Frequently Asked Questions

What does NiiJii mean?

NiiJii (nee-jee) means "friends" in Ojibwe.

What tribes are involved in NiiJii?

NiiJii is a partnership between:

  • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
  • Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake.
What is NiiJii's mission?

Our mission is to build sustainable communities by empowering citizens to foster partnerships and mobilize resources for the elimination of poverty for future generations.

What is an Enterprise Community?

Enterprise Community is a federal designation given by the United States Department of Agriculture to communities which have been selected to participate in the Rural Community Empowerment Program. This program is a significant departure from traditional federal assistance programs in several ways, including:

  • Is a long-term partnership between the federal government and the community (most grants are ten-years in duration);
  • Addresses a comprehensive range of community problems;
  • Provides for local self-determination in setting priorities;
  • Places great emphasis on partnerships with federal and state agencies, local and tribal governments, private businesses, foundations, and non-profits that engage the resources and commitments of these organizations to carry out portions of the community's strategic plan;
  • Encourages area-wide approaches to local problem-solving so that neighboring communities can benefit by pooling their limited resources of time, talent, and funding;
  • Requires that communities establish performance benchmarks.

There are 57 Enterprise Communities in the United States. NiiJii is the only one in Wisconsin and the only one that is a partnership of three Native American tribes.

Don't casinos provide enough economic opportunity on reservations?

No. One in every four families in the NiiJii Enterprise Community live below poverty. That's nearly three times higher than the state average. While many tribes have benefited from casinos, there is still a need to build diverse economies on our reservations. This includes making sure both youth and adults have access to the education and training they need to be productive members of the community.

What exactly does NiiJii do?

NiiJii brings together local residents and leaders, assists them in identifying community needs and facilitates the creation and implementation of local strategic action plans. When it comes time to implement projects, we provide training, technical assistance, access to loans and other funding, capacity building training and volunteers.

How are local people involved in the decision-making?

We believe it's critical for residents to directly identify their own community needs and take leadership in solving them. Each Reservation has a locally elected citizens advisory committee that meets quarterly to develop and oversee NiiJii community initiatives.

You talk about grounding your work in "Native American values." What are those values?

NiiJii is inspired by a sense of responsibility to future generations. We want our children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and the seventh generation to have a better life. Our work conforms to our belief that all life is part of a web-earth, water, sky, people and all life. Every aspect is interconnected and dependent on the other aspects. Our projects are therefore environmentally sustainable, culturally appropriate and take into consideration the impact on all who will be touched by them. We know that many of these values are shared by non-Natives and we welcome them as partners and supporters in our efforts.