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Chris: Hey everyone. Chris Faria here, Executive Editor of Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Magazine. Welcome to a special edition of TG and H on air with the National Native American Human Resources Association. You may know them as NNAHRA today. Today we’ll be talking about what the organization does and why is it important for our gaming and hospitality subscribers to familiarize themselves with this great resource for our industry. I’m so happy to have Anthony Tillman and Dorothy Cyr at the interview today. Welcome you two, thank you for being here.
Anthony: Thank you for having us.
Dorothy: Yes. Good morning. Thank you.
Chris: Good morning. So, Dorothy and Anthony, please tell us about your background and your role with the organization.
Dorothy: I am a member of the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation. I have over 16 years of HR experience and have worked for Wild Horse Resort and Casino as the Employment Manager. I’ve been here since 2010 and I’ve been on the board since 2016. I was elected in Portland, Oregon at our National Native American Human Resources Association annual conference. I am happy and just proud to serve on this board. If you want to go ahead, Anthony.
Anthony: Hi, my name’s Anthony Tillman. I am Otoe-Missouri, Mohawk, and Seminole Creek. That’s a little bit my Tribal nations. Forgive me, I’m a little nervous. I don’t do the cameras and all that … I’m just kidding, I love cameras! But I’ve been with them since 2014. I got elected in New Orleans at our annual conference. You get elected by your peers. I took out the incumbent who was already, who was the vice president. So I, I just gave the “I had a dream” speech and the rest is history and I’ve been the Vice President ever since. And so I just, I thank you for having us and look forward to our time together.
Chris: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about how long NNAHRA has been active. How many members does it have?
Dorothy: NNAHRA was actually founded in 1996 in the north, in actually in Portland. And it was a gathering of just, it was 12 participants from Northwest tribes. Ironically my uncle, Paul Quince was part of that original group, which I didn’t discover until afterwards. So, it was just a small gathering, and it was grassroots group just getting together human resources and it’s flourished over the years. We have over 1500 active members representing over 270 tribes.
Anthony: Yes, and I like to reiterate that it was like I said, it was small. It was, and it was, uh, a mixture. It was people, HR, people from the government side and HR people from the casino side. And so that’s what brought us together to say, Hey, we can do this for Indian nations, just the whole territory and the whole, United States in general.
Chris: Oh, well that’s a good point, Anthony. Tell me really what NNAHRA does, what type of services do they provide and specifically to the gaming and hospitality industry?
Anthony: We, first of all, we’re comprised of our board is comprised of members from, we have Dorothy and Suzanne from the same tribe, the same area, our president, Judy she’s from the California area, Tal who’s in the role of our Foundation Director. He’s from the Arizona area, living in the Palm Springs area. So he’s from around, we had a former board member from Michigan. So I’m from New York from the east coast. We have one from South Dakota and they’re all in different parts. Like we have Judy, our president is in the gaming industry. So what we do is we provide solutions. We provide networking opportunities for HR professionals. And I think that’s what we’d really like to sell is that we’re a network organization. It’s a place where people in the gaming industry can meet people in HR, because sometimes in HR you feel like you can’t talk to anyone because it’s HR, it’s strict confidentiality. It’s man, does anyone understand what we’re going through? This is the opportunity for them to really bring something that has happened at their casino that’s going on to someone else that has been through it and to say, “oh, that’s how”. I know that we bring connections. Like it is awesome that when I have an issue in HR, I know I can pick up the phone and call someone that I met at a conference. Oh, I remember them from this casino. Let me see if they’ve ever ran into something like this, you call them and you just bounce ideas. Here’s what we did. Maybe this will help. So that’s what I’d really like to sell if we’re selling anything, it would be the networking. We love to network. And that is what we do because how do you get better at anything in any industry is by communication and by learning and knowing. And so that’s what we’re here for. I can pick up the phone call Dorothy if she has an issue or if I have an issue, vice versa. I have lawyers that work through Indian nation that deal with Tribal gaming and all the things that change the everchanging environment that I can pick up the phone and call ’em and they’ll answer the phone and say, “Hey, this is what we’re going through. You might want to get a lawyer for this situation you might not want to”. So those are the type of things that we do for the gaming industry.
Chris: So speaking of support, networking … you have a major event coming up next month that addresses that issue and you’ll be gathering hundreds of HR professionals. Can you talk a little bit about this event that’s coming up next month?
Anthony: No, because we don’t want nobody to know where we’re going. No, I’m just kidding, we’re going to Alaska where it’s cold and warming … Dorothy, would you like to tell where we’re really going?
Dorothy: Sure. We’re going to be at Hilton Wine Village in Honolulu, Hawaii from April 19 through the 21st for our 25th annual National Native American Human Resources Conference. This was originally scheduled for last September, which is when we normally hold our conference, but due to the pandemic we had to reschedule, we rescheduled to April 19th through the 21st and we just look forward to gathering together once again. They have lifted some of the restrictions for Hawaii. So, it’s making a little easier for travel and we’re just looking forward to getting together. I would like to add to what Anthony was saying earlier about, you know, what NNAHRA is about if I could.
