Navajos Sharpen Financial Skills Before Windfall


First group of participants, with Leona Begay (third from left)


To help prepare tribal citizens of the Navajo Nation for a potential financial windfall, the Federal Indian Minerals Office (FIMO) teamed with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) and First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) to offer a series of financial capability workshops in Farmington, New Mexico, in July 2013.

The “Four Corners” area, consisting of parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, has long been a hotbed for natural gas drilling.  However, recent advances in directional drilling technology allow access to previously untapped crude oil deposits that might also exist in the region.  In anticipation, oil companies are busy securing as many potential drilling leases as possible.

One of the groups of participants, with First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce (far left)

A substantial portion of this area is home to the largest Indian reservation in the United States – the Navajo Nation.  FIMO was established in 1992 by the U.S. Department of Interior to provide services to individual Navajo mineral owner beneficiaries regarding their mineral interests and rights. The organization projects that $15 million to $20 million in drilling lease-signing bonuses will become available to beneficiaries later this year, as a result of this potential oil boom.

The workshops in Farmington covered various topics that were especially pertinent to the lease recipients who were present, such as budgeting, credit and negotiation. Participants were very interested in learning more about how to invest future funds, so trainer Shawn Spruce of First Nations spent time offering detailed information about investment activities including asset allocation and types of investing accounts.   Spruce also presented a number of online resources that would be of use to the recipients in preparation for the expected payments.

“We had two great days of training for future oil beneficiaries in Farmington,” said Shawn.  “We’ve provided similar workshops for other Native communities that receive individual lump-sum payments from natural resource royalties, legal settlements, gaming revenues or other sources.  It’s wonderful to be able to prepare people for future financial needs and challenges they might encounter.”

OST's Julia Redhouse (center) with two training participants

All workshop participants indicated on their evaluations that they believed they were better prepared for their distributions.  One attendee stated, “This was very beneficial. This information is a must-know for everyone receiving a distribution.”

The Minerals Revenue Specialist at FIMO, Leona Begay, would like to continue the partnership with First Nations and OST to provide additional workshops in Albuquerque.  For updates about these potential workshops, please visit or contact Shawn Spruce at