May 6, 2019
In Native American communities, conversations about building local economies start with a shared belief in tribal sovereignty. This belief is foundational to the Native CDFI Network, whose 50 nonprofit members based in 23 states, provide financial education, credit building, and make loans for housing and small businesses where traditional banks are not engaged. Jackson Brossy brings his experience of growing up in Navajo Nation to his leadership of the Network. The legacy of forcible removal of Native Americans from their land, the decimation of assets, including buffalo, and the more current failure of public and corporate to invest on tribal land are drivers of the Network's vision. As Jackson explains, people should not have to travel for miles to buy milk and groceries and invest their resources off reservation. But a lack of access to the capital needed to launch businesses in Indian country and the complications of investment on rural lands held in trust by the federal government are barriers to thriving economies. The CDFI Fund, a program within the US Department of Treasury, has been a game changer for capital investment in underserved communities. Many members of Congress are champions of the Fund and its positive impacts on economic development in their districts. But the budget has been stagnant for years and the Native CDFI Network and its partners in the broader CDFI landscape are advocating for a more appropriate level of federal funding. And Jackson intends to be a part of the next round of Opportunity Zone planning so that Native communities are included in the vision.