Honored at a ceremony March 17 at NAFOA’s Next Decade Finance conference in New Orleans, the award is presented to a tribal leader who has displayed foresight and resolve in the financial advancement of their tribe.
“Chairman Armenta exemplifies the type of leader NAFOA recognizes,” said William Lomax, NAFOAboard president. “Under his direction, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has gone from relative obscurity to being one of the most successful tribes in California.”
Accepting the award, Armenta said he was honored to be named Tribal Leader of the Year by NAFOA and thanked his fellow business committee members for helping him lead their tribal nation to success. “I am privileged to serve on our tribe’s leadership team along with a group of dedicated, talented and dynamic leaders. We have worked diligently to bring both financial and cultural success to our tribe.”
Armenta was first elected in December 1999 and has been re-elected five times. Under his leadership, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has experienced significant and measurable success. The tribe’s main business enterprise – the Chumash Casino Resort – has become one of the most popular entertainment destinations in the region.
The tribe also purchased and renovated a local hotel and accompanying restaurant in the town of Solvang, about three miles from its reservation. After extensive refurbishing, the hotel and restaurant were reopened with a new image and new names: Hotel Corque and Root 246. In just a few short months of reopening, both the restaurant and hotel were on the map for tourists interested in staying at a boutique hotel in the middle of the region’s wine country and dining at a restaurant created by celebrity chef Bradley Ogden.
While economic development has been a strong suit for Armenta, he has paid equal attention to preserving and honoring his tribe’s culture. Under his charge, the tribe established an extensive language program of their native language – Samala – and published a 600-plus page dictionary complete with tribal illustrations and photographs specifically designed for the dictionary.
“There’s no question that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has accomplished a lot in the past 10 years,” Lomax said. “And there’s no doubt that many of those accomplishments can be attributed to the tribe’s leader, Chairman Armenta.”
“Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task,” said Richard Gomez, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians vice chairman. “There is no better example of this than Chairman Armenta.”
NAFOA is dedicated to building the financial strength of tribal governments and their business enterprises. Its mission is to improve the quality of financial management, which they believe is the key to preserving tribal sovereignty.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns and operates the Chumash Casino Resort, located on the tribe’s reservation in Santa Barbara County, California. The tribe also owns Hotel Corque and Root 246 in Solvang, along with two gas stations in Santa Ynez.