Tribal nations offer vast potential to grow their economies, develop businesses, and create jobs for tribal citizens. Developing tribal finance and tribal access to capital are critical to overcoming economic challenges and promoting economic development for tribes, Native people, and members of surrounding communities.

NCAI realizes the importance of developing and promoting sound finance options for tribes. Unlike most state and local governments, tribes lack the ability to establish a strong tax base supported by property and income taxes. This reality effectively limits tribes’ abilities to issue adequately collateralized bonds for routine governmental development projects such as financing government buildings, infrastructure, and medical, eldercare, or education facilities.

While Indian gaming grossed $26.5 billion in revenue in 2010, not all tribes participate in gaming activity. In 2001, the Treasury Department reported a $44 billion unmet need for capital in Indian Country. This underscores the fact that even those tribes that do operate successful gaming, and other enterprises, need to diversify their financing options. NCAI has developed and instituted a financial literacy campaign targeting tribal youth in order to develop financial management skills at a young age.

To attract additional financing for tribal economies, NCAI also supports and advocates for tribal equity in legislation having a direct impact on tribal financing options. For instance, tax-exempt bonds issued by tribes must currently meet a stricter threshold (an “essential government function” analysis) than tax-exempt bonds issued by states or other local municipalities. NCAI has testified before Congress and worked closely with Treasury to ensure restrictions on tribal bonds are removed.

NCAI has also worked to ensure the success of the growing number of Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Native CDFIs have demonstrated the capacity to partner with tribal governments to build stronger economic systems for tribal nations. Over 60 Native CDFIs equip tribal members with critical financial management skills while preparing future business owners and home owners to strengthen tribal economies. CDFIs are also important partners in NCAI’s efforts to protect individual tribal members against lending discrimination and predatory lending practices and to encourage banks to take a more active role in Indian Country.

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