Charlotte, NC. (September 20, 2016) - During its 9th Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards Luncheon, the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) recognized the achievements of two distinguished tribal leaders. The prestigious NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an Indian Country leader who has made significant contributions to tribal economic development throughout the span of his or her career. This year’s recipients are Arlan D. Melendez, Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Vincent Armenta, former Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
The awards luncheon is a yearly event at NAFOA’s Fall Finance and Tribal Economies Conference, attracting an audience of over 400 to celebrate the dedicated individuals that contribute to the economic strength of Indian Country.
Award winners were presented with a beautiful stone-carved eagle sculpture and an eagle feather gifted by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Many Native American tribes believe that giving an eagle feather symbolizes that the recipient has demonstrated extraordinary leadership or service on behalf of his or her people. The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma rehabilitates eagles at the Grey Snow Eagle House for eventual release into the wild and cultivates naturally molted feathers for religious and cultural purposes. The awards ceremony was held at the Sheridan/Le Méridien Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Today’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners’ careers have had a lasting economic effect on their tribe and have been beneficial to all of Indian Country,” remarked NAFOA’s First Vice President VaRene Martin.
Chairman Melendez’s dedication to his tribe and to urban Indians is unmatched in modern day Nevada. Chairman Melendez is a life-time resident of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC), which consists of 1,134 members from the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes. First elected to the tribal council in 1987, Melendez previously served as treasurer and vice-chairman of his tribe. Through his strong government relationships, the tribe has been able to expand their land base to over 2,000 acres and been a leader in finding alternate sources of revenue through taxation. Under his leadership, the tribe has attracted business development to the reservation, which furthered job creation for the Reno-Sparks community. Chairman Melendez is also a strong advocate for improved health care for Native Americans at the local and national level. Of the many accomplishments resulting from his advocacy, the most rewarding is the RSIC’s new health care center. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era and attended the University of Nevada.
NAFOA’s board secretary, Dawson Her Many Horses, presented Vincent Armenta with the second lifetime achievement award. Armenta served nearly 17 years as the Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Since Armenta’s election as Chairman in 1999, he has been a tireless advocate for his tribe and instrumental in positioning the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians as one of the most successful tribes in California. Along with his fellow business committee members, Mr. Armenta built thriving enterprises, including the Chumash Casino Resort, Hotel Corque, Root 246, the Hadsten House, two gas stations, and a winery. The tribe also has grown a real estate portfolio that includes parcels throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. During his leadership, the tribe has also created a foundation that provides funding for low-income housing in Santa Barbara County, humanitarian aid to countries that have had natural disasters, and partnered with local schools to launch community literacy initiatives. Armenta recently resigned in March of 2016 to pursue a culinary arts degree at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York
This year’s Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards recipients joined the ranks of past leaders, including Pamela Mott of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Steve Stallings of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, Virginia Cross of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and Richard Trudell founder of the American Indian Lawyer Training Program, just to name a few.
NAFOA is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen tribal economies by: promoting excellence in financial management, advocating sound economic and fiscal policy, developing innovative education initiatives, and providing essential information, resources, and support to meet the challenges of economic growth and change. NAFOA will be holding its 35th Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA on April 24- 25, 2017. For more information about the organization, visit www.nafoa.org.