indigenous People's Digital Library

Our digital library provides you with quick access to all the resources you’ll need for your cooperative.

View the Roadmap

This roadmap helps you navigate developing your cooperative from Exploring Options to Fully Operational

At each stage...

We provide resources to help you determine appropriate next steps as you develop your cooperative.

Refer to our FAQ or Resources Section to discover more or for questions outside of our Roadmap.

Legal Phase

Operational Phase

Cooperative Case Studies

Pikuni Cooperative

The Pikuni Cooperative, located on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, is revitalizing Blackfeet lifeways to provide traditional medicine to the community while supporting new farmers and entrepreneurs.

Red Paint Creek

Red Paint Creek Trading Post is a nonprofit grocery and retail store serving the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes, as well as surrounding community members. As Fort Belknap is classified as a food desert (an area with limited access to affordable, fresh, high-quality food), Red Paint is an extremely valuable addition to the community.

People's Partner's Credit Union

People’s Partner for Community Development (PPCD) has embarked on a journey to substantially “move the needle” of economic opportunity for members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Fort Benton Hemp

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Rocky Boy Food

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Rolling Plains

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Glendive Mobile Park

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Crow Grocery / Investing

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Blackfeet Meat Processing

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why should Indigenous groups choose the cooperative model?

Cooperatives are a business and as such aim to be profitable. However, they also aim to address community spiritual, cultural, and social needs. That means that the cooperative model encourages trust, respect, and dignity. This is accomplished through community ownership—needs are identified and addressed by and for the community. A more comprehensive look at the pros and cons of the cooperative model can be found within the MCDC digital resource library.

Can Indigenous groups form cooperatives under Tribal law?

Yes! All 12 federally recognized tribes in Montana allow groups to incorporate cooperatives under Montana state law. A study done on Tribal cooperative law by the Native American Development Corporation (NADC) can be found within the MCDC digital resource library.

Can a cooperative be made up only of members of a specific Tribal nation?

One of the cooperative principles is open and voluntary membership—you cannot exclude someone from membership based on race or ethnicity. However, you can define membership by geographical area, such as a reservation or rural community, or by limiting membership to people who use the cooperative. For example, if a cooperative provided transportation to Indian Health Services, chances are that only enrolled Tribal members would use that service.

Can Indigenous groups form cooperatives on their own?

Incorporating a cooperative can be a confusing process if you haven’t worked with the cooperative model in the past. Getting a cooperative development center involved can keep your project on track and prevent you from having to fix your bylaws and articles of incorporation down the line. Every state has different cooperative laws, so using resources you find on your own (for example, on the internet) probably won’t be helpful to you. However, after incorporation, cooperatives can follow their bylaws to govern and manage themselves, and are therefore independent and self-sustaining with little need for outside help.

What are some examples of Indigenous cooperatives?

One of the oldest incorporated Indigenous cooperatives is the Alaska Native Industries Cooperative Association (ANICA), incorporated in 1948. Their goal was to ensure food access to remote Alaska villages after the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to provide reliable deliveries to these villages. ANICA is still in operation today. A more recent example of an Indigenous cooperative is the ARTZ Cooperative in New Mexico, now in the process of incorporation. They aim to support Pueblo of Zuni members in creating and selling cultural arts and crafts.

We Are Committed to helping Educate and Improve Cooperatives Across Montana.

As the ONLY statewide resource for cooperative development, the Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) works with new and existing co-ops and other groups to evaluate co-op business models and strategies to meet their objectives. MCDC is a nonprofit corporation with financial assistance from state and federal sources, which allows MCDC to offer services at little or no cost to project groups.

 

Building Together What Would Be Impossible to do alone