Today was an historic day for Indian Country as the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) convened representatives from eight Tribes in a meeting with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathy Kraninger. Director Kraninger has been at the helm of the CFPB since December 2018. This marked the first meeting that a Tribal coalition has had with Director Kraninger and the second meeting that NAFSA has convened with a Director of the CFPB.
In the meeting, the participants discussed a variety of issues important to Indian Country, including the importance of sovereign Tribal financial services enterprises, the importance of maintaining a government-to-government relationship between sovereign Tribes and the CFPB, and how the Bureau can more effectively work with Tribes and Tribal Governments.
Attending the meeting were leaders and representatives from the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma), the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Michigan), the Chippewa Cree Tribe (Montana), the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Wisconsin), the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians (California), the Mechoopda Indian Tribe (California), the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Wisconsin), and the Native Village of Minto (Alaska).
Representing Lac Courte Oreilles, Tribal Governing Board (TGB) member and current Secretary of NAFSA, Tweed Shuman thanked Director Kraninger and her staff for allowing the tribes to meet with her in person, government to government and sovereign to sovereign.
“Lac Courte Oreilles is 8,000 proud members strong and we’re honored to be protectors and stewards of over 70,000 acres in northern Wisconsin,” Shuman stated. “Our tribe is the #1 employer in our county. I take my leadership role and responsibility very seriously.”
Shuman continued, “Our gaming and lending entities are co-regulated by our regulatory commission and the federal government. Both are extremely beneficial to our tribe and tribal members.”
Shuman agreed an MOU between tribal nations and the CFPB would be a natural first step in building a better engagement between the bureau and the tribal nations.
“As sovereign nations, we are hopeful the CFPB will recognize our efforts to work together in respecting the trust responsibility and the pro-regulatory relationship between the CFPB and the tribes,” Shuman said. “MOU’s already exist between the states and the Navajo Nation. We are only asking to be treated fairly and as equal partners. I thank you again Director Kraninger for your time.”
With a new Director at the CFPB’s helm, it was important for NAFSA’s Tribal leadership to provide information on the role of their Tribal economic development enterprises, the positive impacts their enterprises are having upon their communities and to communicate the additional trust obligation to Tribes that requires meaningful dialogue and engagement in order to fulfill. Tribal leaders reiterated throughout the meeting that Tribal consultation is a necessary measure in ensuring the U.S. government’s trust obligations to Tribes are upheld. Since time immemorial, Tribes in the United States have had inherent sovereignty, with the ability to govern themselves within U.S. borders. Tribal sovereignty predates the formation of the United States, is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and has been upheld by centuries of precedent covering numerous cases in a variety of courts.
This sovereignty means that the relationship between Tribes and the United States’ federal government is not a sovereign-subject relationship, but rather a government-to-government one. Tribal leaders in attendance felt strongly that Director Kraninger was committed to interacting with Tribes on a government-to-government basis, building bridges between Tribes and the CFPB on key issues, and respecting Tribal sovereignty.
This meeting was a critical step forward in NAFSA’s work with Director Kraninger and the Bureau as a whole. NAFSA looks forward to continuing to build upon today’s productive engagement between Tribal leaders and the Bureau and bettering Tribal financial services for future generations of Indian Country.
NAFSA, which facilitated the meeting, is a Washington D.C. based trade association that represents the interests of Tribal governments and tribally-owned or tribally-serving businesses engaged in the financial services sector. NAFSA advocates for tribal sovereignty and promotes responsible financial services.
LCO TGB member Tweed Shuman (2nd from right) and Director Kraninger left of him pictured with other tribal leaders.