Trading at the River 2015

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Hello Friends of ONABEN,

Whew! It’s been a busy week. This little lady is tired! Our team just finished up our 13th Annual Trading at the River Conference and Marketplace. With every event, something new is learned and our team grows.

This year’s event was a bit different…it was in Oklahoma…outside of the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever. We faced challenges, but we overcame. It was exhausting, but provided a great opportunity to come together as a team and excel. In fact, I have come to view Trading at the River as a sort of team building exercise for ONABEN’s staff. We have the chance to work hand in hand. But more importantly, as we encounter roadblocks with the event and all of its complexities, it affords us the opportunity to face challenges as a TEAM! And, wow, do we ever persevere! If ever a team supports one another, it is ONABEN. We all step in and do. It was exciting to have our Portland teammates in Oklahoma with me this week. I loved sharing the place I call home with colleagues/friends who are much more like family.

We have great partners throughout Indian Country, and Oklahoma is no different. I had so many friends step up this week just to support ONABEN, our team, and me. My heart is happy. And, my smile is big. We laughed and celebrated joint successes. And, at times, we shared the same frustrations…the weather is an uncontrollable force. But, if Team ONABEN and its band of friends are good at one thing…it is making lemonade out of lemons! I don’t believe any event is free from complication and that’s not a bad thing. After all, that’s what strengthens the team!

This year’s event included our friends from Hawaii who were kind enough to bring a lot of Aloha to Oklahoma. We were treated to a hula dance and a fashion show of Native Hawaiian designs. I hope our Hawaiian friends enjoyed Oklahoma as much as Oklahoma enjoyed them.



Our conference also included the vocal styling of Lainey Edwards, an Oklahoma Native and citizen of the Choctaw Nation. Lainey lives in Nashville nowadays, but stays closely tied to her Oklahoma roots! This talented artist is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. If you haven’t taken the time to check Lainey out, visit her website at

Link to her website

Speaking of art, a big thanks to First Peoples Fund and its staff for making the journey to Tulsa to provide artist training! ONABEN appreciates your support and participation. We had a great lineup of panelists at this year’s event…if you weren’t able to attend, you really missed out!

Cherokee Youth Choir

Hmm, what else was new this year at Trading at the River? Oh, yes, our friends from OWEESTA journeyed to Tulsa to provide a Building Native Communities training! It is always a treat to see our friends from this dedicated organization!

The last two days have been a whirlwind of activity! I want to thank ONABEN’s team for their hard work and dedication to our ever-growing, forward-moving organization. We are a small but mighty team. I also have to thank ONABEN’s Board of Directors for their support and encouragement. We appreciate your time and commitment to ONABEN’s mission!

Just an update on our long-term projects! ONABENs ANA funded work continues to leave positive imprints in the communities that we serve. Remember the Artist Marketplace we hosted in 2015, in partnership with our friends at Sequoyah Fund? Well, our next event is scheduled for July 11. Looks like we may have an annual event on our hands! Additionally, I am excited to include that ONABEN has recently produced a video vignette that offers a little insight into our work in North Dakota! ONABEN loves to tell the story of, not only our team’s work, but also the stories and successes of the entrepreneurs that we serve!

Check out ONABEN’s latest video!

“Talk” soon, V.

Michael Bridges

Michael Bridges

Michael is a proud U.S. Army Veteran and a member of the Cherokee Nation. With 10 years of service as an Infantryman, Michael implements the core values of integrity, honor, and selfless service into his leadership of the company. With over 20 years of experience, Michael began working with building websites and graphic design in 1998. A family-oriented man, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife Kristina and their three children. He is a proud and active member of Jenks Lodge #497 A.F. & A.M. and an advisor for the Order of DeMolay.