A Different Voice Serving the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

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Economic Development

Everything related to economic development on the Lake Traverse Reservation.

Mazopiye Market is LIVE!


Mazopiye Market is now LIVE and signing up vendors! The initial creation of Mazopiye Market is done, so now its about building a solid foundation of vendors. Once vendors get on board, and add their products, the site will really take off.  Features are limited until then. Since everything is new, let me tell you how this all started.

The Inspiration

I was hanging out at Tribal Council one day, back in February 2017 or so, and an Elder friend of mine told me that she liked what I was doing with HOTOKECA, but that she thought that I should also create an online marketplace, where she (and others) could sell handcrafted items. She thought that the ability to get online would really open up markets, and that there was a need for such a site.

I always listen to my Elders, and I never forgot her request. I did a lot of research throughout the entire project. The first thing I decided was that she was requesting a multi-vendor marketplace, similar to eBay or Etsy, where many vendors could have their own store-front and sell their products. This is not as easy to create as it sounds…

The Name

I thought about what to name this venture. I consulted another Elder who is fluent in the Dakota Sioux Language, and he helped me kick around a couple of options until I decided on “Mazopiye”. Mazopiye (pronounced mah-ZOE-pee-yay) is a Dakota Sioux word that can mean stores, market or marketplace. Fortunately that domain was open to purchase, and so the first thing I did was register the domain – www.mazopiye.com.

The Work

Deciding on the name was the easy part. I knew nothing about building a multi-vendor marketplace. I knew very little about WordPress, and even less about WooCommerce or any of the extensions like Dokan that I would later come to use.  The website is powered by the WordPress platform, and I purchased a “theme” made for multi-vendor marketplaces.  I got a good deal on Black Friday, so I got it for only $29, when it’s normally $59. I went through several different extensions like Magento, WooCommerce Vendors, WooCommerce Marketplace, and Dokan before I finally decided on one.

I read a lot of tutorials, and articles to create this site. I got stuck for three months on how to link PayPal so I could pay the vendors. I hope I have everything configured right. I’m sure there will be bumps in the road and things that I will get stuck on, but I know now that I will figure it out – one way or another.

The Cost

The cool thing is that other than my work and time, I spent less than $120 creating the site!

The Research

Initially, I thought that my marketplace would only serve my reservation. However, while doing the research and creating a business plan, I realized that the potential might be greater than just my local rez. One market research study stated that 30% of Native American households create and sell arts and crafts to supplement their household income. The same study also said that only 7% of artists have their own website, and that the need for online access is there. For these reasons, I decided to create a marketplace that is open to all Native Americans.

Indian Arts & Crafts Act

One of the first things I learned in my research was about the Federal Indian Arts & Crafts Act. This Act is meant to protect actual American Indian artisans and craftsmen/women from a multitude of fakes. I found myself really believing in the spirit of this Act. Other marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy fail Native American artisans by not enforcing this Act, because both Etsy and EBay allow fakes to overwhelm the true Native American craftsmen, causing both the vendor and the seller to be wary of buying anything. I decided that Mazopiye Market would require all vendors to be Native American, not only to comply with the Act, but to create a place exclusively for Native American Vendors, and to guarantee to buyers that their items are genuine “Indian Made”.

My Charity for Lost Feathers

I’ve designated 2% of earnings from Mazopiye Market to the charity that I am creating. This charity is called “Lost Feathers”. Lost Feathers are children that are lost to their tribe by being adopted out to non-Native families. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and even today, children were sold or otherwise “shipped out” to non-Native parents. While these adoptive parents no doubt love their adoptive child, the child has lost not only their biological parents, but their language, culture, and identity as a Native person. As these children grow older, they yearn to know their ancestry, and some try to “come home”, only to be met with hostility because they don’t fit in. We don’t fit in anywhere – we’re always on the outside looking in. The Lost Feathers charity seeks to have resources available for genealogy searches, a legal team to keep the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) strong, and a ceremonial aspect that “adopts” these Lost Feathers back into their Tribe.

Summing It Up

Whew! What an accomplishment considering that I started with just an idea, but no knowledge, no experience, and no money. I’m happy with what I’ve created. I hope my Elders are happy with it too.

Mazopiye Market – A Multi-Vendor Marketplace Venture

So I’ve been working on building this marketplace and am nearing an official launch. I now have my business license. I’ve purchased a domain – mazopiye.com – and have the site nearly complete, although there’s not much there right now. I’m still working on testing the payment functions, and writing policy.

But I get asked a lot – so what is it that you’re doing? You’re selling something?

I am building an online marketplace, which I own, that provides “Store Front” space to any vendor who wants to start their own small business. The most well known examples of multi-vendor marketplaces are Amazon, Ebay and Etsy. Mazopiye Market is essentially the same concept, but featuring only Native American Vendors and authentic Native American arts and crafts – anything from paintings, to quilts, regalia, and beadwork.

While any Native American can become aa vendor, and sell whatever products they choose, those vendors who are selling handcrafted, “Indian-made” items must comply with the Indian Arts & Crafts Act. This Federal Act helps ensure that Native arts and crafts are genuine, and the penalty for “fakes”, or items sold by non-Natives is quite steep.

This market has been underserved by Ebay, Amazon or Etsy because they are unwilling to weed out the “fake” Native American products. I’m trying to sign up American Indian/Native American vendors that currently work out of their home to supplement their household income, who want an easy, zero cost way to access the online market.

The vendors themselves receive the order and ship it to the customer. I have no involvement in handling the product at all. The seller chooses his/her store name, the products they are selling, and the price they are asking.

My market place handles the financial transactions and takes a commission percentage out of each sale. As the marketplace owner, I will also be rolling out strategies and market campaigns to attract customers who would be interested in buying guaranteed authentic Native American Arts & Crafts.

Here’s a graphic that might help… Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Image Source: https://www.mytechlogy.com/IT-blogs/13587/top-3-magento-multi-vendor-extensions/#.WnT5J2nwbIU


MAZOPIYE MARKET – Showcasing the talent of Native American, entrepreneurs, artisans and craftsmen/women.


Image Source: https://www.openpr.com/images/articles/Q/7/Q72842412_g.jpg

The Cloud

Digital Universe by

People often ask me, “What is the Cloud?” It’s kind of hard to define, but here are two aspects – Data Storage and Computing.

Data Storage

One aspect of The Cloud is for storing and accessing data.

For example, in the “Olden Days”, I would buy movies at a store or rent them from a place like Blockbuster. I had the movie in my possession as a physical thing – a VCR cassette or DVD.

Now I can buy or rent a movie from an Internet site like Amazon. While I have purchased the movie, the data that makes up that movie is stored on an Amazon server somewhere. I can access my movie anywhere and anytime, as long as I have Internet access.  My movie is “in the Cloud” and not physically stored in my living room.

The Cloud consists of digital data created by anyone from individuals, companies, hospitals, and governments, just to name a few.


Cloud Computing is another aspect that includes not only data, but software as well. The software and data are running off a computer and server at a physical location like a data center. I don’t have to install the software on my home PC, i just login via the Internet.

Remember back in the day, this Internet company called “America On Line” or AOL, and they sent out millions of CDs with AOL software on them. The software had to be installed on a computer to access the Internet, email, and chatrooms. Back then, everything had an installation disk to run a program off your personal computer.

Contrast that with the email provider, Gmail. Nobody has to “install Gmail software”, everyone just logs in at www.gmail.com, and views their email. All of your Gmail emails, SPAM, and documents aren’t on your computer (unless you save them), instead they reside in a data center somewhere.

The Cloud = Data and/or Software accessed via the Internet.

The Future is Digital.


From Analog to Digital – The First Digital Revolution

What is Data?

Data is any kind of observation, measurement, facts, calculation, or statistic that a person would use to make informed decisions.

So how about this weather?

Every morning, I check the actual current temperature and the predicted highs and lows for the day to determine how to dress – t-shirt?  sweater?  shorts/pants?  Layers? (This is South Dakota after all – I may need shorts and a parka – IDK).

The data in this example is the temperature values, and my brain (hopefully) processes that information based on previous experience, to make my decision on how to dress for the day.

Old School Sciencing

Here’s another example of data using the same measurement – temperature.  My dad wrote the morning temperature on the calendar every single day for years.

(Image credit: http://www.takepart.com/photos/7-alternatives-wrapping-paper/doilies-or-coffee-filters)

When my parents passed and we cleaned their house, we found years and years of calendars, and on nearly each day, my dad’s handwritten observation was present.  This added up to decades worth of data, but how can it be made useful in case someone wanted to look at all of the temperature values to look at trends, highs/lows, etc?

The First Digital Revolution

The temperature data my dad created was in what we would call “analog” form.  It still has value, but to really use those numbers, I would have to somehow standardize and put it into a form that can be easily manipulated.  I can read each date and type all the data into a spreadsheet or database – I will have recreated my dad’s analog temperature readings into a digital form – a string of ones and zeros (more later).  There is beauty in the analog calendars, but digitizing makes it easier to use if I have questions. Alas, my dad missed it because he didn’t make it past the Industrial Age, but he would have found it amazing what we could do now and learn from his daily notation.

This Digital Revolution of converting data from analog to digital made the manipulation, analysis, transmission, and storage of data much faster and efficient.  This kicked off the Information Age.

