Learn How Native CDFIs Help Create Opportunity Rooted in Culture

“We’re really building the financial capabilities of our tribal members . . . to build their own assets, which in turn builds community assets.”

— Chrystel Cornelius (Ojibwe; Oneida), Executive Director, First Nations Oweesta Corporation

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Communities can strengthen financial know-how, overcome barriers to credit, and build Native-led opportunity through Native CDFIs.

Tribal communities know what is best for their futures. Native CDFIs are holistically grounded in Native history and culture and steeped in authentic relationship to community needs. Many Native CDFIs operate on tribal lands, and many are managed and staffed by tribal citizens. Native CDFIs support ideas generated by the community; they’re passionate about following the community’s lead.

“The exciting opportunities for Native CDFIs in the area of homeownership is to really connect with the community about their basic financial needs. . . . I see Native CDFIs building hope; it’s one person at a time, it’s one family at a time, it’s one community at a time.”

— Patrice Kunesh
(Standing Rock Lakota), Assistant Vice President and Co-director, Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Native CDFIs often provide the only lending opportunity in tribal communities.

Communities have often established their own lending and credit systems, especially when traditional banks haven’t met their needs. Although the term “CDFI” is relatively new, the concept is grounded in a rich history of strong, self-determined community leadership.

It’s not uncommon for people living in Native communities to drive for hours to reach the nearest bank or even an ATM. Many Native entrepreneurs and Native-led businesses can’t gain the capital and services necessary for their businesses to succeed. Native CDFIs connect tribal governments to new investment opportunities. They build stronger ties between local enterprise and funding from banks, investors, and government agencies that haven’t always been available in sovereign tribal nations.

Here are some already-existing federal programs that are encouraging and supporting Native CDFI programs.

A number of economic and community development programs can provide equity, loans, loan security, and other credit enhancements that support Native CDFIs’ work.

Treasury supports partnerships
with community financial institutions
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund (CDFI Fund) and its Native Initiatives program bolsters economic self-determination in Native communities through a variety of opportunities that foster Native CDFI/community bank partnerships. [1] In many cases, banks with a Native CDFI in their assessment area could leverage public funds to support technical assistance, trainings, and more.

HUD can help secure home loans for tribal members
Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program (HUD) is a game changer for homeownership in tribal communities. HUD can attract outside investments from financial institutions. It provides them with a 100% loan guarantee to assure investments held in Indian Country trust lands will be repaid in full. [2]

FDIC and CDARS back up small dollar deposits
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) encourages financial institutions to invest in Native CDFIs. Banks can choose to make a small dollar deposit (under $250,000) to a Native CDFI backed by FDIC insurance. [3] Credit unions participating in the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service (CDARS) can be insured if making a deposit over $250,000. [4]

“I’ve seen it done. When they [financial institutions] take that leap and partner with tribes, marvelous things happen. . . . Building that business relationship and then really constructing a whole community.”

— Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Assistant Vice President and Co-director, Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

“One of the beautiful things about CDFIs—Native CDFIs in general—is we have to provide education and training in conjunction with our lending activities. So when you pair those two things together, we are seeing great success. We’re changing the economic landscapes of our communities and providing opportunity which normally hasn’t been provided.”

— Chrystel Cornelius (Ojibwe; Oneida), Executive Director, First Nations Oweesta Corporation

“When it comes to economic development they [Native CDFIs] are the keenest people you’ll ever speak with; they understand the full scope of what it takes to invest in an individual.”

— Tanya Fiddler (Cheyenne River Sioux), Executive Director, Native CDFI Network

“I think investors would get it much faster . . . if they could go see a reservation community and see the work of Native CDFIs and meet some of the entrepreneurs we’re working with.”

— Krystal Langholz, Chief Operations Officer, First Nations Oweesta Corporation


Learn how Native CDFIs are helping tribal governments achieve their economic development goals.

Northwest Native Development Fund (NNDF)

NNDF is growing its lending and training programs with funding support from Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program and from us. Recently, NNDF helped a Native entrepreneur open a first-of-its-kind restaurant on the Colville Reservation, giving locals an opportunity to stop by for a nutritious meal. NNDF supplied the training and financing support to get the idea off the ground. Learn why Wells Fargo is proud to invest in NNDF.

Native American Development Corporation (NADC)

NADC has a long, successful history of supporting Native entrepreneurs, providing sustainable business plans, loans, and technical assistance. Over the years, NADC has worked closely with more than 20 tribes in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. Recently, they partnered with Billings-based Rocky Mountain Bank to help one tribe get the funding needed to start a major development project that would help them become completely self-sufficient. Learn what was eye opening for Rocky Mountain Bank’s market president in this partnership.

First Nations Oweesta Corporation

The only Native CDFI intermediary, Oweesta offers financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. As investments and homeownership in Indian Country spike, Oweesta helps Native CDFIs meet climbing capital demands through their membership services and by strengthening the connection between financial institutions and Native CDFIs. Check out this example—Oweesta brought together Native leaders and investors for networking and relationship building.

NACDC Financial Services

NACDC recently expanded their program to include homeownership loans after years of successful lending to support Native agriculturalists, artists, small-business leaders, and more. Last year, the Kendeda Fund showed its confidence in NACDC with a multiyear, $200,000 grant to support their lending capital programs. Find out what projects NACDC hopes this funding will help support.

“We’re really building the financial capabilities of our tribal members . . . to build their own assets, which in turn builds community assets.”

— Chrystel Cornelius (Ojibwe; Oneida), Executive Director, First Nations Oweesta Corporation

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Get insights from this community report sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Report »