties of losing lands to politics, how a wall became a threat to a culture, and how making difficult and unpopular decisions during the pandemic is the right thing to do.


Fawn Sharp, President Quinault Indian Nation, NCAI President


Cyrus Ben, Tribal Chief, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

Cedric Cromwell, Chairman, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Ned Norris, Jr., Chairman, Tohono O'odham Nation


NAFOA Leadership Awards - Tribal Leader of the Year

Congress in Transition - A Strategy Discussion

The 116th Congress will be finishing out an active year and elections are just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to review current policy initiatives, determine what needs to be accomplished to close out this Congress and Administration, and prepare for a next Congress and a possible new Administration. Join our panelists who will lead an open tribal economic policy discussion.


Mike Andrews, Staff Director and Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Beth Bell, Tax Counsel, Committee on Ways & Means, Democratic Staff

Edward Ayoob, Partner, Barnes & Thornburg

Denise Desiderio, Senior Policy Advisor, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Brendan Dunn, Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Making Sense of the Economy

Understanding the economy is more difficult than usual these days but necessary to make informed decisions. The stock market seems to be disconnected from the state of the economy considering highs are being reached in the markets while unemployment is is at historic levels and earnings uncertain. Our featured speaker will attempt to make sense of the economy and give us insight on what indicators may impact both markets and the economy.  

Charles Dougherty
, Economist, Wells Fargo Securities

Comedy Break

Take a break for some laughs with Marc Yaffee.  Marc is a co-star of the historic Showtime special, Goin' Native and can currently be seen on Amazon Prime and heard on SiriusXM.  Marc’s funny not filthy comedy ranges from his adoption and discovering his Navajo roots to telling jokes on Alaska Airlines at 30,000 feet.

Diversification - A Required Strategy

Tribal governments have grown their economies by investing heavily in and building out hospitality and tourism related industries. However, the health and economic crisis is forcing tribal governments to rethink what diversification means since these industries have proven to be more vulnerable during a crisis and during a downturn. Join our presenters in discussing how tribes may recover and diversify going forward.


Bill Crader, Managing Director, TFA Capital Markets

Dawson Her Many Horses, SVP & Native American Business Leader, Wells Fargo Commercial Banking

Casey Lozar, Vice President, Director Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Arlan Melendez, Chairman, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony


NAFOA Leadership Awards - Executive of the Year

Financing and Investing in Tribal Energy Projects

One of the largest machines in the world is the U.S. power generating system with over 7 million miles of transmission and distribution lines delivering almost a half a trillion dollars worth of electricity a year. Indian Country has both traditional and renewable energy resources and potential and yet many times projects aren't built because of lack of capital. There are opportunities to leverage private financing and various loan guarantees or loan products from the Federal Government to support tribal energy projects. Join this panel for an overview of key Indian energy projects and understanding the long term potential for your tribe.


Carla Fredericks, Director, First Peoples Worldwide, and Director, American Indian Law Clinic, University of Colorado Boulder 


John Lushetsky, Senior Advisor, Loan Programs Office, Department of Energy

Andy Redinger, Managing Director, Utility and Renewable Energy Practice, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.

Daniel Wiggins Jr., Renewable Energy Project Lead, Mashkiiziibii (Bad River) Natural Resource Department

GASB Chairman Fireside Chat + GASB Update

At the end of Q2 2020, Joel Black took over the Chairmanship of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Joel Black has been in transition from his private-sector position with Mauldin & Jenkins to the GASB since Q1 2020. NAFOA is excited to have Chairman Joel Black for a fireside chat to underscore his commitment to Indian Country and to hear about updates from the GASB on the first year of his tenure as GASB Chairman.


Nadina Paisano, NAFOA GASAC Representative, Controller at UNM Foundation

Joel Black
, Chair, Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Roberta Reese, Senior Project Manager, Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Entertainment Break

Join us for a performance by Shelley Morningsong (N. Cheyenne), 2019 Native American Music Awards Artist of the Year & Multiple Music Award Winner and Fabian Fontenelle (Zuni/Omaha), who presents Northern Traditional dancing, storytelling and traditional hand drum songs.

Compliance One Fund at a Time in the COVID-19 Era

From stay-at-home orders to emergency declarations, over the course of the year many grant awards were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis while new federal financial assistance has come to the forefront to mitigate the crisis in Indian Country. While OMB provided limited relief earlier in the year these memos have now been phased out. Combined with an influx of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) money there is no end to compliance and reporting at least for the end of FY 2021. 

Don't sweat and take it one fund at a time. Join a group of tribal professionals and federal officials to ensure you are treating ongoing grants with prudence and following the compliance and reporting for CRF monies.


Rodrigo Macias, Partner, MGO LLP


Rochelle Alcon, CPA, Senior Manager, REDW

Joshua Branum, Senior Manager, Audit, Wipfli LLP

Joel Haaser, Managing Director, BKD CPAs & Advisors


NAFOA Leadership Awards - Deal of the Year - Government

Scouting Security While Working From Home

While many tribes and tribal enterprises may be entering cautious re-opening this fall and winter there is still a reliance on the teleworking to keep your operations running smoothly. Whether working from home, on the range, or in the tribal administration building parking lot you need to take your security seriously. 

