Updated “Building Native Communities” Curriculum Released


In honor of National Financial Literacy Month during April 2016, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) released the 5th edition of the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum. The revised curriculum includes an updated Participant Workbook and Instructor Guide.

First Nations partnered with Oweesta to convene an advisory committee to revise the Building Native Communities Participant Workbook. Funded by the Rose Foundation and the AMB Foundation, the workbook has new content that incorporates feedback from the field and addresses changing technology. There are new sections that cover topics like online banking, consumer savvy (recognizing persuasion tactics), and constructing a record-keeping system. The revision team also removed outdated material and greatly enhanced the math content of the workbook. New “Money Math” activities throughout the workbook help students apply what they have learned. In addition, the revised workbook includes new illustrations, photos, infographics and charts. The resulting workbook has a more modern and visual feel.

FNOC2clogo.1Oweesta and First Nations also updated the Instructor Guide that accompanies the Building Native Communities curriculum. New chapters address training techniques, learning styles for various demographics, financial education program design, and best practices for financial education classes.

Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families is a culturally-appropriate guide to financial education in Native communities that helps individuals make informed financial decisions for themselves, their family, and their community. Since the release of the first edition of the curriculum in 2000, Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families has become the leading financial education curriculum in Indian Country. To date, First Nations and Oweesta have distributed over 18,000 copies of the Financial Skills for Families workbook and over 1,400 leaders from 28 states have become certified trainers through nearly 60 Oweesta/First Nations train-the-trainer events.

“We are excited to revise this workbook and honored by the input of our advisory committee,” shared Sarah Dewees, Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs at First Nations. “The 5th edition is a great workbook and we are happy to announce its completion.” Krystal Langholz, Chief Operating Officer of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, stated, “We look forward to rolling out this new edition with revised train-the-trainer workshops and several webinars to introduce people to the new content.”

To pre-order copies of the 5th edition curriculum, contact Chris Hansen at chris@oweesta.org or (303) 774-8838. To download a PDF copy, visit the First Nations Knowledge Center.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

New Web Resource for Native Financial Educators


In April, First Nations Development Institute and First Nations Oweesta Corporation announced the launch of a new financial education web portal at www.BNCweb.org. It serves as a resource center for Native financial education practitioners and educators.

The site contains our suite of financial education curricula, downloadable instructor guides, trainer tools, research and publications, and additional materials. The website also contains links to the My Green campaign, the investnativeonline.org website, and videos and materials that can assist financial educators.

All resources will be in a centralized location and will address topics such as Minor’s Trust Accounts (training resources, research, etc.), an online curriculum about investing for Native youth, and supplemental training resources. These efforts were funded by the Rose Foundation and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

$pending Simulation Gets Gallup in a Frenzy

Spending Frenzy Full-Logo

In April, First Nations worked with Gallup Central High School financial literacy teacher Arnold Blum and First Financial Credit Union’s Dale Dedrick to provide the $pending Frenzy financial simulation. The goal was to help GRADS students (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills program) and other Gallup Central students put principles they learned throughout the year into practice. First Nations provided a series of four simulations for all students at Gallup Central (about 100).

The $pending Frenzy simulation allowed students to practice handling a one-year salary of $30,000 to make spending decisions at a series of booths for big purchases like a car and a home (or rental). In addition, students considered smaller purchases such as a food plan and home furnishings. Students also had the opportunity to save money and/or invest money at a bank booth, were instructed to pay taxes on their salary at a tax booth, and were dealt “chance” cards with unexpected life events that either cost them or resulted in money (such as the birth of a child, breaking a leg in an accident, or receiving an award for a piece of art).

Thanks to the coordination of Blum and Dedrick, the various booths were run by local merchants who represented the purchases students had to make. For example, Realtor Jason Valentine from Coldwell Banker ran the home-buying booth, Teri Garcia from Amigo Chevrolet operated the automobile sales booth, Castle Furniture owner Jimmy Villanueva sold items at the shopping mall booth, and representatives from the local First Financial Credit Union managed the bank booth. Additionally, several local officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, and representatives from Native Community Finance (a local Native Community Development Financial Institution), Lowe’s Shop’n Save, and Little Singer Community School assisted with a variety of other booths.

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

“This year’s $pending Frenzy was a genuine community event for our school with local business volunteers from a variety of industries,” stated Gallup Central Financial Literacy teacher Arnold Blum. “The vendors gave students genuine pitches for up-selling, allowing our kids to practice negotiating. The business leaders debriefed the students afterwards and taught them financial lessons.”

