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