Skip to main content

Financial literacy and estate planning workshops offered in Great Plains and Oklahoma

WASHINGTON – Business people, aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone in the Great Plains region who handles personal finances can hone their financial literacy skills in a series of free workshops held in early April.

The training is a collaborative effort sponsored by the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and First Nations Development Institute, a national American Indian-led nonprofit organization that aims to educate and advocate for the restoration of and Native control over land, human potential, cultural heritage and natural resources.

Workshops will take place as follows: April 1, from 9 a.m. to noon at Grand River Casino, Mobridge, S.D. and from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Satellite Entrepreneurial Center, McLaughlin, S.D.; April 2, from 9 a.m. to noon at Entrepreneurial Center, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, N.D.

“This is the second series of financial training offered in the Great Plains region,” said Ed Grant, OST’s fiduciary trust officer on the Standing Rock Reservation. “When the first workshops were held in September at the Fort Berthold Agency, we received feedback that everyone, not just tribal members on the reservations, could use training like this.”

Presenters for this series include staff from the Sitting Bull College, who will explain the college’s new multi-week curriculum for entrepreneurs, and First Nations’ Shawn Spruce, a certified financial literacy trainer. The First Nations Development Institute has created financial training materials suitable for individuals at all levels of experience.

OST will also hold a series of sessions in Oklahoma where Indian trust beneficiaries from any tribe can get assistance in preparing wills, including trust and non-trust assets. The Oklahoma City University Law School Clinical Program, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes are offering this program.

The sessions will take place as follows: March 24 at the Anadarko Agency; April 16 at the Cheyenne-Arapaho location; and April 24 at the Anadarko Agency.

OCU law school student interns with knowledge of wills, probates and trust law are providing this service under the direction of a licensed and bonded supervising attorney. Their efforts will be overseen by Casey Ross-Petherak, an attorney and assistant director of the school’s Native American Legal Resource Center. The students receive coursework credit.

A session held in February was well attended and successful, said Henry Ware, OST’s fiduciary trust officer at the Concho Field Office.

“Many of the beneficiaries who had wills drafted at the first session said they were thankful for the opportunity. They told me that without this service, they wouldn’t know where else to go. It’s difficult for them to find affordable local lawyers who are knowledgeable about Indian trust law,” Ware said. He will be available at the sessions to answer questions regarding Indian trust issues.

Additional fall dates are being arranged for September at Cheyenne-Arapaho and Anadarko Agency locations and for October and November at Southern Plains Region locations.

Grant and Ware are two of OST’s 52 fiduciary trust officers around the country, said OST spokeswoman Debbie Pafel.

“One of their tasks is to do outreach to both urban and Indian country Indians to offer them services so they’re always doing these sorts of partnerships with tribes or nonprofits or schools to provide programs and events that trust beneficiaries need, because the FTO’s are our local point of contact with beneficiaries.”

Last year, OST’s fiduciary trust officers held more than 5,000 events around the country, Pafel said. Most of them are CPA’s or lawyers with extensive experience in trust issues.

“They try to get behind the scenes and pull together whatever resources are necessary to resolve issues. They can reach across agencies to do this.”

She cited the example of a woman whose Veterans Administration benefits were being cut because she was receiving money as a trust beneficiary.

“The FTO knew that was wrong, so he got in touch with the VA and the other agencies involved. He knew her VA benefits should not be affected and they were getting ready to cut them and she was living a fairly low income life. In a short time he got everyone together and they worked it out and made sure all the correct forms were in place and she was getting everything she was entitled to,” Pafel said.

“Sometimes you need someone who will stand with you, someone who will listen and know what the problems are and bring in the resources that will take care of it.”

The outreach is part of OST’s wide ranging reform initiative to maintain and administer the Indian trust program.

For more information about the Standing Rock schedule and training, call Grant at (701) 854-3419 or OST’s Trust Beneficiary Call Center, toll free at (888) 678-6836, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, Mountain Time.