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Federal budget would eliminate tribal programs that made this cake business happen

Buttercream Queen is open for business

Jordan Clark of North Fork, announces the launch of her new business, Buttercream Queen, a custom cake business servicing the Mountain Area and the Valley. Clark demonstrates a cake design from start to finish.
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Jordan Clark of North Fork, announces the launch of her new business, Buttercream Queen, a custom cake business servicing the Mountain Area and the Valley. Clark demonstrates a cake design from start to finish.

The Trump administration's proposed fiscal year budget for 2019 eliminates funding for all Indian and Native American workforce programs.

And that has a whole lot to do with North Fork, Jordan Clark and cake.

Jordan Clark, 28, a resident of North Fork, wife, mother of two, and entrepreneur, just graduated from a federally funded program established by the California Indian Manpower Consortium. It was a four-month training course that since 2001 has prepared over 400 Native American entrepreneurs throughout California with skills to develop their own businesses.

According to CIMC's Lorenda Sanchez, FY19's cuts to Indian and Native American programs is violating enacted legislation and decades-old sovereign nation rights.

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Jordan Clark's finished cake, marking the launch of her new business. Kelly Rausch

Buttercream Queen

Clark's passion is fine cakes. She has spent two years perfecting the moisture of her standard white cake and she has finally honed her chocolate cake recipe to pass her grandmother's discerning taste buds. Ten pounds later and post-CIMC graduation she is launching The Buttercream Queen, a custom cake business that takes bland fondant out of decorating and preserves beauty with flavor.

"I want to use beautiful food to help make memories from kid's birthdays to weddings," Clark says. "I hope to service the entire Mountain Area, and if my business takes off I would like to grow down to the Valley, but if someone needs a cake in the Valley now, I am totally willing to do that."

She is wearing her company's apron, the words Buttercream Queen are branded across her chest, and she is adorning a vanilla white cake with citrus undertones iced in a buttercream meringue with picture-perfect roses in hues of fuchsia, lavender and pink.

Clark is in North Fork Rancheria's Community Center commercial kitchen and the cake is a sight to behold. It reflects her artistry and devotion to her mission statement.

For four months and alongside other Native entrepreneurs ages 25-61, Clark developed a business plan, did market research, learned about certification, licensing, taxes and the importance of insurance and a CPA. "It would have been overwhelming without CIMC's program," Clark says. "I got to hear testimony, first hand, of other Native entrepreneurs and their trials and tribulations...the program was life-changing."

Her excitement about the program is infectious, so much so, it has taken her cousin who hopes to attend CIMC's program in 2019 to open an Indian taco truck.

Crumbs

If FY19 moves forward in its current state, it will slash the $54 million in the current federal budget for Native American and Indian employment related services to $7.3 million. Those dollars will be taken away from the Native American-run programs and be put into the individual state's hands for divvying.

In 2018, California Native-run workforce programs alone received $5.8 million of the $54 million, a number $1.5 million short of what is proposed to be allocated nationwide in 2019.

CIMC's principal funding source is under the Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), authorized through a federal policy that, according to Sanchez, acknowledges the unique status of the Native American population with special regard to government-to-government relations.

It is under the WIOA that the Department of Labor INA programs exist — the programs that will lose all funding according to the proposed FY19 budget.

These significant changes are what the INA Programs representatives and the Native American Employment Training Council, an advisory board for the U.S. labor secretary, see as a "complete disregard" to tribal government to federal government protocol and decades of enacted legislation.

Missing ingredients

"We have never seen anything like this before," says Sanchez, who has been at CIMC for 40 years. "It directly violates federal Indian policy, the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act and government-to-government protocol."

Native American's constitutional status grants the inherent right to govern themselves and in the 1970s the Indian Self Determination Act further promoted the ability of tribal self-government and decision making concerning their people.

Because of this, for years the federal government has respected Native American and Indian sovereignty by ensuring appropriate senior level officials are present, informed or a part of decision-making when federal proposals, laws, etc. will impact their governments and nations.

The Department of Labor declined to comment on whether proper government-to-government protocol was respected.

In keeping with the constitutionality of federal Indian policy and INA programs, Sanchez discusses solutions.

"The bottom line is we are willing to move forward with a class-action lawsuit if need be," Sanchez says. "The importance of these workforce programs and our INA communities that depend on them cannot be overstated."

Will it rise?

Congress has the ultimate responsibility to make appropriations to FY19 and Sanchez hopes time is taken to recognize that the current structure for INA workforce programs are there to uphold and meet the realities and strengths of the cultural values, beliefs and ways of Native people and communities.

"It is important that Native Americans tailor programs for their people," says Sanchez. "Distance, isolation, infrastructure, combined with the highest dropout, youth suicide, unemployment and poverty rates, surpass needs and issues common to state programs."

Four decades ago when Sanchez began her work at CIMC, California's tribal communities had a 72 percent unemployment rate and an 80 percent poverty rate and today there are communities with zero percent poverty and zero percent unemployment.

"We need to make sure Congress has sound information, and that they know what our successes have been, successes like those demonstrated by Jordan Clark," says Sanchez.

Back inside the kitchen, Clark discusses what the program meant to her, how it helped her establish an economic solution in a small isolated economy, and the thought of its loss after impacting hundreds of Native entrepreneurs lives who graduated from the same program.

"It would be heartbreaking. It taught me more than business and leadership skills, it taught me that I can also change the world."

For more information about The Buttercream Queen call 559-760-3537.

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