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Indian Equity Fund helping small Montana Native-run businesses

water people still.jpg
Posted at 3:38 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 16:20:36-05

RONAN — The Indian Equity Fund (IEF) grant program aims to help small Native American businesses across the state and one recent beneficiary is a tour company based in Ronan.

The IEF matches investments made by small Native American run businesses into their own companies.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced recipients of the funds that range between $7,000 and $14,000 earlier this month -- including Water People Tours.

Owners Louis and Keya Camel say the grant is crucial to their business’s future.

"The one to one match is very helpful. We have assets that we can use as match or dollar to dollar income match and it helps us immensely because it allows us an opportunity to invest more into our business," Keya said.

Water People Tours take people to areas including Glacier National Park, the National Bison Range, Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountain Range, connecting Native American heritage to these culturally significant areas.

The Camels hope that with the help of the grant they can add onto their campsite, enticing more people to take their tours -- and to spread the history of their culture.

"I think it's very important because you don’t read this stuff in schoolbooks -- we get it from our ancestors," explained owner Louis Camel said.

"It is brought down generation to generation and so on and spreading the knowledge that’s how we grew," he added. "We opened people's eyes. We’re here and we let the people know who we are and not how textbooks explain how we are."

The Camels will take the IEF funds and use it to spread the history of their culture while the grant helps spread local native run businesses on tribal lands across the state.

"We only make up 1% of the population...but it's just important, especially where we live. I would like to start seeing more Native American run businesses," Keya Camel told MTN News.

"And I think that we are kind of setting the groundwork for that and pioneering that as business owners. We just appreciate all the support and the support in the community -- and especially for the IEF grant."

“It's very helpful and we are very thankful for it," Keya said, adding that they now just want people to come and enjoy the great outdoors.

"I wish...I hope everyone has a good time at the camp," the Camels daughter, Lashaye, told MTN News.