AAP's Approach

The Angoon Alive Project, Inc. (“AAP”) is a coalition of Native-Americans, business people, and philanthropists dedicated to helping impoverished Native-American communities and reservations achieve economic self-sufficiency and a vastly improved standard of living.

Through the implementation of a sustainable, grassroots development model, AAP’s mission is to enhance Native-Americans’ capacity to be self-empowered and thus, self-determined.

This will be done, first, by providing them with free education in social responsibility, business operations, and entrepreneurship (via computer labs and webcam).  Next, AAP will help these “entrepreneurs” set up micro-enterprises with the aid of microfinance loans, even providing them with a native-operated “farmers’ market” where their produced goods and wares can be sold.  Lastly, AAP will develop various community projects, in partnership with the native participants in its programs.  Examples of such projects include educational scholarships and youth mentoring, women-empowerment projects, substance abuse prevention programs, community center development, the installation of renewable “green” energy, and more.  Ultimately, AAP seeks to empower Native-Americans to achieve sustained, holistic transformation in their communities.

The name and vision for Angoon Alive Project was birthed in Angoon, Alaska—or “Kootznoowoo” (“fortress of the bears”)—a Tlingit (pronounced “Klinkit”) island-village, during a fishing trip to the area by our founder and Director, Aaron Campbell, a Native-American, himself.  This amazing fishing village is venerated among the Tlingit tribe—and many other indigenous tribes—chiefly, for safeguarding their rare and highly-studied tribal language, for its priceless artwork which remains on “permanent” exhibit at premier U.S. museums, and for their pristine preservation of traditional “subsistence living.”

Majestic, breathtaking Angoon is the only city in the entire United States that is located on a national monument—Prince Admiralty Island.  Nevertheless, this renowned community of 500 reflects a 24% population decline since 2000.  There are several factors contributing to this population decline—not the least of which is no access to proper health care.  However, the number one factor driving many Angoonians to leave their beautiful homeland is the lack of means to provide for their families.  Today, the people of Angoon remain crippled by a staggering 87% unemployment rate.  Approximately 40% of their children live below the poverty line.  Their per capita income is only $11,400—roughly half the national per capita income of $21, 587.  During harsh winter months, many families are forced to choose between food, heat, and electricity.  More so, while most non-native Alaska coastal villages have been switched to hydroelectric power, the inhabitants of Angoon are stuck paying an astonishing $.65/kwh—almost six times higher than residents of Los Angeles!

Furthermore, Aaron Campbell’s subsequent research revealed that, sadly, this is not even unique to Angoon.  In fact, countless Native-American communities face marginalization under all-too-familiar scenarios.  Worst of all, such crippling factors result in Native-Americans suffering most from a sheer lack of hope.  As a case in point, President John Yellowbird Steele of the Oglala Sioux tribe, when explaining the importance of economic development in native society, said, “It is not hard to understand that, on the reservation, you wake up in the morning realizing, “not only is today going to be like this, but tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday, too.” So, you go out and get another bottle!” The people of Native-America want and deserve a change—an “equal opportunity” to their basic human rights and an improved quality of life.  This is why the Angoon Alive Project, Inc. exists.

“Phase 1” of Angoon Alive Project will be implemented in Angoon, AK, with “Phase 2” to be implemented in another Southeast Alaskan village yet to be identified.  Please note that while our initial focus is Southeast Alaska, AAP’s ultimate vision is to see this highly-adaptable, holistic business model replicated throughout Native-America.

Six years ago, Aaron Campbell—who is also Native-American and no foreigner to helping those in need—had been invited on a once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip to Alaska. While on that trip, he found himself exposed to a whole new world. Beyond the snowcapped mountains, lush forests rich with berries, brown bears, salmon, and tranquilizing silence, it was the world of the wonderful Tlingit natives (pronounced “Klinkit”) of an island-village called Angoon—or in the Tlingit language, “Kootznoowoo.” (fortress of the bears)

Angoon is located in Southeast Alaska’s, “Inside Passage.”
It lies 55 miles southwest of Juneau, and 41 miles northeast of Sitka. Accessible only by seaplane or ferry, Angoon is literally, “in the middle of nowhere.”
On the one hand, this isolation contributes to Angoon being one of the most breathtaking, pristine pieces of real estate in this entire country! On the other hand, such isolation also contributes to it being rendered more-or-less invisible by the outside world—an outside world that boasts of equal opportunities for all, at that.
When Angoon was unjustly attacked/bombed by our VERY OWN US Navy, just over one hundred years ago…amidst the burning of all their fishing/hunting canoes and looting of priceless artifacts, six children were murdered (and subsequently, many grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles died that winter in refusing to eat so the other children wouldn’t starve)—and many cried. But the outside world never heard a word about those cries.
Then, in 1973, when our federal government finally awarded Angoon an out-of-court settlement in the amount $90,000 for that bombing—implying that those six children’s precious lives were worth a measly $15,000 a piece—many cried, once again. But the outside world never heard about those cries, either.
And now today, as Angoon faces the avalanching challenges of NO hospital, NO doctors, NO bank, NO police, NO youth center, NO stoppage to the rampant bootlegging and alcoholism, NO jobs, NO energy alternatives (as the village still operates on “prehistoric” diesel generators), and most of all, NO hope of things ever getting better, will these cries finally be heard?

