The leaders and finance officers of five tribal nations made history Sept. 7 when they became the first American Indians to preside over the ringing of the opening bell at a global financial exchange. They sounded the start of trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange, amid cheers from more than 100 tribal council members in the audience.
''This is clearly a first for Indian country and demonstrates the rapidly growing economic power of tribal governments. Wall Street is named as such because in the 1600s, a wall was erected to keep Indians out of what is now lower Manhattan. Today Wall Street's doors are open to tribes, and tribal leaders are welcomed with open arms,'' said Bill Lomax, Gitxsan First Nation. Lomax was elected president of Native American Finance Officers Association during its 25th annual conference, ''The Wall Street Summit.''
For the representatives of some of the most successful tribes who took part in the NYME ceremony, ringing the bell in the capital of the financial world was a thrill, and represented a milestone event for all tribal nations. ''I cannot imagine that 25 years ago, when NAFOA started, that we could have convinced a major financial exchange to invite a group of Indian people dressed in full regalia to participate in this way,'' Lomax said. ''They would not have had that respect 25 years ago. We're seeing financial strength from a number of tribes that has not been seen before.''