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Celebrating Economic Opportunity and Asset Building in Native Communities

Written by New Ventures Maine | Published on November 26, 2018
Native American woman

Arohi Pathak Associate Director, Field Engagement Prosperity Now, Thursday, November 15, 2018

Prosperity Now Blog

In this Native American Heritage month, we’re inspired by the exciting work taking place in Native communities that have historically struggled with poverty, high unemployment and limited economic opportunity.

Today, increased investment in and by Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) is reversing this trend, leading to sustainable, long-term economic and cultural wealth in a way that continues to honor traditional values and cultural norms. Native CDFIs are providing capital, credit, education and training to help Native entrepreneurs and Native-led businesses thrive, creating economic development and market opportunities, jobs and an expanded tax base.

Prosperity Now Board member Sherry Salway Black of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota sums it up, “Native CDFIs offer many different opportunities for Native asset building, including business technical assistance and lending, housing education and financing, matched savings accounts and financial education to name a few. They are, and have been, a beacon for Native peoples seeking economic opportunity in Native communities over the past two decades and will continue to grow and evolve as a source of hope–and capital investment–for years to come.”

But there remains important work to do. While Native CDFIs are engines of change, they cannot act alone. There is a continued need for investment in Native communities. Banks, credit unions, other financial institutions and individual investors interested in meaningful community investments should consider partnering with Native CDFIs as a safe, secure way to respond to needs in economically underserved communities, resulting in an Indian country that is even stronger and more vibrant.

As Krystal Langholz, the COO of Oweesta puts it: “Native communities continue to creatively and resourcefully overcome the structural barriers that create capital constraints. Continued investment in Native CDFIs and organizations remain critical for fostering healthy, sovereign economies.”

Read the full blog here.

CDFIs in Maine

Founded in 2001, Four Directions Development Corporation (FDDC) is a certified Native American Community Development Financial Institution (NCDFI) that is both a pioneering lender and an impartial and culturally-sensitive financial educator that supports Native American homeownership, asset-building, and financial stability.

FDDC serves Native Americans living in Maine, specifically, the 8,700 enrolled members of the federally recognized tribes and their direct descendants, about a third of whom live on one of five reservations in Aroostook, Penobscot, and Washington counties, some of the state’s poorest and most remote. (The Passamaquoddy have two reservations, each with their own tribal government.) Collectively, the tribes are known as the Wabanaki, or People of the Dawnland.

Since 2001, FDDC has:
• Served 951 individuals through credit coaching, financial literacy training, homeownership education, and business counseling;
• Closed over $12 million in mortgages, home improvement, energy efficiency, and consumer loans to some 225 families;
• Helped 656 Wabanaki filers access $383,614 in Earned Income Tax Credits through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program; and
• Financed over $1 million for the development or rehabilitation of 59 affordable apartments and houses for tribal elders and low-income families and 3 community facilities.