Across the U.S., Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) bring opportunity to Native communities with financing, education and creative partnerships. They create jobs and pave paths to homeownership. (Image by Gerd Altmann)
Two Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) were recently recognized for breaking down barriers and creating economic opportunity in Native communities. Rooted in Native culture and history, these CDFIs provide access to capital for locally-owned businesses and spark economic growth.
Four Directions Development Corporation and Lummi CDFI were honored yesterday by a new Native CDFI Awards program, established by Wells Fargo; First Nations Oweesta Corporation, the oldest Native CDFI intermediary; and the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a national network of CDFIs. Launched in early 2019, the national awards program recognizes Native CDFIs and their life-changing work to help Tribal communities overcome barriers to economic development and capital access.
“Native CDFIs are driving tremendous economic opportunity in Tribal communities,” said Brandee McHale, President of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “The award recipients are a shining example of creative, knowledgeable lenders who know how to cultivate collaboration and position capital to create transformational change in Indian Country.”
The two mission-driven lenders:
Native CDFI Catalyst Award: Four Directions Development Corporation (FDDC) received a $100,000 grant to help scale its new Community Development program. Found in 2001, FDDC’s mission is to improve social and economic conditions of Maine’s Wabanaki Tribes — Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot — through education and investment in affordable housing, Tribal business ventures, and Native entrepreneurship.
The CDFI’s Community Development program aims to catalyze Tribal and inter-Tribal economic and community development activities that build assets, promote self-determination, strengthen nation building, and advance sovereignty. The Award will help FDDC establish a strong staff and technology infrastructure to build the program and collect critical impact data.
Native CDFI Seed Capital Award: Lummi CDFI in Bellingham, Washington won a $25,000 grant to help launch its new peer-to-peer technical assistance program that will strengthen the capacity and skillsets of Native-owned businesses. Since its founding in 2006, the CDFI, which serves the Lummi Nation and surrounding Pacific Northwest region, has seen an increased need for technical assistance as a growing number of entrepreneurs are requesting help with accounting, record keeping, marketing, and more.
The awards were presented October 22nd at the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Conference in Washington D.C.
“Oweesta is excited to honor our Native CDFIs in this new way,” said Chrystel Cornelius, Oweesta Executive Director. “In its nearly 20 years, Four Directions has created amazing new homeownership and entrepreneurship opportunities for the Wabanaki people. Its Community Development program marks a new day of collaboration and partnership at the Wabanaki and Tribal level. We look forward to seeing the program evolve. Across the country in Washington state, Lummi CDFI is a much trusted and looked to resource for the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Its peer-to-peer technical assistance program will help the CDFI uplift even more Tribal small businesses.”
Led and run by Tribal members, this year’s Awardees are two of more than 70 Native CDFIs nationwide providing diverse financial services and products that build individual assets and community wealth in Indian Country.
“Native CDFIs are uniquely positioned to understand the distinct needs of Tribal members and move capital into Tribal communities,” said Lisa Mensah, OFN President and CEO.
“Like so many Native CDFIs, Four Directions and Lummi CDFI are vital forces for change for the people and areas they serve — my warmest congratulations to each on behalf of OFN and our members,” she added.