Dennis Fox, Director

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Independence Program

My name is Dennis Fox, Jr., and I'm Mandan/Hidatsa, from the Three Affiliated Tribes. I am the director of the Independence Program, which is a program to assist individuals in starting their own businesses or micro-enterprises. I worked for First Nations Development Institute, was the director of First Nations Art, and worked for the Smithsonian as program coordinator of the Festival of American Folklife. I am a continuing artist; I do artwork throughout my career, and have items on exhibit at various museums across the country . . . the Smithsonian, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and private collections.

photo: Dennis Fox We look forward to the year 2004 because of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. The economic impact which is going to be, I think significant here on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, is going to be a venue for our individual business owners to capitalize on outside money coming in from various tourists and people who are interested in Lewis and Clark's 200th anniversary of their expedition.

We can provide items for sale for tourists that may come through the Three Affiliated Tribes, in the same way Lewis and Clark did, and they can take home a token of what that visit meant to Lewis and Clark as they were gathering items to send back to Jefferson when they came through.

There are particular designs that are really unique to the Three Affiliated Tribes. One example is the Dog Soldier headdress, the large hat you see Two Ravens wearing in one of the Bodmer paintings. What we try to identify are those particular designs, those particular attributes of those designs that are Three Affiliated Tribes oriented, or Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, so that when a person may take something from Fort Berthold, it's really from Fort Berthold . . . that they are buying something that's authentically from the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The Independence program that I work for is funded by HUD, through the Denver Office. This is sort of a new program, a new sort of step toward developing that economic self-sufficiency which we once had when Lewis and Clark did visit our areas. The Mandan and Hidatsa people were known as great traders, and they knew how to trade. They knew how to finance themselves in order to survive, because they had this ideal place on the Missouri. What we're trying to bring back today is that initiative that we, as Three Affiliated Tribes members, still have—that ability to be excellent traders or excellent business people.