In our latest spotlight on a Native-owned business, we talk with Mr. Alvin Windy Boy of iResponse, based on the Rocky Boy’s (Chippewa Cree) Indian Reservation in Montana. iResponse is tribal consultation technology, which aids in the protection of historic, religious, and cultural resources. iResponse grew out of the Chippewa Cree Cultural Preservation Department, where Mr. Windy Boy served as a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. Mr. Windy Boy has worked with the National Center’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center, including at the recent Native Edge Institutes in Washington state. We hope you enjoy our interview with Mr. Windy Boy, and make sure you meet him at RES in March!
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.
iResponse has a database that allows tribes to do effective and efficient Tribal 106 consultations. This allows tribes to use technology to control their own consultations with industry, government, and others. In this process, the protection of historic, religious, and cultural resources is ensured by an expert team. We also provide cultural management and archeological services, such as Ground Penetrating Radar, needed for cultural reviews. Our tag lines “Preserve, Protect and Defend” and “Easy as 1, 2 3” speak to the services and ease of the use of the online system.
- How long have you been in operation?
The company was incorporated in 2016, but it has been in operation for six years under the Chippewa Cree Cultural Resources Preservation Department.
- What did you do before starting your business?
I have been the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) for the Chippewa Cree Tribe since 2004. Prior to that I was in tribal government for over 20 years, serving as a Tribal Business Committee Member and Tribal Chairman.
- How has the National Center helped you with your business?
15 years ago, I would attend RES as a tribal elected official. Now, I attend as a business leader. Over the years I have met Native business owners who now work collaboratively with me and my team, including with the development and success of iResponse. The National Center’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) has helped me become more involved in meeting business-oriented people in the private sector.
This past summer, I attended the Native Edge Institute that took place at Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington state. As a start-up and technology-based business, the PTAC specialist at the event recognized the importance of networking with businesses within the sector and provided me with guidance and encouragement to be involved with other professional business organizations, such as the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. It is a group of CEOs of high-tech companies. iResponse is the only member that is tribally owned and operated.
- What aspect of your business gives you the most pride?
I am incredibly proud that we at iResponse built, constructed, and operated our own facility on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation. My ability to provide employment opportunities and financial support to the Rocky Boy’s Reservation – where unemployment and poverty are extremely high – is very satisfying. The company allows me to think “outside the teepee.”
I am always looking for new or expanded economic ventures that would provide additional employment to our community. For example, iResponse has several memoranda of agreement with states, including Indiana and North Dakota. I was also very proud that we were able to assist Northeastern tribes with preserving some their cultural sites located in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains.
- Do you have advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and Native/tribally owned businesses?
“If you’re afraid to do, don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be afraid.” iResponse is a good example. I found myself as a THPO with an enormous paper log for cultural reviews. Without a background in technology, I had an idea to create a solution to reduce the paper process, and the idea took off from there. Once I decided to create the business, I wasn’t afraid. I just did everything that was required to create a successful business.
- Tell us why you’re excited about attending RES this year.
I would like to expand the horizons of iResponse. We have been doing cultural resource management work for the past couple of years and we are looking forward to showcasing our services at our booth at the trade show. And for the first time, we are going to participate in the RES procurement matchmaking, where we can market our services to both the private sector and federal government. We believe they need our services to assist them in building relationships with tribes, specifically for their infrastructure projects. Recognizing that each sector is unique, we can create specialized services for each client’s needs.
- Anything else you want to add or share?
As an entrepreneur and former tribal elected official, I find it mindboggling that government and industry are not fully aware of what tribal consultation is and what it means. It behooves them to find tools and solutions to bridge the gap they currently have with tribes. Indian Country needs to continue to evolve their business structures to create accountability. This will also help encourage youth to return to their tribes. I keep believing in my vision, and my actions exemplify it can be done for future generations! Hiy Hiy!