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Famous Native American Entrepreneurs Who Succeeded and Gave Back

Updated on August 28, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Seminole Family in Cyress, Florida in 1916. Colorful attire has become popular with tourists in purchases from the Seminole peoples.
Seminole Family in Cyress, Florida in 1916. Colorful attire has become popular with tourists in purchases from the Seminole peoples. | Source

Seminole Peoples

The Seminole Nations and African-Americans form groups composed of

  1. Miccosukee people
  2. Muskogee (Muskoki) peoples
  3. descendants of the black Africans that escaped slavery and joined the tribe.

This group of Native Americans aided the welfare of escaping black slaves hundreds of years ago, as did Cherokee Nation and some other Native Americans. By adopting blacks into their own tribe, the Seminole offered a type of freedom, along with an opportunity for life as a tribal member, and later, to some in tribal and member-owned businesses.

The Everglades Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians Constitution is locate at Constitution.

This federally recognized group of Native Americans planned for success. As early as 1959, the group became recognized in a treaty as "Miccosukee Seminole Nation" by Cuba. In Florida, Seminole Nation owns a successful Hard Rock Cafe. Recently, the Seminole Indian News was reactivated to join the Seminole Tribune newspaper.

A typically well made Seminole Coiled Sweet Grass Basket.
A typically well made Seminole Coiled Sweet Grass Basket. | Source

The separate Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. is a Native American group dedicated to business operations and development under leadership of the Tribal Council under their own Constitution.

Headquartered in Hollywood, Florida, they state that they are the most successful business people among Native Americans in that they own the Sheraton Tampa East Hotel, a number of gaming establishments, large numbers of cattle, citrus groves, museums, tobacco shops, and other businesses.

Black Africans and African-American descendants have enjoyed participation in these interests within both constitutional tribes in Florida.

Related History

Blackfeet Nation

Blackfeet or Blackfoot Nation in USA and Canada.
Blackfeet or Blackfoot Nation in USA and Canada. | Source

The Originals

The Blackfeet call themselves Niitsapi, the Original People, and live on 1,500,000 acres of prairie lands. Members of other tribes and some non-Native people live with them and enjoy the hospitable nature of the Blackfeet.

Around the world, almost 86,000 people report full or part-Blackfeet heritage and their registered tribal roles make them one of the largest Native American Nations in North America. Living on original lands since thousands of year ago, the tribe usually calls itself Blackfeet in Montana and Blackfoot in Canada.

The Blackfeet Nation owns many successful businesses in the 2010s and its members own many more on and off the reservation. The Blackfeet are successful business people, which they attribute to the refusal to fail, supported by strong family and tribal ties and actions. How successful are they? With literally hundreds of businesses, the Blackfeet are leaders among Native North Americans in business and economic growth among:

  1. Oil and natural gas leases on reservation lands provide revenue and jobs.
  2. Aviation
  3. Fine Arts
  4. Tourism
  5. Entertainment
  6. Education
  7. Other goods and services

Blackfoot warrior, circa 1840,
Blackfoot warrior, circa 1840, | Source

A Favorite Business

A Blackfeet Writing Company pen is one of the best stick pens you can find.

We used them in the 1960s and 1970s in school, because they never left a pesky smeared blob of ink at the beginning or the end of a word like some other pens did.

Available throughout the decade of the 1960s from the Blackfeet Nation and distributed to retail outlets such as Walgreen's and through some USAF Post Exchanges, Blackfeet pens, pencils, markers and related items became the products of an actual factory founded in 1972. The plant operated until the end of the century and closed down.

From time to time, new production of pencils and pens is listed on the Internet as a fund raiser for youth (I last spotted an announcement in 2007), but these items are available on eBay rather consistently. Blackfeet Nation bought out the Lindy Pen Company in the 1990s and moved to Montana to do business until closure.

Other businesses have more than replaced the nation's income from pens and pencils, although many consumers would like the plant to be reopened.

Blackfeet Tribal Recognition

  • The Blackfeet run an initiative that aims to curb harmful effects of alcohol in Indian country. During January 2012, a reservation program against harmful effects of alcohol received recognition from the FBI. The number of drunken driving violations on the reservation declined from 484 in 2009 to 199 in 2010, reduced by over half.

