Tribal members have pursued the credit union since 2004, said Ron Douglas, the chairman of the Chippewa Eagle board, in a Morning Sun video available on the central Michigan news outlet's website. “One of the things that kept coming up was that we needed some way for Tribal members and employees to take care of their finances,” Douglas said. “After seven years, we have it.”
Prior to the opening ceremony of Chippewa Eagle Federal Credit Union on March 7, between 300 and 500 people had become members, Douglas told the Sun last week.
A credit union is a not-for-profit organization owned by its members, as opposed to a commercial financial institution. Rather than savings accounts at a commercial bank, federal credit unions offer share accounts. In the beginning, Chippewa Eagle FCU plans to offer multiple share accounts, such as regular shares, club accounts, money market shares, share certificates, and share drafts or checking-type accounts, reported the Sun.
In addition, it will offer a variety of personal loans. After remaining open for one year, it will be able to make business loans, Douglas said. Two years down the road, it will be authorized to make mortgage loans. Other services soon to be on the table could include credit cards, unsecured lines of credit, individual retirement accounts and member business accounts.
Residential mortgage loans would be significant for Chippewa Eagle’s business. The credit union would fill a gap, because traditional banks are generally reluctant to finance on-reservation housing because the land is held in trust by the federal government. Since only tribal members can buy homes on trust lands, it limits a traditional commercial lender's recourse if a borrower defaults on a loan.
When the National Credit Union Administration granted the Chippewa Eagle FCU its charter on May 25, 2010, the administration highlighted the credit union's plans to offer financial educational opportunities in conjunction with existing tribal programs, stated the administration's press release.