Meskwaki’s Pinnacle Bank Key Part of Network

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What do Iowa, baseball and banking have in common?

The classic sports film Field of Dreams tells the fictional story of an Iowa farmer who is divinely inspired to build a baseball diamond in a cornfield. In 2009 the Meskwaki Nation purchased Pinnacle Bank, a nearly 100-year-old community bank with a proud history of serving local farmers and families. The tribe’s move was a play right out of Field of Dreams – with the Hawkeye State as the setting for both stories.

Nestled in the central plains of Iowa, the Meskwaki Nation is home to the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, a vibrant Native community of more than 1,400 enrolled members. “The Meskwaki Nation has made huge strides in economic development over the past two decades,” explained Pinnacle Bank Trust Administrator Jody Fank. “The bank acquisition is a testament to that progress, with much of the motivation for choosing a banking venture to promote financial literacy for tribal citizens. It’s amazing what a powerful vehicle a financial institution can be when driven toward community and cultural objectives.”

Financial literacy workshop participants at the Meskwaki Settlement School in July 2011

Financial literacy workshop participants at the Meskwaki Settlement School in July 2011

Headquartered a few miles west of the Meskwaki Settlement, in Marshalltown, Iowa, Pinnacle Bank offers a diverse line up of banking solutions in addition to active trust management, investments, financial empowerment training and other services designed to meet the unique financial needs of Native American tribes across the country. In less than a decade it has become a respected player in the Native banking big leagues with a growing list of tribal clients who appreciate an appealing blend of professional expertise, dedicated personal service, and honest Midwestern values. Moreover, the bank has a solid record of partnering with First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). Working alongside a community financial literacy committee, the two organizations helped host one of the first $pending Frenzy reality fairs at the Meskwaki Settlement School five years ago. In 2011 First Nations assisted Pinnacle with a summer financial skills workshop for youth. Since then, enough Pinnacle and Meskwaki tribal staff have become certified trainers in the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum to make a pennant run. And they keep their skills sharp with a steady schedule of financial education workshops and classes.

Recently, Pinnacle Bank became one of six Native-led organizations to sign on with the newly-formed Native Financial Learning Network (NFLN), a capacity-building and peer-learning project co-managed by First Nations Development Institute and First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) with funding from Northwest Area Foundation. In May, the collaborative officially kicked off with a two-day planning meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

“Pinnacle Bank is a progressive and focused financial institution and we’re thrilled to assist it and the Meskwaki Nation with a longstanding financial empowerment mission,” commented Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy, and Asset-Building Programs. “The Native Financial Learning Network will be a fantastic framework for Pinnacle to share and learn with our other partners while developing innovative strategies to foster and scale up financial empowerment.”

Pinnacle Bank staff, Meskwaki Financial Literacy Committee members, and partners pose with the 2012 Financial Literacy Program of the Year Award from the Native American Finance Officers Association in April 2012

Pinnacle Bank staff, Meskwaki Financial Literacy Committee members, and partners pose with the 2012 Financial Literacy Program of the Year Award from the Native American Finance Officers Association in April 2012

As part of the two-year NFLN project, Pinnacle Bank takes its financial empowerment efforts to the next level. Its plan consists of a community assessment to identify future financial education programs, services and resources, along with a messaging campaign to promote healthy financial lifestyles among tribal youth. The campaign will feature posters, rich media content, and a team of Meskwaki youth ambassadors serving as financial empowerment role models and coaches.

“I’m really excited to be a part of this undertaking,” explained 21-year-old Morgan Bear, a Meskwaki citizen and future youth ambassador. “It could bring a lot of change to our community in terms of better preparing young people for financial independence and responsibilities that come with living on your own.”

It’s summer time and baseball season is on! Keep your eye on Pinnacle Bank and our starting line-up of NFLN partners: Bii Gii Wiin Community Development Loan Fund, People’s Partner for Community Development, NimiiPuu Community Development Fund and I-Vision, Northern Eagle Federal Credit Union and Bois Forte Housing Department, and Leech Lake Financial Services.

For more information on how your program can join a winning team of financial empowerment heavy hitters, contact Sarah Dewees at sdewees@firstnations.org or (540) 371-5615.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant

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