Blackfeet Business

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation

North Dakota Oil and Gas: The Three Affiliated Tribes. This is a Mandan and Arikara delegation. Six Indians with three escorts (back row), 1874.
North Dakota Oil and Gas: The Three Affiliated Tribes. This is a Mandan and Arikara delegation. Six Indians with three escorts (back row), 1874. | Source

MHA Fights Drug Abuse

According to the Flathead Beacon in August 2018, Blackfeet Nation filed a lawsuit against five different prescription drug manufacturers and three wholesale drug distributors because of an opioid addiction epidemic on the reservation and across America.

A Native North American Oil Boom

Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation owns the massive oil and natural gas rights on the large Fort Berthold Reservation (e.g. oil boom towns Williston and New Town in North Dakota). The Bakken Oil Field reportedly holds enough oil to fuel all of North America for a century.

The tribal group is still intereste4d in conservation, however, because they partner with Horry-Georgetown Technical College and the US Federal Government to allow forestry and wildlife students to work on the reservation as interns.

Forth Berthold MHA Reservation. The large body of water is Lake Sakakawea.
Forth Berthold MHA Reservation. The large body of water is Lake Sakakawea. | Source

Already refining additional oil coming down from Alberta Province in Canada via pipeline, the MHA tribe received a new oil refinery constructed just west of Makoti ND along Route 23 in 2012. This is near the active Enbridge Pipelines and Canadian Pacific Rail Line.

The jobs open on reservation lands are increasing in numbers and open to anyone qualified, with many non-Natives being hired. Tribal leaders have been advocating for additional construction of additional living spaces for new workers since 2010.

From Summer 2008 to Autumn 2011, the MHA Nation spent $15,000,000 on infrastructure that included new roads. An International Energy Summit was held by the MHA Energy Division in early February 2012 to discuss and plan oil and natural gas extraction, oil and gas sales, and improving the quality of life for Native and non-Native residents of North Dakota.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Members of the Mandan Nation, circa 1840.Long Time Dog of the Hidatsa Nation in 1908. Photographed by Edward Curtis.Bear's Belly, an Arikara (1909).
Members of the Mandan Nation, circa 1840.
Members of the Mandan Nation, circa 1840. | Source
Long Time Dog of the Hidatsa Nation in 1908. Photographed by Edward Curtis.
Long Time Dog of the Hidatsa Nation in 1908. Photographed by Edward Curtis. | Source
Bear's Belly, an Arikara (1909).
Bear's Belly, an Arikara (1909). | Source


  • South Strand News. HGTC students intern on Blackfeet Indian Reservation; 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  • Sovereign Nation of Foosh-Hotkee. Constitution of Everlgades Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians. Retrieved August 27, 2018.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Daneiella - I love to write about these types of topics, especially after I learned of family members that were Native. Thanks!

      Angela - I have great respect for the Medicine Man and know that his ways are sometimes more effective that allopathic medicine. It's a great pleasure to know that you are with a Medicine Man.

      drbj - I read in a newsletter that a govt-sponsored 3rd nation was attempting to emerge as well and will keep my eye on it. Thanks fr the comment.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, Patty, for this revealing and interesting infromation about the Seminole Nations and African Americans. Even though I live in Florida - home of the Seminoles - I was not aware that there were two distinct Seminole nations. Who knew? Not me until now.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      It's encouraging to read about Native Americans overcoming the roadblocks they've encountered from so many directions. My significant other is a Medicine Man of the Lakota/Sioux Nation -- I'm referring him to your Hub as he always takes pleasure in Indian business success stories. Great read and voted up. Best, Sis

    • Daniella Lopez profile image

      Danielle Lopez 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Fantastic hub. It's quite impressive how successful many tribes have been. I have really been enjoying your hubs on Native Americans and I hope to see more from you on the topic in the future. Voted up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Donna - I still purchase the pens at some flea markets and "collectibles" shows. Someone out there still has some stock. They are my favorites!

      Nan - I think you're right, except in the case of the Mohawk, Oneida and Seneca in the Northeast that owned black slaves and some intermarried.

      Fantastic comments!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for the information on the early Indian Tribes. Yes there was intermarriage between the Indians and Africans, I thought mostly in the southern states.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      6 years ago from USA

      This is fascinating information on these tribes and their ingenuity and entrepreneurship. The information on the Blackfeet writing pen was especially interesting, and I plan to check it out.


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