However, even amidst this onslaught of challenges, the people of Angoon remain some of the warmest, most hardworking, and brilliant people you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. Welcome to a village where its fishermen have risked their lives to save drowning boaters long before the local Coast Guard was ever notified. Welcome to a village whose renowned artwork remains on MAJOR display at Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institute, New York City’s Museum of Natural History, as well as The University of Pennsylvania. Welcome to a village where a person’s worth is measured not by how much they possess, but by how much they give away! Welcome to the village of priceless smiles, where people travel to help them, only to then leave and end up thanking them for all they’ve meant to them! This is Angoon—a village of unsung heroes. Not to mention the many “purple hearts” many Angoon veterans still carry on their person from serving this country par excellence.

So although the Angoonians have commendably braved so much alone already, the reality is that a Crisis has now crossed over from benign to malignant, and Angoon now needs help—from an outside world that boasts of equal opportunities for all.
So serving as both a clarion call and a battalion, this is why the Angoon Alive Project exists.

How is the Angoon Alive Project planning to bring Angoon “Alive”?
Well for starters, we are not implying that beautiful Angoon is “dead.” However, our mission is to bring Angoon “Alive” by equipping this impoverished village to survive/engage the changing tides and demands of the 21st century, while at the same time maintaining its “traditional” preservation of native subsistence culture. After endless hours of listening to tribal leadership, researching other attempts at economic self-sufficiency among native domains, and discussion among academics and political leaders alike, we have settled on the following 4 Modules for bringing Angoon “Alive:”

MODULE #1—Education
AAP will begin in the classroom with our custom-developed curriculum of free business courses for anyone in the community (e.g., adults, and high school juniors and seniors). Upon installing a computer lab in the community, these free business classes will be taught over a 6-week “mini-semester,” via webcam, by our highly qualified professionals—including Wharton Business School graduate students and graduates. These classes will assist participants in developing business plans for their own well-thought-out, income-generating ventures. AAP will help participants through the fundamental steps of the business formulation process: defining operations, setting goals, and laying out a logical plan for reaching such goals—along with basic training in the areas of accounting, marketing, and management.

More so, along with teaching social responsibility, participants will also define and examine various psychosocial elements, including the pitfalls of “conditional thinking” (i.e., externally dependent; blame-shifting, etc.), and the power of “unconditional thinking” (not accepting oneself as “victim,” but rather, as an empowered decision-maker). AAP deems such a holistic teaching approach vital to creating a “self-determined” people.

MODULE #2—Micro-Credit
Upon completing our mini-semester of business classes, participants will emerge with a well-thought-out business plan that is fully executable in their community. However, as they will still lack the finances to get started—not to mention the credit history or collateral required by traditional banks to qualify for a loan —AAP will not leave these newly-empowered future entrepreneurs “stranded.” They will be given the opportunity to receive a micro-loan via AAP, to execute their business plan.

Designed to assist the poor in entrepreneurship and business, micro-credit is the extension of very small loans (micro-loans) to those in poverty. Started by economist Muhammad Yunus to help the poor of Bangladesh, micro-credit has since been successfully adopted by many non-profits around the world. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for starting this revolutionary financial innovation. Micro-lending has a broad appeal in impoverished areas, simply because it allows poor recipients who lack credit history, collateral, or any form of surety, to receive a loan, for which they would never qualify from a traditional bank. More so, unlike the compound interest charged by traditional banks, a micro-loan is predicated on simple interest—meaning, it is intentionally designed not to stymie the growth of a small business from its inception.

In order to qualify for a micro-loan via AAP, participants must successfully complete all classes and develop a well-thought-out business plan that AAP deems as executable. For example, suppose a poor fisherman develops a business operation in selling 10 oz. jars of smoked salmon strips and pickled octopus (high-demand delicacies). He estimates that an average day’s catch of salmon can produce 20 jars, with a four-day preparation process. Well, this fisherman will be mentored by AAP’s certified public accountants and Wharton MBA business strategists to draw up a realistic budget, including everything from unforeseen costs to setting a price for such highly-marketable products.

