Empowering US Finance Literacy for Indigenous Communities

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Empowering US Finance Literacy for Indigenous Communities

Communities that do have access are often faced with racially insensitive financial, systemic or service policies, despite legislative efforts to correct these practices. We recently spoke with Chrystel Cornelius, the CEO of Oweesta Corporation, about the importance of providing financial literacy to Indigenous communities and how CDFIs are uniquely positioned to help.

Financial education is an integral piece in the systemic oppression around access to capital for Native communities.

Given this context, Native Communities are disproportionately challenged in creating generational wealth and passing down financial management knowledge to future generations.

Native individuals are also the least likely of any minority group to have emergency funds or a banking/checking account of any other minority population in the nation. So Native families wouldn’t have access to the emergency loans necessary to keep families housed, fed, and safe through the pandemic crisis and its recovery period.

Story Highlights

  • Within Native communities, 86% lack a single financial institution. Remote communities lack broadband internet services.

  • Why is it important to offer financial literacy to Native communities?

Financial education is important for our Native communities because we are building the foundation for lasting generational financial sustainability. Our traditional cultural practices are rooted in sophisticated resource management. When we bridge these practices with western financial management, as seen in our Building Native Communities suite of financial education curricula, Native families take traditional skills and modern financial language to navigate the western economic systems.

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Q&A: Empowering U.S. Finance Literacy for Indigenous Communities
Chrystel Cornelius of the Oweesta Corporation on the history of systemic oppression around access to capital for Native communities — and what can be done about it. HADASSAH PATTERSON JULY 15, 2022

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Indigenous communities face multi-level hurdles to thriving in U.S. financial systems. First, communities are governed by both the U.S. and their tribal affiliations, which creates unique structures for each group. But laws harken back to a toxic mixture of treaties and broken promises, leaving many without the foundation for financial stability. Adding to this are a hodge-podge of modern-day legislative gaps, policy bias and lack of access to financial services. Operating since 1999, Colorado-based Oweesta Corporation is one of the longest-standing Native CDFI intermediaries in the U.S., offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. Within Native communities, 86% lack a single financial institution. Remote communities lack broadband internet services.

Financial education is an integral piece in the systemic oppression around access to capital for Native communities. Native individuals are also the least likely of any minority group to have emergency funds or a banking/checking account of any other minority population in the nation. So Native families wouldn’t have access to the emergency loans necessary to keep families housed, fed, and safe through the pandemic crisis and its recovery period.

Why is it important to offer financial literacy to Native communities? Communities that do have access are often faced with racially insensitive financial, systemic or service policies, despite legislative efforts to correct these practices. We recently spoke with Chrystel Cornelius, the CEO of Oweesta Corporation, about the importance of providing financial literacy to Indigenous communities and how CDFIs are uniquely positioned to help.