WASHINGTON, June 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Native American Tribes from across the United States have joined together to announce the formation of the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA). The new group has been formed to promote e-commerce in Indian Country, protect sovereign rights, and promote consumer protections.
"In this time of unprecedented economic growth potential and increasing efforts to undermine tribal sovereign immunity, the formation of this group could not have come at a better time," said Barry Brandon, Executive Director of NAFSA and member of Muscogee (Creek) Nation. "We are focused on protecting our sovereignty and continuing to improve the quality of life for our people who have spent far too long suffering in some of the most impoverished areas of the country."
NAFSA was created through the merger of two existing groups, the Native American Lending Alliance (NALA) and the Native American Fair Commerce Coalition (NAFCC). Both groups have been active in the ongoing debate over Native Americans' sovereign right to engage in innovative E-Commerce initiatives. The newly merged organization has implemented a system of self-regulation that ensures that all member tribes are following a set of best practices that protect the tribes' sovereignty and provide consumers with the highest quality alternative financial service products.
Immediately after tribal leaders formally approved the merger of the two organizations, Bruce Sunchild, Chairman of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy, Montana was unanimously elected to serve as NAFSA Chairman. The rest of the organization's Board is composed entirely of tribal leaders from across the country.
Two recent court decisions have uniformly supported sovereign immunity for tribes in the alternative financial services industry. In both California and Colorado, courts have upheld the rights of Native Americans to engage in E-Commerce without the interference of state and federal regulators. In addition to the support of over two centuries of legal precedent, the American public universally supports tribal sovereign rights. In several recent polls, including one conducted by Zogby last year, over 90% of the public supports tribal sovereign immunity and opposes government intrusion into industries in Indian Country.
Tribal nations throughout the country are being hit by the economic downturn much harder than the rest of the country. Some reservations are experiencing unemployment rates in excess of 70 – 80%. This unemployment rate and lack of economic development are compounding other problems throughout Indian Country. Declining access to health care, housing shortages, crime and substance abuse are all exacerbated by a lack of financial resources. Additionally, funding and support from the federal government has been decreasing each year due to the budget crisis in Washington, DC.
NAFSA is working to educate Native Peoples and elected officials around the nation about the economic development opportunities created through E-Commerce. For many remote tribes, conventional industries like construction or gaming are not possible. However, engaging in the delivery of alternative financial services products through the Internet has the potential to empower tribes and provide them with the means to improve economic conditions for their people.
"We have already seen tremendous success through existing e-commerce initiatives and we look forward to continuing our work to increase tribal independence and decrease reliance on the federal government," Brandon, who has over 20 years of experience in American Indian law and policy, concluded.
NAFSA meets again as an organization next month in Washington, DC.
The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) formed in 2012 to advocate for Native American sovereign rights and enable tribes to offer responsible online lending products. Through the protection of consumer rights and sovereign immunity, NAFSA provides vital services to tribally operated lenders serving the underbanked with better short term financial services, furthering economic development opportunities in Indian Country.
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Dan Rene of Levick Strategic Communications
202-973-1325 or [email protected]
SOURCE Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA)