Leading an Economic Resurgence
Lakota Funds is a community development financial institution (CDFI) leading an economic resurgence of the Oglala Lakota Oyate on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation through culturally appropriate strategies reigniting the traditional Lakota spirit of productivity, commerce, and trade. Our mission is to promote economic sustainability on the Pine Ridge Reservation and geographic service area, through business loans, technical assistance, and wealth building education for families and businesses. Lakota Funds’ immediate goal is to improve the quality of life on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by giving the Oglala Lakota Oyate more understanding of their finances, their options for saving, and for asset growth, and by placing capital with new and growing businesses on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Our uniquely designed products and services focus on overcoming the key roadblocks to economic development in Indian Country: access to capital, access to technical assistance, access to business networks, and infrastructure access.
Since its inception in 1986, Lakota Funds has had a tremendous impact in the communities it serves:
- Lakota Funds has made more than 900 loans totaling over $7 million, resulting in the creation of 1,415 jobs and nearly 500 businesses on or near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
- Lakota Funds has provided training and services to over 1,600 artists and over 4,300 entrepreneurs.
- From 2009 to date, 3,275 people have completed financial literacy, homebuyers education, and business planning courses at Lakota Funds.
- A total of $406,000 has been used by participants of our matched savings program to purchase a home, pursue higher education, or capitalize a business.
- In 2010, Lakota Funds' Credit Builder Loan clients increased their credit score by an average of 18.5 points.
- To date, over 5,500 youth have been exposed to financial literacy concepts through courses offered directly by Lakota Funds, as well as through partnerships with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Summer Youth Program, the GEAR-UP college readiness summer program, reservation high schools, and the Lakota Nation Invitational Business Plan Competition.
- Lakota Funds developed the first Native American-owned, tax credit-financed housing project in America (and now manages a small housing development of thirty homes near Wanblee).
- Lakota Funds developed the Lakota Trade Center in 1997, a 12,000-square-foot small business incubator and Tribal Business Information Center.
- Lakota Funds co-founded the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, the first Native American Chamber of Commerce on an Indian reservation in the United States.
- In 2012, Lakota Federal Credit Union, started by Lakota Funds, was chartered by the National Credit Union Administration.
Improving Reservation Life
Small Business Economics journal published a study by four university economists in April 2009 showing strong and consistent positive impact of Lakota Funds on the quality of Reservation life. They concluded:
The Lakota Funds succeeded in raising real per capita income of Shannon county residents consistently and significantly throughout the 1987–2006 study period…[thus showing how] a well designed and highly successful micro-enterprise financing structure can confer large and significant private and social benefits … sustained growth in real incomes … net wealth and further personal, household, and community successes in socio-economic, health …, educational …, and other dimensions of progressive quality living… Read the study
Our True Success
Ultimately, Lakota Funds considers its success to be building up the world of creative entrepreneurship for Lakota’s following their dreams, goals, and opportunities while maintaining strong connections to their land and rich cultural heritage of productivity and trading. We believe our clients successes are the true gauge for our success. Over the years we have helped thousands of aspiring Lakota entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality and contribute to the transformation of our economic landscape. We encourage you to read some of these amazing and inspirational success stories
More Challenges Remain!
Despite our many accomplishments, Lakota Funds has only begun our journey in developing our local economy. The private sector remains severely limited on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and Shannon County, where most of the reservation's residents live, is still one of the poorest counties in the United States.
One-half of all families live below the poverty level, compared to 9.2 percent of all South Dakota families. Unemployment exceeds 70 percent, and median household income is 58 percent lower than the rest of South Dakota and 52 percent lower than the national average. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation there are 13 businesses per 1,000 people, while the state of South Dakota averages 83 businesses per 1,000 residents. Consequently, more than 80 percent of the money that comes into the reservation is spent in off-reservation communities. Due to a host of ills ranging from alcoholism and violence to astronomical rates of diabetes and heart disease, residents of Pine Ridge have the lowest life expectancy in the country, according to the U.S. Census. These statistics present the tremendous challenges and the tremendous opportunities for Lakota Funds, and you, to make improvements in the local reservation economy. You can make a difference on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by donating to our 1,000 Arrows Campaign.
Reasons for Hope
Incremental improvements to the health of the reservation's economy have been occurring through the efforts of Lakota Funds, the Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce, and other interested public and private groups, foundations and investors. Taxable sales in Shannon County more than doubled from 1996 to 2006, according to the South Dakota Business Review, and since 1985 real per-capita personal income growth outpaced the South Dakota economy with a growth rate of 80 percent compared to 44 percent for the state. Our private sector is growing but is still small and fragile.
We have found the people have a strong will not only to survive, but to bring a better future for their children and grandchildren. Aspiring entrepreneurs become highly motivated when they find meaningful work that respects their culture and provides hope for the future. Lakota Funds' business development
products and services provide a means to this end.
Since utilizing banks and other financial institutions is largely foreign to Lakota culture, Lakota Funds recognizes that limited financial expertise and inadequate financial education resources are huge impediments to the economic health of reservation residents. We offer a variety of personal growth and asset building
programs designed to build the skills of our people.
Lakota Funds believes investing in our Lakota youth is one of the most important steps we can take in developing a thriving economy on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Our youth programs
plant seeds of wise resource management in our younger generation to help build a brighter future for all of our people.