Now, suppose that after everything is considered, it is estimated that the start-up costs for a used fishing boat, fishing rods, materials for building a fish “smokehouse,” a deep freezer, frozen herring (bait), an “octopus hook,” lighting (for night-fishing), canning jars, and the cost of sending mailers (marketing) to other native villages and U.S. cities, would be some $4,000. Now, as has already been stated, without some form of collateral or surety, a traditional bank would never give this poor fisherman the necessary financing to start his business and get out of poverty. Furthermore, even if the collateral or surety were somehow provided and he did in fact receive a traditional loan, the compound interest would instantly suffocate his upstart.

As a case in point, a $4,000, 3-year small business loan issued at 20%—compounded monthly (traditional bank loan)—would cost this poor fisherman $1,723.08 in interest payments, alone! However, since an AAP micro-loan is predicated not on credit history or collateral, but rather, simply on an executable business plan, even the “poorest of the poor” in Native-America is only one “great idea” away from getting the affordable financing (micro-loan) to embark on an exciting, new “self-empowered” life as an entrepreneur!

So in summary, micro-credit (micro-loans) will serve to further empower impoverished Native-American communities by providing them with desperately needed start-up capital, but at simple interest—keeping more of their earned monies in their own pockets and in their own community. Lastly, AAP is a non-profit corporation, so all interest revenues from the micro-loans will be redirected right back into the community as well.

MODULE #3—Native-Operated “Farmers’ Market”
Following the steps of our sustainable development model thus far, at this point, all participants will have acquired educational training (e.g., their “soccer playbook,” if you will), as well as their needed micro-loan (e.g., their “soccer ball” and “soccer gear”). Thus, it only makes sense that their very next need will be having their own “soccer field,” if you will, so they can now “enter the game” of free-market enterprise, where they can execute the many “plays” they have learned to date.

So as these future entrepreneurs will need a venue to make their goods and wares available to their community (and beyond), AAP will help provide a native-operated “farmers’ market.” This farmers’ market will “catch two salmon with one hook,” if you will, because while providing the necessary launch pad for these entrepreneurs to sell their wares—e.g., their renowned beadwork, elaborate woodwork, and food items, including homemade jams, native “fry bread,” jarred smoked salmon, jarred smoked halibut, jarred Dungenness crab, smoked seal meat, deer meat, herring eggs, and more— the farmers’ market will also benefit the entire community by retailing affordable groceries and basic necessities. More so, providing such a place for entrepreneurs to showcase their goods, will in turn, only inspire more members of the community to take AAP’s free business classes and explore their own creative entrepreneurial ventures. Lastly, this farmers’ market will provide jobs from its very inception, including store manager and clerk positions, farmers’ market operators, and more.

Over time, AAP will seek to partner with retail chains and outlets across the U.S. that would be interested in retailing Native-American products, including but not limited to, Ten Thousand Villages, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, etc. This has the potential to double and quadruple the earnings of entrepreneurs and create even more jobs in Native-American communities. In fact, quite a few of these retail chains have already shown strong interest in partnering.

MODULE #4—Community Projects
The goal of AAP is to enhance the capacity of Native-Americans to help themselves, while also investing in their next generation to do the same. To this end, AAP will develop various community projects in partnership with the native participants in our programs. Examples of projects will include scholarships and educational grants for the youth, community center development, women empowerment projects, substance abuse prevention programs, installation of renewable energy, and more. The importance of these programs in developing vibrant, viable and successful communities cannot be over-emphasized.

In conclusion, AAP has conducted keen research and analysis on all aspects of this sustainable community development model to ensure its success. During implementation, we will set both quarterly and annual goals, and examine all independent and dependent variables towards achieving all predicted deliverables. Ultimately, with this sustainable community development model in place, the vision is for the village of Angoon—and other Native-American communities, as well—to serve as 21st century models of “modern” yet “traditional” indigenous communities; meaning “green communities,” technologically connected to the world (social integration), but yet still able to preserve their traditional ways of living—both from a cultural standpoint as well as an entrepreneurial standpoint.

Lastly, emerging anew as a people “self-determined”—which by definition is not so much about forcing regimes to change their policy, as it is about strengthening the resolve of minority groups to press for change—they can walk in self-empowerment in taking a stand for the protection of their own environments and ecosystem management, the preservation of which is also a vital [on many levels] to eradicating indigenous poverty.

IN CONCLUSION, AAP’s mission is to bring Angoon “Alive,” while at the same time, present to the rest of Native-America, non-Native-America, and academic research scientists, alike, a HIGHLY-REPLICABLE MODEL of a “21st century traditional village.” Please contact us to learn more about the full details of each module, and how you can best help us bring this project to fruition.




SPECIAL THANKS to the Navajo, Lakota-Sioux, Cree, Cherokee, Haida, Tlingit, Athabascan, Inuit, Waccamaw Siouan, Lumbee, and other tribes that have reached out to AAP and shared your enthusiasm for this project!
Gunalcheesh Hoho! = “thank you, very much” [in Tlingit]


Take a moment to make an investment in the people and village of Angoon.