By Amanda Murphy
HOLLYWOOD — Ever expanding its mission to improve life for Native communities, the Native Learning Center (NLC) offered financial skills training to 26 representatives from organizations and Tribes across Indian Country Jan. 28-30. The curriculum, presented by First Nations Oweesta Corp., certified and equipped participants with tools to implement financial education programs in their communities.
Topics ranged from building healthy economies and developing spending plans to understanding checking accounts and navigating through credit issues.
Krystal Langholz, Oweesta programs manager, said the training corporation caters to Native communities by using cultural and historical values as the foundation for education. The curriculum takes historical situations, like a Tribe preparing the harvest for winter, and likens them to present financial situations, like a savings account.
They also take the values of the extended family into account because it is more prevalent in Native communities than the Western four-person household. Instead of focusing on an individual’s financial skills, they aim to help implement educational programs to benefit the community as a whole.
“We are building on tradition,” Langholz said.
The Seminole Tribe gained three certified trainers from the program: Georgette Palmer Smith, NLC executive director; Marie Dufour, NLC technical and training program director; and Sophonie Joseph, registrar/records custodian for the Education Department.
“The content (of the training) is definitely needed in the Tribal community,” Smith said. “We need to be the vehicle to get the information out there.”
Dufour said she found the training helpful because of the feedback and tools provided by other participants from different communities.
“We’re so far apart, but so close with all the same issues,” she said.
Dufour said she plans to tailor her new knowledge to the Seminole Tribe, starting with youth. She wants to cover banking, saving, credit card use and money management, she said.
“Youth are exposed to things so early; why not provide them financial exposure?” Dufour said.
The NLC will also continue expanding its mission through a new cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The center received $700,000 in funding to provide training and technical assistance to federally recognized Tribes and Tribal housing authorities that receive HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), a grant that provides a range of affordable housing activities on Indian reservations and Indian areas.
In fact, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is the first Tribe to receive a cooperative agreement from HUD.
The NLC will continue conducting its daily operations, such as conferences, seminars, workshops and one-on-one training programs, and HUD will connect them to more Tribes in need of those services across the country.
This will allow NLC to cater to each Tribe more specifically.
“We are very grateful for this funding from HUD and the positive impact it will have on Tribes that receive HUD’s IHBG funding. We believe that providing training and technical assistance for Tribes will yield results that will help strengthen our communities in Indian Country,” Smith said in a press release.
The NLC is one of five organizations awarded funding that totals $4.5 million. Other recipients include the Association of Alaskan Housing Authorities, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, First Nations Development Institute and FirstPic Inc.