35 Years of History: A Look Back at Some Milestones

In observing our 35th Anniversary during 2015, we’ve been taking a look back at some of our history. We’ve been sharing some of these historical tidbits over the course of this year. Here’s our third installment:

  • In 1986, First Nations testified before Congress on land, trust funds reform, and BIA asset management.
  • In 1987, the Umatilla Land Project begins. Based on the model established at Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation, First Nations provides technical assistance for land consolidation efforts at other reservations.
  • In 1991, First Nations is a founding board member of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. That same year, First Nations initiates a series of tribal investment workshops.
  • In 1993, First Nations provides information that the U.S. Justice Department will rely on in bringing successful legal actions against two border town banks for their lending policies toward Native Americans.
  • In 1998, First Nations formed its Native Assets Research Center, consolidating the organization’s long concentration on research as an instrument of policy reform.
  • In 1999, First Nations created a program called International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP). Today, IFIP is a separate 501(c)(3) organization based in San Francisco, California.
  • In 2002, First Nations establishes its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, or NAFSI.
  • In 2003, First Nations launches its Native Youth and Culture Fund.
  • In 2013, First Nations acquires its own building at 2432 Main Street in Longmont, Colorado.
  • By mid-year 2015, First Nations had given 1,039 grants totaling $23.7 million to Native American projects and organizations in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territory American Samoa. (We announced our 1,000th-grant milestone with this press release on July 16.)

Shown at First Nations' 25th Anniversary event in 2005 are, L to R, First Nations President Mike Roberts, Peter and Jennifer Buffett of NoVo Foundation, and First Nations Founder Rebecca Adamson.

 

Money Smarts Training Presented to BIA Staff

 

Fraud occurs when someone unlawfully misrepresents information, facts or events for financial gain, and according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, it’s a big problem in America. Each year eight in 10 Americans are solicited with a potentially fraudulent offer such as a phony charity fundraiser or bogus disaster-relief effort. About $50 billion is lost to fraud annually in this country and, sadly, elders are 34% more likely to be targets than middle-age individuals.

Native-led nonprofit First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation have teamed up to see that Native Americans don’t fall prey to scams by creating the Fighting Fraud 101 campaign. On February 4, 2015, Cherokee Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs employees had a chance to learn more about the exciting awareness campaign as part of an interactive financial skills workshop.

 

Cherokee Agency BIA staff at training were, L to R, Denny Rochester, Heather McNichols, Renee Bible, Tony Cabe, Lisa Parker, Kelcye Cook, Kim Chiltoskie, and Brooke Brown

Sarah Dewees is the Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs at First Nations and helped design a Fighting Fraud 101 toolkit to assist Native communities that could be especially susceptible to fraud. She warns that big payouts have focused a lot of attention toward Indian Country in recent years and that technology in the form of text messages, social media and email has made communities that were previously isolated and remote, like much of Indian Country, more accessible to fraudsters.

“There are definitely some at-risk Native communities right now,” Dewees said. “We’ve seen a number of highly publicized legal settlements resulting in payouts to Native people across the country. Not to mention ongoing per-capita and allotment income from sources such as gaming, leasing, and oil and gas revenues. Our goal is to work within Native communities to ensure that tribes and individuals are not targeted by fraudsters and scammers looking to exploit these windfalls.”

The three-hour workshop was offered in both morning and afternoon sessions and included detailed information on budgeting, financial recordkeeping, retirement planning and basic investing in addition to fraud awareness and prevention. Engaging learning activities were featured to reinforce key topics and concepts. One particularly interesting exercise tested recordkeeping and organizational habits by challenging participants to estimate how quickly and efficiently they could collect critical personal information and documents such as birth certificates, past years’ income tax returns, a current retirement account statement, and even the total amount they spent on holiday gifts last year.

“We’re thrilled our staff is able to receive this type of training onsite,” noted Agency Superintendent Darlene Whitetree and Deputy Superintendent Ruth McCoy. “Sound financial skills are crucial to the success of our employees both in the workplace and outside. Moreover, we encourage our staff to share this information with their families and others who might benefit from gaining a clearer understanding of finance.”

For more information on how you can join the Fighting Fraud 101 campaign or to request free fraud-fighting materials, contact First Nations Programs Consultant Shawn Spruce at agoyopi@gmail.com or (505) 247-8861. You can dowload the Fighting Fraud 101 pamphlet at this link: http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/predatory-lending.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Programs Consultant

Crow Nation Financial Workshops Help Make Sense of Tribal Land Buy-Back Program

What do you get when you combine an innovative and informative financial skills workshop with other financial information geared toward a special land buy-back program? You get lots of attendees – more than 200 – who are highly interested and engaged landowners and their families!

In November 2014, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) worked with the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, the Crow Nation, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to offer a series of financial skills workshops designed to assist landowners on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. The full day of outreach also included presentations by senior advisors from the newly formed Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (LBBP). Information booths were provided by the Office of the Special Trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Crow Tribe to provide assistance to landowners with questions about their offer packets from the Land Buy-Back Program and related issues.

The financial skills workshop was developed in response to demand from certain tribes who wished to prepare their members for the Land Buy-Back Program opportunity. The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations was established by the Interior Department to implement the land-consolidation provisions of the Cobell settlement agreement. The settlement provided for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund to consolidate fractional land interests across Indian Country and will ultimately affect approximately 150 unique reservations that have fractional interests. The Land Buy-Back Program allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. All interests sold are restored to tribes, which helps to keep Indian lands in trust for tribal communities.

The financial skills workshop offered information about buy-back readiness plans, budgeting and spending plans. Another very important aspect featured information to protect landowners from various types of financial fraud they could be targeted for, such as investment fraud and other related scams. Materials were provided to assist individuals and families with identifying different types of fraud, recognizing risk factors, spotting persuasion tactics, and knowing what to do if one becomes a victim. Money tips and skills like record-keeping, organization, consumer savviness, and avoiding “big money mistakes” were also hot topics. (To see more about the FINRA Investor Education Foundation/First Nations effort to prevent financial fraud, visit http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5855/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1310510.)

First Nations Consultant Shawn Spruce explained: “It was wonderful to see such a fantastic turnout of over 200 landowners. People were really excited to be there and feedback following the event was extremely positive. Of course none of this would have been possible without so many great partners to help bring us all together.”

There are several more land buy-back events planned in 2015, and First Nations plans to coordinate with the Office of the Special Trustee, the BIA and the Land Buy-Back Program to continue their outreach and training on avoiding fraud and successfully planning for windfall payments.

By Tawny Wilson, First Nations Program Officer