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

Wingate High Rules Stock Market Game

L to R: Anfernee Begay, Chandler Thompson, Clay Carviso and Bruce Lewis. In back is Ryan Yazzie

Financial education for Native Americans is one of our focus areas, so we’re delighted to report that financial literacy students from Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Education school at Ft. Wingate, New Mexico, really put the “win” in Wingate recently.  They were recognized for outstanding team performances in the “Stock Market Game” at an awards ceremony at the University of New Mexico on May 8, 2013.

Sophomores Anfernee Begay, Clay Carviso, Chandler Thompson and Ryan Yazzie – accompanied by financial literacy teacher and game advisor Bruce Lewis – received first- and second-place trophies for the state-level competition.  Begay also won a special trophy for achieving a 26.5 percent total return on his portfolio, the highest of any in the competition.  During his acceptance speech, Begay credited the use of applied mathematics in managing his award-winning portfolio. “I didn’t know too much about the stock market before playing the game, but I learned that anyone can buy stock and be an owner in a company,” Begay commented.  “Basically, I looked for stocks that had positive rising slopes during the last six to nine months and purchased them on margin in order to leverage my capital.”

All four students also completed the First Nations Development Institute-sponsored “Life on Your Terms” financial literacy course at Wingate, in which they studied various investing concepts such as risk, diversification and indexing that contributed to their success in the game.  Moreover, in just a few years Wingate has become a regional Stock Market Game powerhouse under Lewis’s guidance, having won various competitions three years in a row.

“We sure do enjoy playing the game,” Lewis explained to the audience.  “It’s great because it’s just like the real thing.  Students have to use formulas to calculate their asset-allocation percentages, and research stocks so they know where to put their money.  And, of course, have the discipline to know when to buy and sell.”

All of us at First Nations say “way to go Wingate High School!”

The Stock Market Game is an online educational activity that has served more than 13 million young people since 1977.  The game introduces students to the financial markets as they learn math, economics and the importance of long-term saving and investing.  Teams invest a hypothetical $100,000 in real stocks, bonds and mutual funds, learning cooperation, communication and leadership as they manage their portfolios over a 10-week period.  The game is sponsored nationally by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation with local support from Fidelity Investments and The University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.

Life on Your Terms is a high school financial literacy course offered to students in the Gallup McKinley County School District and surrounding communities in coordination with First Nations Development Institute and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  Currently the course is taught in 11 area high schools, with First Nations providing textbooks, classroom support and special events at no cost to partnering schools.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations financial education consultant

L to R are Dean Doug Brown (Anderson School of Management), Bruce Lewis (Wingate), Champion Anfernee Begay (Wingate), and Shaun McHugh (Fidelity Investments)

Talented Native Students Make Art of Financial Literacy

Westlee Poor Bear begins drawing his piece “Bulls vs. Bears.”

In an effort to build Native youth financial literacy, First Nations worked with five art students at Miyamura High School in Gallup, New Mexico, to produce creative, camera-ready posters addressing various financial education topics.

Miyamura art teacher Tine Hayes, who worked with First Nations to facilitate the project funded by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, selected five especially gifted art students to participate. The students were commissioned for their artwork and received a payment upon the completion of their finished piece.

First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce visited the high school in December 2012 to lead the art students in three three-hour sessions.  He introduced various financial concepts and asked them to begin drawing a unique piece that illustrated “Risk/Reward,” “Capital Appreciation,” “Diversification” or the “Circle of Life.”  One student, Westlee Poor Bear, was inspired to create a piece of art that captured both the up and down stock markets, titled “Bears vs. Bulls.” Another student, Kyle James, drew a piece titled “Invest in Yourself” that connected financial skills with his passion for wrestling by illustrating how both require dedicated practice and discipline.

Teacher Tine was very supportive of the kids receiving compensation for their work.  According to Tine, it gave the youth experience learning how to cater their artwork to the needs of a client, and it demonstrated how art can be pursued as a career.

“This project gives kids an opportunity to see the vocational aspects of art,” he noted.Miyamura High School art students with teacher Tine Hayes (back center).”

After the students took a couple of months to put finishing touches on their artwork, Shawn followed up to present them with their compensation and to offer a complimentary two-hour financial education class.  The session topics mostly focused on instructing students on how they could make responsible saving and spending decisions with the payment they were receiving for their artwork.

“One student intends to use his payment to purchase art supplies so he can produce more artwork to sell,” Shawn said. “Inspiring young people with forward thinking ideas like this is the whole goal.”

The posters were used as part of First Nations’ national “My Green” campaign (see separate story) that helps youth who are receiving large minor’s trust or per-capita payments (“Big Money”) make wise financial decisions.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Research & Program Officer

Risk and Reward
by Deon Tom

Bulls vs Bears

by Westlee Poor Bear

Invest in Yourself
by Kyle James

Top: Circle of Life by
Bryce Belinte

Circle of Life by Jayth Benally