With more than 80 partnering communities, hundreds of events, and thousands of participants, First Nations’ $pending Frenzy has become a super-sized hit. From Mashpee, Massachusetts, to Newhalen, Alaska, the riveting financial skills simulation is the gold standard for interactive youth financial education training throughout Indian Country.
Created in 2011 in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Shawn Spruce Consulting, the $pending Frenzy program was designed to assist tribal youth with managing lump-sum minor’s trust payments derived from gaming revenues and natural resource dividends.The approach was novel in that participants received the actual amount of their pending payments in brick-sized bundles of play money bills. Then they took a stab at managing their windfalls while going through a maze of real-world decisions, challenges and obstacles.
It’s important to point out that the idea wasn’t to condone the practice of carrying around armloads of cash like rapper Lil Wayne jetting off to a Vegas weekend. Instead, the play money was an old-school teaching tool to encourage youth growing up in the digital age to appreciate the value of money by handling it physically as opposed to just inserting a credit card or scrolling through a mobile payment app. Since then the $pending Frenzy has embraced a broader audience of Native youth, most of whom do not receive sizable payments on their 18th birthdays, but do share a common need to gain financial knowledge and independence.
The cool-looking play money has always been a huge part of the $pending Frenzy’s success. This is especially true when the participants eagerly eye a mountain of “hundies,” stacked to the rafters, at the onset of the simulation. Later, when the bills are zipped through a currency counter, participants often enjoy helping re-strap the bundles for the next event – more quality time with the money.
The original $pending Frenzy bills were printed by CBC Printing, a tribally owned-enterprise, and featured former EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. Dubbed “Hicks Bucks,” the bills displayed a grinning headshot of Hicks on the front, with a picture of the historic EBCI Tribal Council House on the back.
When First Nations began producing $pending Frenzy kits for communities nationwide to host their own $pending Frenzies, it designed a new bill replacing Hicks and the Council House with a portrait of prominent Native American chiefs and a pre-Columbus map of America. These new bills were an instant smash with Native youth from a wide range of tribes.Printed in a realistic green hue on high-quality paper, the non-tribal-specific play money added a culturally diverse element to the $pending Frenzy. The same dimensions as real U.S. currency, the bills also worked perfectly in the currency counters included in the kits.
As the $pending Frenzy phenomena continues to grow in popularity, numerous partners have requested to print their own $pending Frenzy bills. These custom bills often feature tribal seals and local landmarks that add a personal touch to the events that these partners host. Moreover, many trainers who teach financial education classes and workshops with Native groups will use $pending Frenzy money in their other activities and lessons.
Recently our team redesigned the standard $pending Frenzy bills for a third time. Our latest version features the legendary Jim Thorpe and is quickly gaining a following among $pending Frenzy enthusiasts. Take a quick tour through the history of $pending Frenzy money by checking out the pictures of the various $100 bills in this article. We look forward to many more $pending Frenzy events in the future along with more partners offering creative play money designs.
For more information on the $pending Frenzy or to order a $pending Frenzy kit for your community, please contact Ben Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant