Genetic Ordinance Protects Yurok Tribe’s Natural Resources


Food policies have a tremendous impact on how food is produced, processed and distributed in Native communities. Often, these policies are determined at the federal and state levels. Today, more and more tribes are exercising their sovereign rights and establishing tribal food policies to meet the specific needs of their communities.

Tribal food policies empower tribes to protect their food, land and natural resources from federal and state systems that attempt to claim jurisdiction over these assets. These policies are powerful tools that enable tribes to control, manage and regulate their food systems.

Yurok LogoIn 2015, the Yurok Tribe in California, the largest tribe in the state, established the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Ordinance (GEO) as part of its tribal food policy. This first-of-its-kind tribal ordinance prohibits the growth of genetically modified crops and the release of genetically engineered salmon within the tribe’s territory.

The Yurok Tribe serves as an important model to other tribes interested in developing their own food policies, ordinances and practices. This is the tribe’s story:

The Yurok remain one of the few tribes that have maintained its presence in its ancestral homelands in California. This presence is a great feat as California Indian history epitomizes the cruelties of American settlement in Indian territories. The Yurok Reservation is located approximately five hours north of San Francisco along iconic Highway 101. This scenic drive parallels the Klamath River and consists of old-growth redwood trees (some 1,000 to 2,000 or more years old), breathtaking coastal views, and fresh inland waters that are home to both the Yurok people and one of the most iconic fish in the world: the Pacific Salmon.

20160419_161844The Yurok people and the Pacific Salmon model an existence that resembles the fury of the Klamath River itself. Every year, the salmon return to the river, their natural breeding grounds, despite the increasing environmental odds that threaten their demise. Along this river, a new battle was brewing. Over the last few decades, the Yurok have tirelessly fought for the survival of the salmon, advocating for dam removal on the mighty Klamath River to feed other rivers. The tribe’s – and others’ – efforts were successful in advocating dam removal. The dams on the Klamath are slated for removal by 2020. (See

On December 10, 2015, the Yurok Tribe passed tribal legislation banning genetically engineered (GE) salmon and plants, essentially making it the first tribal food and agricultural code in the country. Stephanie Dolan, one of the primary authors of the Yurok Tribe GEO, says: “The main goals in creating this code are to prohibit GE salmon from crossing into Yurok county, prohibit GE crops from being planted, grown or harvested in Yurok Country, create an advisory committee to look at reducing pesticide use on the reservation (which impacts all of the plants, animals and health of the Yurok people) and to encourage other tribal communities to exercise their jurisdiction.” Cheyenne Sanders from the Yurok Tribe Office of Tribal Attorney also assisted in drafting the GEO.

This code has been inspired, in part, by other food policy movements across the country at both the local and state levels. However, it is important to note that tribal communities maintain a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States that recognizes the need and responsibility of tribal nations to govern their own territories, communities and people that lends force to this type of legislation. It is important for tribes to be proactive in defining their jurisdiction over precious resources such as food and land so that they continue to pass these resources down to future generations.

20160419_161838Abby Abinanti, the Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribal Court – and the first Native American woman admitted to the State Bar of California in 1974 – is responsible for enforcing this code in Yurok Territory. Abinanti firmly maintains: “It is only natural that the Yurok Tribal Court can enforce the Yurok ordinance. The Yurok Tribal Court is meant to serve the people, and salmon has always been a part of that.” Abinanti’s courtroom is based on the tenants of traditional Yurok justice and seeks to enforce Yurok community standards. Abinanti and the Yurok have made it clear they will protect the Yurok lifestyle and the traditional salmon that are central to it.

The Yurok are trailblazers for asserting these sovereign powers. They have made history in several important Indian law cases such as U.S. v. Kagama; Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association; Jessie Short vs. U.S.; and the unforgettable fish wars when tribal fisherman occupied the mouth of the Klamath River to assert their right to fish for salmon. In many respects, the passage of the GE salmon ban in Yurok territory is an extension of occupation that occurred in Yurok Territory more than 40 years ago.

20160419_090659Today, the Yurok Tribe continues to assist other California tribes – including the Karuk Tribe, Tolowa-Dee-ni’ Nation, Hoopa Valley Tribe and Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria – in their efforts to pass similar tribal food policies and ordinances in their communities. These five tribes are a part of the Northern California Tribal Court Coalition (NCTCC), a group of tribal courts that encourage other tribes to take steps to enact similar laws to protect their lands and peoples.

To see more information about NCTCC’s other Rights of Mother Earth initiatives, including the recent Tribal Food Sovereignty Gathering, visit the website at

The Yurok Tribe is advocating for dam removal so that salmon can reach more than 250 miles of historic spawning habitat, among other reasons. Additionally, removing the dams will alleviate major water-quality issues, including unnaturally high water temperatures, massive toxic algal blooms and high populations of deadly fish parasites.

(Note: A designed/printable version of this story can be downloaded for free from the First Nations Knowledge Center at this link:

By A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations Associate Director of Research & Policy, Native Agriculture

Edited by Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Consultant

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

Little Earth: Promoting Self-Determination & Advancement


Little Earth of United Tribes is regarded as the “heart and soul of the American Indian community” in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Founded in 1973, Little Earth is the only federally subsidized housing complex in the United States for American Indians. The complex, located in south Minneapolis, comprises 212 townhomes and apartments, a community center and early learning center. It is home to nearly 1,000 residents representing more than 30 different tribes and tribal nations.

Seventy percent of the residents at Little Earth are under the age of 30. Approximately, 94 percent of its residents live below the poverty line and experience high rates of unemployment.

Robert Lilligren

Robert Lilligren, president and CEO of Little Earth, does not believe these statistics are an accurate representation of the community’s potential. He says, “Little Earth residents are smart, energetic and enterprising, but lack the skills and tools to engage in the economy more fully.

Over the past year, Little Earth has restructured its governance system and improved management practices with the goal of engaging and empowering its residents. To this end, Little Earth established several new programs that emphasize financial literacy, self-sufficiency and access to homeownership.

In 2014, First Nations, with generous support from The Kresge Foundation, awarded Little Earth $40,000 to assist with efforts to grow and improve these new programs. With this grant, Little Earth launched the Community Wealth Creation and Employment Program.

The Community Wealth Creation and Employment Program is a three-year program that assists residents with personal and business financial planning. Recently, 20 residents completed the first year of the program, which focused upon basic financial skills, job search skills and professional development.

The second and third years of the program will introduce residents to the key steps and tools required to start a small business. Little Earth leaders will work with residents to establish Little Earth’s Food Truck and Catering and Little Earth’s Online Market. Little Earth’s Food Truck and Catering is expected to launch in 2015 and Little Earth’s Online Market is tentatively scheduled for early 2016.

The Community Wealth Creation and Employment Program is intended to increase employment rates and decrease poverty rates in the community. Lilligren says, “We expect program participants to gain the experience, motivation and wherewithal to achieve their employment and entrepreneurial goals, and to inspire others in the community.”

Additionally, completion of this program will allow residents to take advantage of Little Earth’s other programs such as the new homeownership initiative. The Little Earth Homeownership Initiative provides support services to help Little Earth residents purchase their first home. To qualify for this program, residents must have a reliable and steady source of income.

The Community Wealth Creation and Employment Program functions as a pipeline that will helps ensure that potential applicants are prepared to meet this criteria and achieve their long-term goals. Through these innovative programs, Little Earth is able to promote self-determination and community advancement. Little Earth reiterates that American Indians have the knowledge, power and resilience to strengthen their own tribes and tribal communities.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

College of Menominee Nation & CDFIs Spark Entrepreneurial Spirit

For 35 years, we here at First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) have made it our mission to strengthen American Indian economies. We believe that investing in American Indian entrepreneurs and innovators will help create jobs and accelerate tribal economic growth.

Many tribal colleges are centrally located within reservation communities. Therefore, these academic institutions are an ideal location for supporting and encouraging up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business leaders.

In 2012, First Nations partnered with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to launch the Tribal College-CDFI Collaboration Project to link tribal college students and community members with financial organizations that invest in entrepreneurs on tribal lands. Specifically, this project helped link the College of Menominee Nation with First American Capital Corporation and NiiJii Capital Partners. (Note: CDFI means Community Development Financial Institution.)

Through this collaborative partnership, these three organizations designed and implemented 38 entrepreneurship workshops for prospective and existing business owners. More than 120 tribal college students, community members and business owners attended these workshops. Additionally, 231 people have downloaded these workshops online.

From these workshops, prospective business owners learned the basics of business ownership such as developing a business plan and securing adequate financing. Meanwhile, existing business owners learned how to improve their marketing methods and financial computer skills.

First American Capital Corporation and NiiJii Capital Partners have reported a substantial increase in loan applications, with two applications approved last year. As a result, both financial institutions have started to offer one-on-one technical assistance for workshop attendees. These one-on-one sessions include pre- and post-loan technical assistance and business development services.

This collaborative model helps link tribal college students and community members with the appropriate financial institutions and resources they need to succeed. It also reiterates the value and advantages of collaboration in Indian Country.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Woodland Indian Art Gains Capacity & Elevates “Status”

As a cultural asset for Native communities, art has been an integral part of sustaining Native nations, their cultures, their languages and their traditional beliefs, thereby shaping community and family ties and cultural pride. First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) believes the continuing development of Native American art is an indispensable component of Native community economic development and the retention of Native cultures.

In 2014, First Nations launched the Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative (NACBI) to significantly increase the organizational, managerial and programmatic capacity of Native organizations and tribal government art programs. NACBI provides direct grants, technical assistance and training to Native organizations and tribal government art programs so they can continue to carry out essential work for Native American arts and artists.

NACBI is supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation along with contributions from tribal, corporate and individual supporters. In October 2014, First Nations awarded six $30,000 grants to Native art capacity programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Woodland Indian Art, Inc. (WIA), a community organization located on the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin’s reservation, is one of six inaugural grantees. WIA promotes and educates the public about the unique artistic styles of Native Americans in the upper midwest and northeastern regions of the United States.

For eight years, WIA has existed as a volunteer-driven organization, with no full-time employees on its staff. Since there was no full-time management staff, it was often difficult to coordinate activities of volunteers and obtain much-needed funds for volunteer activities. Even so, WIA volunteers continued to grow the organization and move forward.

NACBI has enabled WIA to formalize its organization, achieve 501(c)(3) status and launch new marketing and fundraising campaigns to increase revenue to support and expand WIA’s activities. “We know that a diversity of funding is the key to becoming a sustainable organization,” said WIA Board President Rae Skenadore.

Achieving 501(c)(3) status has enabled WIA to diversify and expand its funding base. For example, the new status has enabled it to request funding from the Oneida Community Fund. WIA has leveraged those funds by submitting a proposal that doubled Oneida’s donation with matching funds from Wisconsin Public Radio.

These funds allowed WIA to reach its target market and increase awareness of its upcoming event: The 2015 Woodland Indian Art Show & Market. WIA secured more than $10,000 in promotion and marketing services to help increase awareness of the event.

During the past six months, WIA has also developed a new fundraising campaign to increase its presence through mailings, social media and email marketing. New board members and interns from the College of Menominee Nation led the campaign. “By participating in this campaign, a whole new generation is learning how to participate in and be successful in the Native nonprofit sector,” noted Skenadore.

The success of this campaign has allowed WIA to expand the Woodland Indian Art Show & Market from a small event to a large-scale festival that includes an art competition with performing artists, classes and demonstrations. The newly expanded festival will be held June 12-14 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

As an organization that is approaching its ninth annual event, WIA’s current success reiterates the importance of consistent funding and institutional support for Native American arts and artists. “NACBI has allowed us to move one more step forward in achieving our vision of becoming a trusted, internationally-recognized organization,” said WIA Board Treasurer Loretta Webster. “It has helped jolt us to the next level.”

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Kipuka Lana’i Farms: Holistic, Sustainable Pig Farming

Lana’i, Hawaii, once known as Pineapple Island, produced more than 75 percent of the world’s pineapple. Although pineapple production ceased more than 20 years ago, traces of pesticide residue are still evident in some of the island’s soils and vegetation.

The island relies upon imported food for its community members. Once a week, food is barged to the island to stock stores with dry goods and perishable items such as fruits, vegetables and meat.

In 2015, First Nations awarded Kipuka Lana’i Farms $12,539 through the Native Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Initiative (NAFSI) to support a natural pig farm. The pig farm is based upon a holistic approach that uses natural resources to help the community reclaim control of its local food system.

The pig farm is an innovative project that will allow farmers to achieve both their immediate and long-term food-production goals. In terms of their immediate goal, the pig farm will help produce healthy, chemical-free pork for community gatherings, celebrations and family events.

More than 4,000 pounds of pork are shipped to the island each week. “Where does our pork really come from?” asks farm manager Lea Hennessy. “What do we know about the environment where these pigs are raised? How has the meat been processed? How long has it been frozen?”

A natural pig farm will help increase the community’s knowledge of where its food comes from and how it gets to their tables.

Kipuka Lana’i Farms has adapted the Korean Natural Farming (KNF) method to raise the pigs. The farm raises the pigs in open-range pens that are lined with a natural bedding composed of soil, logs, wood chips, leaves and pig manure. Additionally, cardboard, imu ash and microbes are added to the soil to boost the breakdown of animal waste and promote healthy bacteria growth for more fertile soil.

The KNF method is an innovative technique that uses both nature and animal waste to help remediate and revitalize the soil. Eventually, this process will help Kipuka Lana’i Farms reach its long-term goal of growing healthy fruits and vegetables. This process, admits Hennessy, will take time.

“We want our project to be resilient,” she said. It is important to grow our own food and increase awareness of waste management. Raising our own pigs will help us ensure that our food is grown here and not flown here.”

Kipuka Lana’i Farms has decided to share this important message with the community’s youth by launching a hands-on, experiential learning program. Currently, six youth ages 2-14 participate in the program that emphasizes animal husbandry and the important role that animals – especially pigs – play in Hawaiian culture and tradition.

During this program, youth learn how to feed, water and care for pigs. Typically, they feed pigs with the kokua (cooperative effort or help) from family member, neighbors and local restaurants who provide kitchen scraps and leftovers. More than 1,250 pounds of food is donated to the farm each week through the kind act of kokua.

This arrangement has benefits for the entire community by eliminating more than 5,000 pounds of garbage and waste from local landfills. Additionally, restaurants have saved approximately $600 a month in waste-management fees.

During this program, youth participants also learn how to kalua (cook/steam) a pig in a traditional imu (or underground oven). They work alongside community leaders and kupuna (elders) to help prepare and cook a pig for a family celebration.

Together, youth and elders dig a shallow pit that they line with kindling and logs of kiawe (mesquite wood). Next, they cover the logs with smooth lava rocks and light the oven fire. Once the fire reaches the right temperature, they cover it with a bedding of traditional vegetation including mai’a (banana) and ki-ti (plant) leaves.

They place the meat upon this bedding and steam it overnight. Ash from the imu is saved and used again later in the pig pens. “It is hard work and takes several hours to prepare, but it is definitely worth the effort,” said Hennessy.

The youth component of this program will help ensure that future generations learn to appreciate and respect the environment. Overall, Kipuka Lana’i Farms’ holistic approach to pig farming is a positive example of sustainable agriculture because it is meeting the community’s present needs without compromising their future ones, and ensures a healthy food and environment for generations.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Cocopah Tribe Engages & Empowers Boys & Young Men

Young Cocopah student during CPR training. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

For more than a decade, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has had a positive and lasting impact on Native youth. In 2002, First Nations launched the Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) to enhance culture and language awareness, and promote youth empowerment, leadership and community building.

Recently, First Nations unveiled a new grant initiative that reflects our growing commitment to Native youth and youth development: Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men (Positive Paths). Positive Paths, created in partnership with NEO Philanthropy and and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seeks to reduce social and economic disparities for Native American males.

Studies suggest that Native American males are more likely to be absent from school, suspended, expelled or repeat a grade. However, a growing body of research indicates that suspensions and expulsions are not always the most effective means of reaching and disciplining these students.

Often, these punitive measures deprive students of the opportunity to develop the skills and strategies they need to succeed. Positive Paths supports innovative programs that emphasize alternative approaches to punitive measures that have a negative impact on academic achievement and graduation rates.

For years, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona relied upon the public school system for enforcing truancy laws for its students. This approach yielded little to no results, especially among male students. Educators decided to take a new approach that emphasized engaging and empowering Native American boys and men.

In 2014, First Nations awarded the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona $50,000 through the Positive Path grant initiative to restructure its truancy program. The tribe’s new program has reduced truancy rates among Native American males by nearly 75 percent. As a result, student grades and graduation rates have increased significantly, as much as 25 to 50 percent.

The Credit Recovery and Career Exploration (CRACE) program links at-risk male youth to the people and resources they need to recover academic credits, to pursue future career opportunities and develop leadership skills. Students enroll in online classes and work with tutors to successfully complete their courses and graduate.

Students participate in mock trial. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

Additionally, the program introduces student to careers that have the potential to strengthen and empower their tribal community. Since starting the CRACE program, participating Cocopah students have undergone CPR training, participated in mock trial exercises, and explored career opportunities in medicine and law enforcement.

Students participate in regular meetings with staff and instructors to provide feedback and discuss future plans. During the first meeting, education department staff members noted that many students seemed unsure about their future plans and goals. Over the past year, many students have narrowed down their focus, applying to college or preparing to enter the workforce.

Additionally, staff members have noted that this program helps instill students with a sense of pride in themselves and their community. One education department staff noted, “This program has helped make our students, their families and the community stronger. The program has already shown we can make a real positive difference in our students’ lives. This year we have had a dozen participating students make a 180-degree turnaround in regard to their grades, school attendance and personal attitudes.”

CRACE has received support from the tribe and the tribal community. According to the education department, tribal council members often act as mentors to at-risk youth. They also note that the tribe has recently passed a resolution that makes it mandatory for every tribal member to receive a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for benefits. This resolution sends a strong message to students: education is the key to strengthening and empowering their communities.

The Cocopah Tribe of Arizona’s CRACE program demonstrates the success of alternative techniques in inspiring students to achieve their education and take personal responsibility for their journey. CRACE brochures send the message loud and clear to students who utilize the service: “Your dreams are within reach. You just have to graduate high school to realize them.”

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Mississippi Choctaw Put Fresh Farm Produce on Wheels

Geographic barriers prevent many tribes from accessing healthy and culturally-appropriate foods. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has developed an innovative solution to help them overcome these barriers and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables: a farmers’ market on wheels.

Nearly 10,000 tribal members reside on the Choctaw Indian Reservation, which is comprised of 35,000 acres of trust land scattered over eight communities in east-central Mississippi. Although most tribal members live near the tribe’s main headquarters, many more do not, making it difficult for them to access certain services such as the tribe’s new farmers’ market.

In 2012, the tribe established Choctaw Fresh Produce (CFP), a series of five farms that have built 15 high tunnels capable of producing thousands of pounds of chemical-free fruits and vegetables. CFP distributes these fresh fruits and vegetables to tribal members through a unique community-supported agriculture program that offers organic goods to tribal members at a low seasonal cost at a central location.

Although this central location is convenient for tribal members living near the farmers’ market, it is more challenging for tribal members who do not live near or have transportation to the market. Some tribal members are located in communities as far as 90 miles away. CFP quickly realized they needed a new and innovative way to reach out to the entire community.

In 2013, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) awarded CFP $37,500 through the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) to purchase a vehicle and equipment to launch a mobile farmers’ market. According to John Hendrix, the mobile farmers’ market ensures that “all tribal members have access to fresh fruits and vegetables regardless of their remote location or lack of transportation.”

So far, tribal members have responded enthusiastically to the mobile market, which visits each of the tribe’s eight communities up to twice a month. Last summer, more than 1,000 customers visited the mobile farmers’ market, purchasing approximately 5,000 pounds of fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables.

Typically, CFP’s mobile farmers’ market visits tribal schools, businesses and other popular locations in the community. Last summer, they also visited the local fairgrounds to sell fresh watermelon and cucumber salads at the Annual Choctaw Indian Fair. Hendrix notes that this marked the first time that the tribe sold healthy food at the fair.

Without a doubt, CFP’s innovative mobile farmers market has helped increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables by delivering food directly to the community. However, they have also had a positive impact on the tribe’s economy by keeping spending local.

Another way that CFP is having a positive impact on the tribe’s economy is by selling their surplus fruits and vegetables to communities off the reservation. They intend to sell even more fruits and vegetables to off-reservation communities next year once they’ve finished expanding their high-tunnel farms from eight to 15 – almost doubling their production output.

CFP’s innovative farmers’market on wheel emphasizes the innovation, ingenuity and resiliency of tribes. With this grant, CFP has developed a sustainable solution to help the increase healthy food access and also overcome some of the geographic and economic barriers facing their community.

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

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

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator