Success for Native America Event

First Southwest Bank • February 6, 2020


Written by FSWB team member, Swarvoski Little, member of the Navajo Nation (Diné)

On Tuesday, January 28th 2020, First Southwest Bank and First Southwest Community Fund collaborated with Fort Lewis College School of Business and Native American Center to present “Success for Native America” to the students of Fort Lewis College and viewers online through live streaming.

The event sought to answer the questions: what does Native American success look like and who are Native America’s Indigenous Leaders? After meeting at the Durango Branch of First Southwest Bank, members of First Southwest Bank and Fort Lewis College decided to join forces to present “Success for Native America.”
The panel was comprised of:

  1. Kolenya Holly, Program Director for Behavioral Health Healthy Transitions Iina Bihoo'aah Program at Utah Navajo Health Systems in Montezuma Creek, UT. Kolenya earned her Master’s in Public Health from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah and bachelors degree in Athletic Training and Exercise Science at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT.

  2. Ahsaki Chachere is the Founder/CEO of Ah-Shi Beauty the First Native American Owned and Operated Skincare/Cosmetics company in the United States from Gallup, NM.

  3. Dr. Carma Claw is the Assistant Professor Management in the School of Business at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Carma received her Ph.D. in Business Management from New Mexico State University, her M.B.A. from New Mexico State University and Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems from University of Utah David Eccles School of Business in Salt Lake City, UT. Carma is the first Diné Business Professor in the United States.

  4. Keith Smith is the founding partner of Smith & Shellenberger, LLC, and he leads the firm’s Tribal and Federal Indian law practice. He received his Juris Doctorate from Arizona State University Sandra Day  O’Connor College of Law and his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado.

“Success for Native America” was an interactive panel with successful indigenous leaders from different professions who expressed and illustrated their pathways to success. All four of the panelists are of Navajo or Diné descent and at moments during the event spoke in English and Diné about how their cultural upbringings shaped their views and perspective’s. Each panelist introduced themselves in Diné through identifying each of their four clans. They spoke about how cultural life teachings transitioned them into adulthood and became tools for them to succeed. From great loss spurring an urgency to survive to gaining independence of self-made legacy, the panelists offered a variety of self-upbringings and stories of the human spirit’s ability to overcome.

The advice given from panelists were to not be afraid to experience the world, remembering your cultural teachings and knowing where you come from. Some of the things they reminded the collective of was discipline, the values of planning, thanking people who helped you along your journey and holding yourself responsible for your success.

The Success for Native America event was enjoyed by students and professionals at Fort Lewis College as well as those that live streamed the event. This was an important conversation and First Southwest Bank / First Southwest Community Fund hopes to build upon this momentum as we continue to work towards Success for Native Americans.  

You can view the broadcast here.