The design of the Rose Community Development Corporation and the creation of the new hybrid economic model to address Indian economic development is the direct result of the real-life, reservation business experience of founder Douglas Stuart. The Corporation is named after Douglas' mother Rose. Rose and Douglas are not only mother and son, together they represent a business team. Both Rose Stuart and Douglas Stuart are enrolled members of the Assiniboine Indian Nation, a federally recognized Indian Nation, residing on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, in North Central Montana. Douglas and Rose have personally lived on and conducted business within the reservation and have spent their daily lives dealing with the issues of sovereignty, sensitivity to culture and the development of fair and impartial institutions.
Their business history began fifty-one years ago, on the Fort Belknap reservation, when Rose Stuart, in order to support her family, began a wheat farming operation on her mother's 240-acre allotment. Her mother, Catherine Snell Wiegand Burtch, also an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Nation, resided with the family until her death in 1976. Catherine was a deeply spiritual woman, whose inner peace, strength and wisdom, became a source of peace, strength and wisdom for the entire family. She was a quiet, guiding presence in the daily life of the Stuart family. Her profound, positive daily influence on her grandson Douglas was the critical, formative factor in the foundation, development and reinforcement of the Native American value system instilled within him. The Indian community value system was internalized by Douglas at an early age, prior to his grandmother's passing in 1976. The Indian community value system is the rock upon which his responsibility and leadership to Indian Country is founded.
Rose's humble beginning on 240 acres eventually grew to a 30,000-acre business by 1984, with the help of her husband Bill and their son Douglas. She became, in an industry predominantly controlled by non-Indians, the largest wheat farmer in her tri-county area, the largest Woman wheat farmer in Montana, and the largest Indian family farmer in the country. Of the thirty thousand acres, the family owned ten thousand acres under purchase contracts and controlled an additional twenty thousand acres through leases. Douglas also developed a forty thousand acre business off the reservation.
A combination of the farm credit crisis, including local bank liquidation, changes in U.S. government farm policy and a drought of unprecedented length and severity forced a restructuring of the business down to only ten thousand acres of reservation land by 1987. Rose and Douglas retired from farming in 1995. Rose and her husband Bill then farmed the original 240 acres, from which they started in 1962.
The preceding, brief overview of the life and business experiences of Rose and Douglas Stuart cannot even begin to highlight what this Native American business team faced in terms of the many economic factors which have historically thwarted the efforts of on-reservation, private sector development in Indian Country. It should be noted that most of these economic factors are controlled and influenced by non-reservation, non-Indians, who having historically leased and controlled entire reservations. The Stuart Native American business team faced untold animosity from many non-Indian sources, who viewed successful Indians as a threat to their historical control of reservation economies. The combination of all these experiences provided the basis for Douglas Stuart returning to education in mid life, to study and research for the purpose of creating an innovative approach to Tribal Nation's economic development. Douglas wanted to create an economic development model that would put Indian Nations in control of their own economies, through the efficient allocation, concentration and preservation of Indian resources by Indian Nations for the benefit of Indian Nations.
Douglas, Rose and Bill Stuart are all founding members of the Rose Community Development Corporation. Bill Stuart, a non-Indian, honored with an ex-officio, non-voting board position passed on to heavenly abode on January 7th 2004.