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Expanding opportunities for Indigenous communities

Jake Foreman, a Grow with Google Indigenous Community Digital Coach, is seated in front of a laptop smiling as he trains someone during a 1:1 session.

November is Native American Heritage Month in the U.S. and is an opportune time to educate and raise awareness about the achievements and unique challenges that Tribal Nations face — both historically and presently — and how tribal citizens have worked together to overcome those challenges. One such example is the impact the pandemic has had on tribal economies and Native American-owned businesses.

As the President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) — a long-time partner of Google — I’ve met many Native artisans and small-business owners over the past two years, who once had thriving businesses but now struggle to transition to online platforms to keep their businesses afloat. According to the U.S. Census, Native American-owned businesses contribute over $35 billion to the economy and employ over 200,000 people, yet one in six businesses (16.7%) have reported complete revenue losses due to the lingering impacts of the pandemic. Now, more than ever, our businesses require adequate resources for them to thrive, and there is no denying that technology is helping create that pathway forward.

I’m thrilled to share that the Grow with Google Digital Coaches program, which equips businesses with robust digital skills to unlock growth opportunities, is expanding to train Native-led businesses with the help of a dedicated Digital Coach from the community. We’ll be able to further support Native-led businesses thanks to a new grant from Google.org to help NCAI strengthen digital skill training.

I’m honored to introduce Henry Jake Foreman as Grow with Google’s first-ever Indigenous Community Digital Coach. As a Digital Coach, Jake will empower tribal small businesses with monthly digital skills workshops, local hands-on coaching opportunities, and events for businesses to come together and learn from one another. Jake is an Absentee Shawnee citizen who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a Program Director at New Mexico Community Capital. As a trainer for NCAI’s training program, incubated with support from Grow with Google, Jake has helped hundreds of Native American entrepreneurs in New Mexico develop skill sets to support and build their businesses. We’re excited to see Grow with Google build on the success of that collaboration as they expand the Digital Coaches program. Jake will now bring these trainings directly to tribal communities across Indian Country and partner with NCAI to host monthly national webinars beginning in 2023.

In addition, Google.org is providing a $750,000 grant to support NCAI’s own institutional capacity and positioning in the Indigenous digital skilling space. NCAI will directly invest this into IT capabilities to foster a community of learning and distill best IT practices to contribute toward the broader ecosystem. This investment builds on the previous $1.25M in grants used to help support Native-owned businesses — all done in service of helping more Indigenous people to achieve success and help bridge Indian Country’s digital divide.

Because Native-led businesses serve as the backbone for many tribal communities, it was a very special moment to first share this news with tribal leaders, NCAI members and Native youth at our NCAI 79th Annual Convention & Marketplace earlier this week. At the conference, we also had the pleasure of hosting Jake’s first digital skills workshop as a new Digital Coach. Undoubtedly, these tailored workshops and resources will help our businesses thrive online and grow tremendously. To learn more and sign up, visit g.co/grow/digitalcoachIC.

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