First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce agreed: “Teaming up with communities to create positive energy is what the $pending Frenzy is all about. It was great to see so much support from local businesses and organizations all focused on financially empowering students.”

Surveys collected from students following the $pending Frenzy demonstrated that the students found the simulations to be very useful. Of all who completed a survey, 97% agreed that the $pending Frenzy was a valuable experience and 85% indicated that they would use the information they learned to assist them in managing money. Senior Shay Billie concurred and noted, “I thought the $pending Frenzy was cool because I learned skills I can use to get ahead in life.”

This initiative was made possible through generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about the program please contact Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at bmarks@firstnations.org or (540) 371-5615.

$pending Frenzy Kits Have Arrived!

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is very excited to announce the release of the highly anticipated $pending Frenzy kit! The kit comes with everything you need to host a successful financial reality fair that will help prepare Native American youth for their “Big Money” (also known as a minor’s trust payment). Several satisfied customers have already ordered kits and begun implementing the popular financial simulation event in their home communities.

“Demand for the $pending Frenzy has been huge since its inception about five years ago,” stated chief architect of the kit, financial education consultant Shawn Spruce. “Moreover, the new kits now make the program scalable, allowing us to reach a much wider audience of Native youth.”

The $pending Frenzy financial reality fair was designed by First Nations to offer youth expecting a large minor’s trust payment an opportunity to practice handling a substantial lump sum of money and to spend it wisely. In the simulation, teens are given $40,000 in fake money and are required to make informed spending decisions to purchase a car, a house, groceries and other items. Students can practice visiting a bank to cash their check and deposit a share of their money into savings, and are also given the opportunity to learn about investing a portion of their money.

Surveys from $pending Frenzy events held in Native communities across the nation have revealed that more than 90% of participants found the event useful and believed they could use the information from the event to assist them in managing their money.

Since the first pilot of the $pending Frenzy with Seneca Nation youth in 2011, First Nations has helped facilitate the financial simulation about two dozen times in 12 different states and 18 unique communities across the country. In total, nearly 1,400 Native youth have participated in the event and learned to better manage their minor’s trust payments. Tribes, community organizations, schools and others have been in… well, a frenzy for the simulation! To keep up with the demand of the $pending Frenzy, First Nations answered the call by producing an all-in-one, do-it-yourself kit.

The box kit comes with everything you need to host a successful simulation, complete with all booth materials, a facilitator’s guide, stacks of play money, a professional bill counter, budgeting cards, $pending Frenzy merchandise and more! The all-inclusive kit can be yours for $1,200 and is sent free of charge to your door.

To place an order or to ask a question about the kit, please contact Sarah Dewees by phone at (540) 371-5615 or email at sdewees@firstnations.org.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

Native Student-Parents Learning Financial Fitness

Native American high school students are learning the ropes of financial fitness in Gallup, New Mexico.

Recently, 19 student-parents in grades 9-12 took charge of their financial futures and visited Pinnacle Bank to open up Youth Savings Accounts (YSAs) for themselves and Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) for their young children. Bank representatives also walked students through how they could access their credit reports.

With generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is teaming up with longtime partner Gallup Central High School (Central High) to facilitate a multi-modal financial education program that includes opening savings accounts. First Nations is providing initial seed deposits of $50 for each of the accounts.

Part of a statewide initiative in New Mexico focused on providing support and education to pregnant and parenting teens, Central High houses the Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills (GRADS) class for student-parents. Starting in the fall semester of the 2015-2016 academic year, GRADS students are now receiving lessons in financial topics such as safe banking products, budgeting and creating savings goals.

First Nations was interested in working with the GRADS program at Central High because of the unique opportunity to provide dual-generation support to Native American parents and their young children. Furthermore, past research by First Nations has discovered a large number of high-cost payday lending institutions in Gallup and the surrounding community that saturate the market with poor check-cashing and borrowing options. Young parents struggling with finances are especially vulnerable to these institutions.

Working with faculty at Central High, First Nations is implementing an initiative titled the Well-Being in Student Health and Financial Self-Sufficiency (WISHSS) that includes opening savings accounts in conjunction with financial education lessons for GRADS students. As part of the initiative, the GRADS program offers financial education in a variety of formats including guest lectures from financial experts, experiential learning events, as well as through a social media application that encourages good spending and savings decisions. The MoneyThink mobile app is designed like Instagram, whereby students are given challenges to snap pictures of items they are savings for or recently purchased. Fellow students can weigh in through comments and polls to determine if their classmate made a wise or not-so-savvy financial decision.

