Derrick Watchman is the Chairman of the Board of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. Chairman Watchman has an extensive background in finance, gaming, tribal affairs, energy, and much more. In the latest installment of our profiles of Board members and staff, we asked Chairman Watchman five questions so you can better get to know him.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work in Indian Country.
I have 33 years of professional experience across Indian Country, in fields such as gaming and hospitality, tribal government, banking, finance, and tribal economic development. I have also worked for both the Navajo Nation and the U.S. government, where I was Director of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. Most recently, I started my own firm, Sagebrush Hill Group, LLC, where I provide my clients with advisory, acquisition and development services related to gaming, banking, finance, and economic development. My work with the National Center allows me to synthesize my entire background and knowledge of Indian Country, to the benefit of our communities across the U.S.
- What made you interested in joining the National Center’s Board of Directors? How long have you been on the Board?
I have been on the Board for approximately 20 years, after first being introduced and nominated by our former Board Member, Michelle Garcia Holiday. I have known about and been interested in the National Center since I was just out of college back in the 80s. In fact, I remember attending one of the early Reservation Economic Summits (RES) in 1987, when it was still just a small luncheon in Los Angeles. I have truly seen the National Center grow into the force it is today!
- What have you enjoyed about your experience on the Board?
The National Center offers many different programs, but what I have enjoyed the most is the annual RES event, now taking place in Las Vegas. I think part of my interest is seeing RES grow – from the small luncheon that I mentioned to the thousands of people that descend on Las Vegas every year, for top-notch speakers and programming designed to create business opportunities in Indian Country. The growth of RES – and the growth of our organization – has truly been remarkable. RES paves the way for all of the work we do to support economic development in Indian Country.
- What’s the one piece of advice or words of encouragement you would give to a young professional who wants to get more involved in his or her tribe, or the broader American Indian and Alaska Native community?
It’s a two-way street, and we need your help. There are many opportunities in Indian Country, but people need to be willing to make that leap and take the risk of starting their own business or seeking contracts. The National Center is here to make that process easier, but people need to be willing to ask for assistance and prepare themselves as much as they can.
- When you’re not working on attending a National Center event, where can we find you? What are your hobbies?
I have been very fortunate as I have worked for my tribe in several capacities, worked for several major corporations, and worked for the federal government. Now I am putting together my own business and doing professional services for tribes and major clients. It’s been very exciting and challenging, and it also gives me a new perspective on what the entrepreneurs with whom the National Center works are experiencing.
In my free time I like to spend it with my family and ride my mountain bike on the rolling hills of Navajoland.