Dorothy: Okay. So I’d also like to add that, you know, we add, we have, education events, we have professional certification through THRP which is Tribal Human Resources Professional. It’s a three-day intensive training that we partner with Drummond Woodsum and we actually have training coming up at the end of March. They’re held, you know, quarterly, where we have professionals or, professional development training for HR professionals. I think it strengthens our knowledge. It covers everything from legal, and it just gives you a good, well rounded human resource perspective and there’s a test at the end. You get that certification; it helps with enhancing your resume. It’s very intense, but very meaningful. It helps with tribal sovereignty. That’s what I think we’re about is gaining that knowledge, getting schooled in issues that are happening right now in employment law. Right now, we have a case that’s important. It could impact in the future. We have a case at the Supreme court right now, so those are things that they keep us apprised of and it’s important that we keep ourselves educated. We also have training summits. We’ve had benefit compensation, training and development, succession planning, law, and Indian country recruitment and retention. We have these specific trainings just to educate our human resource professionals. So, like I said, it strengthens our sovereignty.
Chris: Yeah. What a full-service organization you are. I mean, so many resources and Dorothy, you and I were talking off camera about what a challenging two years it’s been for everyone in the industry. And, you know, even before COVID, retaining and finding new team members was a challenge. Will you be addressing any of these issues and resources at the conference?
Dorothy: Oh yes, we actually have four tracks at the conference that we cover legal, which Drummond Woodsum is a big part of that. And Rick McGee, who is very well versed and been in Indian country for many years, will have a leadership track, best practices track, and a benefits track. We do have some of those tracks that are covering what’s in your recruiter toolkit, you know, those types of things. I’m sure it’ll be a big discussion. I’m sure. As far as I know, everybody’s having the same issue across any country, on the gaming side and on the government side. So I’m sure it will be a big topic. We already have some of the sessions that will be covering that.
Chris: Yeah. And I’m sure just for everybody that’s attending, just to be validated that everything that’s going on there’s support out there and this crazy feeling that we all have, it’s shared in the industry. It’s just such a challenge for everybody. So you’re actually having two conferences this year because you had to reschedule. So, you’re going back to your fall conference. So tell us a little bit about that one.
Dorothy: Go ahead, Anthony.
Anthony: The dates right now are … I know it’s the last week in September, Dorothy might have the dates, but we’re going back to San Antonio. We’re supposed to go before COVID, but COVID happened. We decided we’ll go to Hawaii for the 25th, but we will be going to San Antonio. And what we try to do is we try to pick destinations. What happened is we first started off at tribal properties, but we have grown so much that tribal properties can’t hold us anymore. Cuz we have 500 attendees. And last year I think we had about 500 and some attendees with our last conference and we’re just outgrown them. So we’re always trying to pick different places. So we ended up all going to San Antonio. We liked San Antonio. We try to draw places that will bring people in. Um, so kind of be touristy, but also that it’s easy logistically so they can get there from the airport and we can just, like I said, mingle and network and plus it gets people away from their jobs and are out and about to do stuff. So we definitely will be having one in San Antonio. We invite everyone to come, HR professionals. You don’t even have to be an HR professional. And another thing I’d like to add to what Dorothy was saying is that we have a call out for speakers. So Chris, if you see or hear something that man, I think this would be good or that we should drop this knowledge to more people you’re always more than welcome to have a call out to our speakers and bring in a topic. And we’re more than welcome to, to look over it. And you could be the next speaker at a conference. So we’re always open to that, to any suggestions or any ideas or because the world is ever changing. And we always wanna stay on top of that. And we always wanna be thought of when HR professionals have questions. So Hey, let’s call NNAHRA, let’s see what they can do or what their ideas are. So yes, we will be having a conference in San Antonio too.
Chris: All right. So if folks wanna go to Hawaii for the education, of course, if people, wanna go registration is still open, you have your room blocks still open. And where do they go to find out more about that?
Dorothy: They can go to our website, nnahra.org. And there is an event page that you can click on. It’s actually right on the front page. You can just click on it and it’ll take you where you need to go and where to register. And, we also have San Antonio listed on there and that’s from September 26th to the 28th. So, if you’re interested in our organization, you can just go to our website.
Chris: That sounds great. And we have both events up on the TG and H website as well. If you just go to our event tab, you could see that and you know, we’ll be talking to you throughout the year checking in and seeing what’s new, talking about some topics, perhaps for the September event. So thank both of you for being here with me this morning. We really appreciate it.
Dorothy: Thank you for having us.
Anthony: Yes. Thank you for having us really appreciate it, enjoyed it.
Chris: And to our audience, if you’re not subscribed already, please go to TGandH.com for operational insights, industry events, such as this exclusive report and of course, news from our industry. Thank you to everybody for being here today. We will see you at the next TG&H On Air.