Native CDFIs Awards During 2023 OFN Conference

Native CDFIs Knock Down Barriers to Finance Justice 

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We are celebrating the ingenuity and innovation of Native CDFIs during National Native American Heritage Month 

November is National Native American Heritage Month, which honors the cultures, histories, and contributions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and affiliated Island communities.   

As investors in justice, CDFIs are closely allied with tribal communities 365 days a year. And, to mark this historical monthlong celebration, OFN is proud to spotlight two Native CDFIs that each received a 2023 Native CDFI Award during OFN’s annual conference in October.  

Hosted by OFN and Oweesta Corporation, a national Native CDFI intermediary, the awards support Native CDFIs that are creating opportunity and promoting sovereignty in Indian Country. 

The Role of Historical Trauma in Financial Management 

NACDC Financial Services, based on the Blackfeet Reservation, received a Native CDFI Catalyst Award to build a trauma-informed financial services training program for employees of Native CDFIs.  

The training will help CDFIs better support clients who face money management challenges associated with historical trauma from the systemic stripping of land, culture, and Native heritage over centuries.    

Angie Main, NACDC’s executive director

Learn about NACDC’s innovative approach to finance justice

“The indigenous finance industry, like many other fields operating within Native communities, regularly feels the weight of historical trauma pushing against growth strategies,” said Angie Main, NACDC’s executive director. “NACDC is proud to lead in helping to lift this pressure related to money management.”  

The project is part of a larger effort of The Mountain Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition, of which NACDC is a member, to build the talent pool of Native finance professionals through training, employment networks, career pathways, and more.  

Investing in Native Hawaiian Agriculture 

Hawaiian Lending & Investments (HLI) received the 2023 Native CDFI Seed Capital Award for its strategy to develop products and services to foster agricultural expertise and experience among Native Hawaiians living on trust lands.  

As a result of colonization, Native Hawaiians have been disconnected from their language, culture, and food sources. Entire generations have lived without agricultural knowledge. HLI’s food sovereignty strategy will support Native Hawaiians seeking to establish and grow family farms and ranches on trust lands.  

“Our tribal trust lands enacted by the U.S. Congress a century ago intended food production to thrive through family farming and ranching,” said Robin Puanani Danner, who co-founded HLI to serve Hawaiian homelands. “Over that same century, the flow of appropriate capital has been absent. The Native CDFI Award will support our efforts to build pipelines of agriculture capital to our tribal lands in Hawaii.”  

Robin Puanani Danner speaking during National Native American Heritage Month 

Hear Robin Puanani Danner’s rallying cry for investment in Native communities

Two of Many

NACDC and HLI are two of the more than 70 Native CDFIs making equitable capital available in tribal communities. Tribal-led, Native CDFIS bring deep knowledge of their communities and specialize in lending on tribal lands.  

A recent Joint Economic Commission report found that Native communities continue to face persistent economic disparities. They have limited access to quality education and employment opportunities that support economic mobility. They face barriers to accessing credit on equal terms with other American communities. And, they are more vulnerable to economic shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected Native communities and exacerbated pre-existing health and economic disparities. 

Like all CDFIS, Native CDFIs are financial first responders in crises and vital to stability and economic growth. 

“Native CDFIs provide hope,” said Charlene Virgilio, executive director of Four Directions, a Native CDFI that serves tribes in Maine — the Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Passamaquoddy — and a 2019 Native CDFI Catalyst Award recipient. “We provide loans to our community that traditional lenders are not able to; we bring capital to Indian country where others may not. We support financial well-being, asset building, and generational wealth. We help tribes create businesses that provide revenue streams to advance economic sovereignty. Through our programs and services, we work with clients for however long it takes to help them achieve their dreams of becoming a homeowner or a business owner.”   

“Because Native CDFIs are led by tribal members, they combine a deep knowledge of tribal history with a determination to create opportunity in Indian Country,” OFN President and CEO Harold Pettigrew said in recognition of the 2023 Native CDFI awardees. “OFN is a proud partner to Native CDFIs individually and through our relationship with Oweesta and the Native CDFI Network. As allies in finance justice, we work together to invest in change for indigenous people and communities.”  

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