Between late August and early September 2015, the GRADS teacher shuttled groups of three to six students to local bank partner, Pinnacle Bank, to open up accounts for students and their children. In total, 19 students opened accounts for themselves with an additional 14 for their children (some students are expecting and will open up CSAs for their children once the babies are born). The initial deposit for both accounts was provided by First Nations, but students are expected to save and deposit at least $50 throughout the school year. A match of $50 will be provided to students who can meet their savings goals. After a few weeks, several student have already begun making contributions to their accounts!

The YSA and CSA accounts are currently custodial accounts, which require advanced consent from the custodian (First Nations) to make a withdrawal. Students will have a variety of options to take complete ownership of their accounts at the end of the WISHSS program.

Prior to the WISHSS initiative, only three students indicated having bank accounts. Moreover, student surveys suggested that the majority of the class had very little experience with banking institutions and safe banking products available to them. Students were excited to open accounts and begin the savings habit. Many students established savings goals such as for purchasing a car, saving for college, and a future apartment or house.

Student parents are allowed to enter the GRADS program on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. First Nations and Central High will continue to work with Pinnacle Bank to open accounts as the school year progresses.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

Investing in Youth: Wichita & Affiliated’s SummerSmart Program

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) invests in Native youth and youth development through many different grant initiatives including the Native Youth and Culture Fund, Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men, and the Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime Initiative, to name a few. Over the past 13 years we have served more than 5,000 youth in more than 200 Native communities across the United States.

For the past several years, First Nations has been a major supporter and fiscal sponsor of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC). ONAC is now an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides tribes and Native nonprofits in Oklahoma with information and assistance on asset-building strategies and opportunities.

In 2014, First Nations awarded ONAC $100,000 under the Ford Foundation’s Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime (BESOL) Initiative. ONAC utilized part of this grant to establish a mini-grant program that supports Native asset-building projects in Oklahoma. Through this program, ONAC awarded four $3,500 mini-grants to tribes and community based-organizations that promote family economic security.

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes was included among these four inaugural grantees. The tribe used its $3,500 mini-grant to administer SummerSmart, an innovative youth program designed to increase knowledge of Wichita culture, language and life skills.

Last summer, 27 Native youth participated in SummerSmart. During this two-month program, Native youth attended cultural activities that emphasized Wichita culture, language and history. Additionally, they participated in health and nutrition workshops and sports-related activities such as archery, dodgeball and kickball.

Financial education is also major component of SummerSmart. Native youth received $5 per day (or $200 total) for participating in the program. They attended financial education workshops to learn how to manage their money and opened youth saving accounts to invest 10 percent of their summer earnings.

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes’ SummerSmart Youth Program has been a tremendous success. More than 60 percent of participants have maintained their youth saving accounts, prompting project organizers to expand the two-month summer program into a regular after-school program.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that this mini-grant has brought to our children,” said Terri Parton, President of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. “If we can encourage even one child to continue to save in the future then we have made some progress and changed lives when it comes to financial responsibility.”

It is never too early to teach youth how to start saving or managing their money. The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes SummerSmart Youth Program demonstrates that tribes and community-based organizations have the potential to positively shape and influence the financial futures of Native youth through innovative efforts that merge culture and financial education.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Muckleshoot High School Gets Jump on Financial Literacy Month

Although April is officially designated “National Financial Literacy Month,” many tribes have already started hosting financial education and money management workshops for their youth. Most recently, faculty members at Muckleshoot Tribal High School, in partnership with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), organized two back-to-back financial education workshops for 30 of juniors and seniors.

Most of the students were Muckleshoot tribal members and beneficiaries of the tribe’s minors’ trusts. Tribal members are required to complete a senior portfolio of various projects and activities. They are required to complete 15 activities, including two that focus on savings/investment and budgeting.

First Nations’ financial education consultant Shawn Spruce led two workshops in February that helped students meet these requirements. The first workshop focused on financial skills development and fraud awareness. Students learned about goal-setting and budgeting, using a bank account, basic investing, homeownership, and fraud prevention.

Shawn helped develop the second experiential workshop, $pending Frenzy, approximately three years ago. $pending Frenzy encourages creative interactions with bankers and other financial institutions while educating tribal youth about money and responsibility. Shawn carefully tailors each workshop to meet the specific needs of each tribe and/or tribal community. To date, he has helped organize more than two dozen $pending Frenzy financial skills simulations.

At Muckleshoot Tribal High School, he worked closely with English Teacher Rick Ancheta and OST Fiduciary Trust Officer Marianne Jones to help educate young tribal members on the value of saving, managing personal finances, and healthy credit practices. Approximately 20 volunteers participated in $pending Frenzy, managing various merchant booths such as a shopping mall, car dealer, grocery store and even the IRS.

Financial education classes and workshops need to keep youth interested to be effective. “Teens relate well to experiential learning opportunities like the $pending Frenzy,” says Shawn. “They figure out pretty quickly the costs of living on your own and the importance of avoiding impulsive purchases. Moreover, they seem to appreciate the uniqueness of a financial education program tailored specifically to the needs of Native youth.”

One student who participated wrote this afterward: “Speaking for myself and many other students, I have to say having Shawn come to our school was really wise. Being that many of us are going to receive our trust fund, we learned how we can budget and manage our money but also how fast it can go. I can’t thank you enough for providing the chance for us to attend this workshop. It was a great learning experience.”

It is never too early to get started on the path to financial literacy. For more information about hosting a $pending Frenzy workshop in your community, please contact First Nations Program Consultant Shawn Spruce at agoyopi@gmail.com.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Nearly 200 Kids Participate in Colville $pending Frenzy

Financial education classes and workshops are mandatory for tribal youth residing on the Colville Indian Reservation in north-central Washington. In early January 2015, 193 students at Lake Roosevelt High School participated in a $pending Frenzy workshop.

In 2012, First Nations partnered with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) to offer the $pending Frenzy with Colville youth. The $pending Frenzy is an interactive financial education workshop that allows tribal youth to practice budgeting and spending a large lump sum of money. Developed by consultant Shawn Spruce and First Nations Development Institute, the workshop’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past three years and more than a dozen tribes have adapted the $pending Frenzy model for their tribal youth.

At Lake Roosevelt High School, students received $40,000 in play money to pay for real-world-like expenses such as rent, utilities, car payments and insurance. Additionally, students learned to budget money for educational expenses such as tuition and books.

Students also learned how to manage their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts, which they can access when they turn 18. They learned about current IIM interest rates versus commercial banking interest rates, what their account options are, and how to best manage their monies.

Tribal leaders and educators on the Colville Indian Reservation have experimented with a number of different financial literacy models for tribal youth. According to Fiduciary Trust Officer Margie Hutchinson, “The $pending Frenzy has been the most effective model so far. Students and teachers love it. In fact, we are planning more workshops in April and May for our other high school students.”

More and more tribes like the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation are making financial education classes and workshops mandatory for tribal youth. For more information about hosting a $pending Frenzy workshop in your community, please contact First Nations Program Consultant Shawn Spruce at agoyopi@gmail.com.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator 

Folks in a “Frenzy” at First Nations L.E.A.D. Conference

First Nations Development Institute held its 19th Annual Leadership and Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development (L.E.A.D.) Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino on Sept. 24-26 this year. Over 175 participants came to learn more about a range of topics related to economic development on Indian reservations. One conference track was dedicated to Youth Development and featured many innovative youth programs that support youth employment, education and financial empowerment.

Shawn Spruce

On Friday, Sept. 26, financial educator Shawn Spruce conducted a “Spending Frenzy” training workshop that was designed to help tribal colleges, CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), internship programs, and Boys and Girls Clubs offer financial education programs.

The Spending Frenzy is designed for youth and provides participants with a pile of play money and lets them go on a spending frenzy where they can make a series of financial decisions related to buying a car, buying a home, and paying for life’s expenses. Participants travel between stations where they are asked to make a payment using the play money and record that payment in a ledger. The goal is to finish the workshop with all the bills paid and some money left over. The first stop is at the Big Money Bank, but people are often disappointed when they learn they also have to visit the IRS and pay taxes on their income.

Shawn plays the "taxman" at the IRS stop

“People have been asking us to offer a training so they can learn how to conduct this workshop in their home community,” said Shawn, who is a financial educator and a First Nations consultnt. “There is a lot of demand for financial education that is interactive, fun and relevant to the lives of Native youth. Kids love to learn in a hands-on setting, and the Spending Frenzy offers that.”

More than 30 practitioners from programs across North America participated in the training. Staff from First Nations and Chief Dull Knife College helped work at the stations and conduct the workshop.

A participant studies her expenses

“We are honored that so many people are interested in this interactive financial education program,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs at First Nations. “We look forward to hearing more about how our partners implement this program in their home communities.”