Tracy Kennedy, Burns Paiute Tribe Community and Economic Development Coordinator
Born and raised in Harney County and enrolled with the Burns Paiute Tribe Tracy Kennedy is the first in her family to go to and graduate from college. She attended Haskell Indian Nation University in Kansas with the goal to finish her education at University of Oregon which she did. While studying business and taking required classes she fell in love with economics and immediately began to think about how she could apply what she was learning to benefit her Burns Paiute Tribe community. "I fell in love with economics, how it was taught, what it could do for you and how some countries are more progressive than others and I took that framework and am applying it to the Tribe. Thinking about why some tribes are more progressive, more successful, more stable than other tribes, that got me excited."
Tracy finished her degree in 2009 and went to work with a Eugene nonprofit learning important fundraising skills like grant writing and management. She brought her education and skills home to Harney County in 2012 and began working with the Tribe. Thanks to funding coming through in 2018, her dream job with the Tribe became available as the Community and Economic Development Coordinator.
Working from an Economic Development Strategic Plan developed in 2015 Tracy is focused on three goals: cultural tourism, tribal entrepreneurism and maximizing land value. The Tukwahone Cultural and Heritage Center in Burns provides the tribe with a Main Street presence and has multiple functions: museum, business incubator and a retail space which helps with both cultural tourism and tribal entrepreneurship. In addition to this effort Tracy puts her time and energy behind hosting classes, starting and managing a business cohort and partnering with High Desert Partnership and the BizHarney Opportunity Collaborative to bring funding, education and opportunity to the Tribe.
"BizHarney reached out to me because they wanted to work more inclusively with the Tribe, they were really working on how to be better partners. I was able to join in that conversation and we [Brenda Smith and Tracy] realized that much of our vision was the same, wanting to support our entrepreneurs. Support them not just as HDP, BizHarney or Burns Paiute Tribe but how can we collaborate together to help each other. As a result, we've been able to access funding pools by partnering together to seek grants." (In August, Business Oregon awarded HDP $300,000 to provide business technical assistance to small businesses in Harney County, including Tribal businesses, and beyond including businesses in Baker, Union, Wallowa and Malheur counties.)
Culturally, Tracy has some challenges. "This was our land, this was our home, we traded for necessities, now it's 2020 and there's this term economic development which means money, money is what we trade now. This is hard for people to understand because we've been so oppressed, we've been trained to live paycheck to paycheck. Part of my work is training that this is about providing for yourself and your family, that we have this cultural responsibility to support our family and not be reliant on the government. It's difficult to go from an oppressive mindset to being an entrepreneur." Tracy has a goal that in 5 years, by 2025, there will be 5 Burns Paiute Tribal owned businesses in Harney County.
Outside of work, for Tracy, fun is her community, her family and she's an avid Duck fan. Free time is about community events, pow wows, spending time with her 2 grandchildren and looking forward to the arrival of her third. As a Duck fan Tracy is very excited about the Ducks first football game of their delayed season November 7.