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Education and tribal administrator named to multi-state development post
Monday, May 04 2015
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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c. kay-web.jpgAn experienced tribal and education administrator from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been named the new executive director of the three-state Common Enterprise Development Corporation based at Mandan, N.D.

Cheryl Ann Kary (Hunkuotawin) succeeds long-time North Dakota public and private economic development leader Bill Patrie, nationally known for helping start several value-added agricultural businesses and services firms in North Dakota that involved several Indian organizations.

Patrie will remain working at the nonprofit consultancy during a transition period.

“I wouldn’t say I want to be a bridge between Indians and non-Indians,” she said in an interview. “I look at my new role as a resource link for people wanting to do things.”

Kary previously worked with adult education, student recruitment, public relations, and as vice president for community development at Sitting Bull College at Fort Yates. She was executive director of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for two years. She also served as curriculum development director and trainer at the Native American Training Institute, and research director of United Tribes Technical College, both in Bismarck

She echoes views of Patrie, the executive director since it’s founding in 2009. Both say persistent poverty and health problems on reservations and in other communities aren’t a “people failure,” but rather a “systems failure.”

Farm poverty has at least been partly overcome by “system change,” Patrie said, whereby farm families now keep more of the value of their production at home and working in their state and local economies. Over the years, he helped create more than 30 such cooperatives including the Fort Berthold Agricultural Cooperative at New Town and the Twin Buttes Land Owners Energy Cooperative at Twin Buttes.

Common Enterprise, or CEDC, is a nonprofit consultancy providing technical assistance to start-up enterprises mutually or cooperatively owned on and off reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Tribally-owned enterprises are by definition membership-owned and thus sibling organizations with agricultural and food co-ops, mutual insurance and finance companies, credit unions and other forms of community enterprises owned and operated for the common good by members.

At CEDC, Patrie worked with local groups involving North Dakota reservations, 11 North Dakota counties, and others on developing a cooperative health care system; various community development projects; with North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba agricultural groups in developing value-added processing enterprises; and on rural and reservation housing projects.

Prior to starting CEDC, Patrie served 16 years as rural development director for the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. He later was director of cooperative business strategies for the multi-state Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund and Foundation. CEDC is a spin-off development consultancy still linked with Northcountry.

Collaborating with groups sharing interests is a strength Kary brings to CEDC, said Theresa Grant, principal partner in Okiciya Consulting Inc. and with KAT Communications, based at Bismarck.

“She (Kary) is smart as a whip,” Grant said. “She can communicate, and she brings people together.”

For background, Kary has bachelor and master’s degrees from University of Mary at Bismarck and a Ph.D. in Communications and Public Discourse from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. She was awarded a Bush Foundation Fellowship in 2013 to research conditions and needs of the American Indian population in the Bismarck-Mandan area.

That led to Kary starting a non-profit organization, the Sacred Pipe Resource Center, to work on common needs for the diverse cultural and tribal people living in and around the two cities. It is still in a start-up phase. Kary will continue to lead it from CEDC.

As further evidence of the interlinking of relationships, Bismarck business and media consultant Grant serves as chair of Sacred Pipe Resource Center. Okiciya, which means “to help each other” in Lakota, and KAT Communications, with its GoodHealthTV programming for both native health and public health networks, crisscross many common health and healthcare access issues.

While recent CEDC projects have been in advancing studies and proposals for agricultural related enterprises, including the prospect for nitrogen fertilizer production in North Dakota, health and well-being issues remain integral to the nonprofit’s mission.

Among the most closely watched projects nationally was CEDC’s work with local groups to form the Wilson Health Care Cooperative, named to honor Dr. Herbert Wilson who provided medical services on the Fort Berthold Reservation for most of the past half century.

An aim of this cooperative is to get different government agencies, different insurance plans, and different health facilities to integrate delivery and access to health care. “We still have people driving too far to get pharmaceuticals and services,” Kary said.

This collaborative, cooperative approach is a “systems change” that could benefit everyone living in rural North Dakota, she said. That is a lesson she learned as a young child on a Standing Rock ranch.

“There was a dry year, much like this year. An electrical storm started a grass fire and it was coming right at our home. We didn’t have a local fire department at that time,” she recalls.

But then, another cloud formed over the gravel roads leading to the ranch. It was dust. People from miles around came in cars, trucks and on tractors to fight the fire. Her family home was saved.

“That left an impact on me on what people can do for each other,” she said.




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