Join a group of cyber security experts to discuss the best practices you should take when working from home to ensure your tribal data is safe, secure, and working for your needs. We will discuss the differences between various Virtual Private Network (VPN) clients, safeguarding passwords, and the need for device safety for sensitive areas. These preventative methods will give you assurance you can work safely from home against malicious viruses, trojans, and other classic cybersecurity compromises.


Matt Borkowski, Solution Architect, Arctic IT


Amy Gates, Director of Information Technology, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe

Troy Hawes, Senior Director of Cybersecurity Consulting, Moss Adams LLP

Jimmy Williams, CIO/Executive Officer IT, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Meet the New Comptroller: A Chat with Acting U.S. Comptroller of Currency Brian Brooks

Last Spring, in one of the more historic actions taken by the federal government regarding how capital flows to Indian Country, the OCC released their Final Rule regarding the Community Reinvestment Act. The Final Rule included Indian Country in a massive way, and with these regulatory changes, Indian Country may be limited only by its own imagination in the ways to creatively fund community projects. Today, we'll kick off the conference with an address from the new Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks. Comptroller Brooks will discuss the revised rule and the hopes for Indian Country surrounding it.

Brian Brooks
, Acting Comptroller of the Currency, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

Comedy Break

Take a break for some laughs with Marc Yaffee.  Marc is a co-star of the historic Showtime special, Goin' Native and can currently be seen on Amazon Prime and heard on SiriusXM.  Marc’s funny not filthy comedy ranges from his adoption and discovering his Navajo roots to telling jokes on Alaska Airlines at 30,000 feet.

REACh for the Stars: Creative models for Increasing Homeownership, Credit Scoring, and Small Business Investments

The Office of the Comptroller of Currency is at the helm of a new initiative called Project REACh charged with breaking down structural barriers to access credit and capital in minority communities – with an express intent to make these efforts successful in Indian Country. Paired with the new Community Reinvestment Act regulations targeting large infrastructure projects in Indian Country and the vast social movement sweeping the nation, the moment is ripe for a significant shift in how Native American communities are included in the financial system. Join our panelists on this session as they discuss ideas to increase investment for tribal homeownership and small businesses along with ideas on more inclusive credit scoring. All initiatives that Project REACh has been pursuing.  


David Black, Community Development Expert, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

Andrew Moss, Director of Minority Outreach, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

Tom Ogaard, President and CEO, Native American Bank

Valerie Mann, Executive Vice President and Senior Lender, First National Bank of Gordon


NAFOA Leadership Awards - Deal of the Year - Economic

Capital Access Gap: Housing Roundtable

In Indian Country, the gap between capital need and capital access is widening. In this session we’ll focus specifically on capital access for housing – an area of need that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll convene stakeholders to discuss a cohesive strategy to bring together the interests of tribal governments, financial institutions, and federal agencies that all want to help improve homeownership but may not be working in a united way to provide tribal government relief that can be replicable and scalable to really impact the problem. 


Mike Lettig, National Executive, Native American Financial Services, Keybank


Adam Rose, Director of Partnerships and Growth, Travois

Tony Walters, Executive Director, National American Indian Housing Council

Jake Coury, Office of Loan Guarantee, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Pandemic Pause: Preparing to Move Forward

Join us for perspectives on weathering our current crisis and gathering strength to meet the upcoming challenges.


Mary Kathryn Nagle, Partner Pipestem Law P.C.

Entertainment Break

The Fog of Uncertainty: The Upheaval of Hospitality & Tourism

Changes are already underway to ensure the safe return of customers and tourists to the industries that drive Indian Country’s economy.  What will define success in the new normal? Learn more about the state of the sectors and the policies, procedures, and products that can help your team move from crisis mode towards recovery and new opportunities.


Joe Nayquonabe, Jr., CEO, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures 


Aileen Babayan, Director of Conference Services & Catering, Choctaw Casino Resort

Anthony Casdia, Senior VP of Business Strategy, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment

Tony Hallada, Managing Principal, Wealth Advisors, CLA


NAFOA Leadership Awards - Education Program of the Year

What's Next for the Food Sovereignty Movement? Developing Economics for Food Sovereignty

Covid-19 has created more disruptions to food access in communities already dealing with economic and health disparities and highlighted the need for local food sources. The philosophy of food sovereignty has been a driving force for creating change that delivers equitable food access to tribal communities. Join us for a discussion that highlights the new challenges created by the pandemic and the economic requirements for increased mobilization towards true food sovereignty.    


Colby Duren, Director, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas  


Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director, Lakota Funds

Zack Ducheneaux, Executive Director, Intertribal Agriculture Council

Chris Roper, Consultant, Chris Roper Services

Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M, CEO, Native American Agricultural Fund (Bio)