The Future is Digital – Welcome

IMAGE CREDIT: https://www.santanderpyme.com.mx/detalle-noticia/guia-uso-twitter-pyme.html

Mission, Vision and Values – Where does the SWO Stand?

What is our government’s Mission? Where does the SWO want to be in 20 years? What are our Values?

I’ve looked at our Tribal website at http://www.swo-nsn.gov/ and I don’t see any mention of Mission, Vision or our Values.  This is part of our problem and dysfunction.

Without these definitions that steer the organization in a positive direction, all we have is chaos. You may think of Mission, Vision and Values as something only a business or corporation needs, but every organization – even tribal government – needs direction and a solid understanding of what we, the Oyate’s Tribal Members expect from our Leadership and employees.

Without a Vision, we have no direction and cannot set goals or create a strategic plan for the future. We have a Planning Department, but what is their purpose?  It’s not their fault because they have no direction.  Are we going to shoot for becoming a Premier Grocery Store Chain in South Dakota/the Upper Midwest – cool, let’s do it!  But, why did we buy Councilman Beaudreau’s property – fondly known as the Blue Stump Inn? How did that fit into our Mission, Vision and Values or overall Strategic Plan?

Mission, Vision & Values

The Mission, Vision and Values statements are the very core of an organization.  They define scope of the organization, inspire employees to future goals, and clearly state the values of how the organization does business.

  • The Mission Statement describes the reason and focus of the organization’s existence.  Have you ever wondered why you come to work?  Employees should know why their work is important to the organization.  In fact, every employee should know by heart the Mission of the place they work.
  • The Vision statement provides inspiration for future goals. Where are we going?  What will we look like in 20 years?
  • Values are a framework for how the organization will behave and describes the beliefs of the organizational culture.  The stated values of a charity or not-for-profit organization would have very different values than a corporation looking to maximize profits.




Potawatomi Business Development Corp has a neat paragraph that simply states “Our Mission”, but you can find all the elements of Mission, Vision and Values, and the statements are well-defined.  Here’s the paragraph broken down into the three components.

Mission:  To generate wealth and improve the quality of life for the Tribe by making strategic investments, acquisitions and prudent asset management decisions.

Vision:  Resources generated by PBDC and its holdings will help diversify the tribal economy that supports Forest County Potawatomi’s tribal government and helps improve the lives of tribal members… [by] building an economic engine that supports the Tribe for generations to come.

Values:  Trust – Support – Integrity – Mutual Respect


IMAGE CREDIT AND LINK: http://www.winnebagotribe.com/Diverse and talented Tribal workforce has helped to grow our capabilities and uphold our traditional values. They solve the most complex problems with a forward-thinking power.

As “Ho-Chunks” (Winnebago) working together nothing can prevent us from achieving our dreams and visions to once again be self-sufficient and economically self-reliant.

HONOR – TRADITION – PRIDE:  proud heritage, a unique culture, an illustrious history, a distinct language and beautiful music; these are the foundations upon which our lives as Ho-Chungra are based.

Looks like Mission, Vision, Values to me.

A Strong Foundation

These three statements are absolutely important to creating a solid organizational foundation within which to develop strategic plans, to create operational performance metrics and goals, and to creating a strong and positive culture. Without them, decisions have no clear direction, objectives, or goals, which means no future to aspire to, and no values to guide leadership and employees in their decision-making process. The organization needs these three statements to create short-term and long-term strategic plans, and the organizational culture is shaped significantly by these underlying principles.

Submit your ideas for Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate’s Mission, Vision, Values in the comments either here or on HOTOKECA’s Facebook page.  Be bold!  We can do whatever we want – truly.  We’re an innovative, talented Nation of people. Let’s go from “Blue Stump” to something more ethical and innovative that benefits all of the Oyate.


Build a Data Center

I propose that the SWO build a Data Center utilizing the settlement funds we recently received.

What is a Data Center?

  • A data center is a physical building that is connected to the Internet.
  • Inside the data center are multiple computer servers and other equipment needed to store, manage and process massive amounts of data.
  • The owner of the building (the SWO) then leases storage space to clients who need space to store their data.
  • Examples of clients could be large corporations like Microsoft, Amazon or Facebook; government entities like the State of South Dakota or federal agencies; and any other type of business or organization that will pay for secure, reliable storage that allows them to access their data 24/7.

It’s a cool concept, but complex. I will continue to write about the Digital Universe – including more about data centers, the future of digital data (massive growth projected by 2020 driven by the “Internet of Things”), components like hardware and software. There are a lot of things to consider and think about, but it would definitely put the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate at the forefront of technology and economic development.

We can’t afford to let the future pass us by, and the Future is Digital.


YouTube Video – less than 5 minutes long!



I found a cartoonist that works at a data center.  Check it out here: Kip & Gary.



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