Spears Business leads the way in tribal finance, accounting training
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
More than 60 participants from 24 tribes representing 12 states were on the Stillwater campus for the Introductory Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate Program.
Recently, finance and accounting professionals from more than 24 tribal governments from around the country were on the Oklahoma State University campus for professional and leadership development at the Introductory Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate Program.
“I’ve been wanting to attend this training program for a while, so I could better
serve the tribe I work for,” April Sitton, CPA and general ledger auditor for the
Citizen Potawatomi Nation, said.
Tribal accounting is governmental accounting, she explained, but it is also unique because it can include a variety of businesses from casinos to basketball teams to golf courses. “You can go to other governmental accounting conferences, but you won’t learn about tribal financial needs.”
Since 2019, the OSU Spears School of Business and its partner the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) have offered finance and accounting certification programs uniquely designed for tribal professionals. Oklahoma is home to 39 tribal governments.
Christa Fulkerson, director of grants management for the Osage Nation, said that since attending this program she’s come to realize that general accounting education does not adequately cover tribal business needs. In fact, there are no other education or certification programs that specifically address tribal accounting and relevant tribal law.
During OSU’s four-day cohort program sessions are led by representatives from Baker Tilley Virchow Kraus, BKD, Dorsey & Whitney, Finley & Cook, The Jacobson Law Group, REDW, Sheppard Mullin, and the OSU School of Accounting.
This year more than 60 participants from 24 tribes representing 12 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin) were in attendance.
Rebecca Moetala, staff accounting for the Osage Nation, said one of the benefits of the program is networking with other tribe and tribal professionals. “I like hearing how other tribes do things, and I can share what I know that may be helpful to someone else.”
The Introductory Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate Program (offered in-person and online) was specifically created for the following tribal professionals:
- Entry-level employees in tribal financial positions
- Professionals who need to acquire increased knowledge regarding tribal finance and accounting (i.e. accountants, lawyers, bankers, etc.)
- Elected tribal officials and leaders who wish to better understand the financial side of a business decision.
Laban Miles, financial controller for Osage Casinos, attended the introductory program as a prerequisite for the Intermediate Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate program, which includes more information on tribal gaming.
He was pleased with the amount of discussion covering laws and regulations for Indian gaming as well as how gaming fits in the larger financial picture. “There was a lot of information covered in four days, but it could have easily been expanded into a longer program.”
OSU also offers the Intermediate Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate and the annual Tribal Finance and Accounting Conference is held in October.
The Introductory Tribal Finance and Accounting Certificate Program has been recognized with the following awards:
- 2019 University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Central Region Outstanding Noncredit Program Award
- 2019 Conference on Management and Executive Development (CMED) Peer Choice Best Custom Program Award
- 2020 University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) National Outstanding Noncredit Program Award
- 2021 Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) Education Program of the Year Award
The Tribal Finance and Accounting Advisory Board includes the following professionals:
- Mary Chisholm, Chief Financial Officer, Citizen Potawatomi Nation
- Kyle Coody, Treasurer, Seminole Nation
- Nicole Elliott, Partner, Holland & Knight LLP
- Tasha Fox, Chief Financial Officer, Tulalip Tribes
- Richard “Rico” Frias, Executive Director, NAFOA
- Joel Haaser, Managing Director, BKD CPA's
- Jay Hannah, Executive Vice President, Financial Services, BancFirst
- Alex Hontos, Attorney, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP
- Lacey Horn, Chairwoman, Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee
- Kirke Kickingbird, of Counsel, Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker LLP
- Joel Laubenstein, Principal, Baker Tilly US, LLP
- Eli McIntosh, Chairman Emeritus, Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium and Member, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
- Hattie Mitchell, CPA, CFE, REDW
- James Nichols, Attorney, The Jacobson Law Group
- Harrison Perry, Finance Director, Pawnee Nation
- Lindsay Robertson, Faculty Director, Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy, University of Oklahoma
- Tralynna Scott, Chief Economist, Cherokee Nation Businesses
- LaDonna Sinning, Shareholder, Arledge & Associates, P.C.
- Martin Tucker, Chief Financial Officer, Choctaw Nation
- Mike Wood, Accounting Lead, Workforce Development, Chickasaw Nation