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The ‘Tribal Exchange’

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – According to the National Congress of American Indians, children in 20,000 schools have taken part in a financial literacy program known as the “Stock Market Game.” Teams of students are given hypothetical amounts of money to invest in the stock market. The winners of the game are those who “raise” the most money.

Many teachers support the SMG, stating students are excited to learn about financial matters because students are connected to real-life decisions.

But American Indian schools have not been part of this literacy program. Staff members at the NCAI have come up with a program that would offer the same benefits as the SMG.

The NCAI has created the Tribal Exchange to give American Indian schools another version of the SMG. But in this case, more than American Indian schools are taking part in the competition. Other Native agencies are jumping aboard for a bit of friendly competition.

The NCAI has worked in conjunction with government agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Education, the Office of Indian Education and Economic Development, Oweesta, First Nations, Native American Finance Officers Association and the Department of Treasury in the creation of this Tribal Exchange.

School and agency teams will each receive a hypothetical $100,000 to invest over the course of the game. The pilot game runs for 38 days from Sept. 2 to Oct. 10. School teams will consist of 9th graders and each school can have up to six teams of 3 – 5 members each. Agency teams will follow a similar format.

The American Indian BIE schools now participating in the pilot run of this game are Choctaw High School, Sherman High School, Many Farms High School, Standing Rock High School and Santa Fe Indian School.

The winning school team will be honored at the NCAI Annual Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., in October. Winning team members and a sponsoring teacher will receive a prize to be determined.

“We’ve been part of a Financial Literacy Coalition since 2001,” said Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the NCAI. “It was created in the Clinton Administration in an attempt to create financial literacy among ethnic groups. The treasury actually announced many initiatives, but since that time, this is the only coalition that still exists.

“When Dante Desiderio came aboard to the NCAI, and we did the economic summit in May of last year, one of the things that came out of it was the support for building financial literacy in Indian country. Dante launched the idea of the Stock Market Game.”
Across the board, support for the program has been overwhelming. The BIA and the Department of Education were among those that showed interest.

According to a Financial Literacy Paper submitted by Desiderio, Economic Development Policy Specialist, the Tribal Exchange program targets three identified areas of need in tribal communities: The need for Native youth to build leadership skills, financial management skills and building self-confidence and financial awareness.

Desiderio’s paper explains that tribal leaders are challenged to make sound business, economic and financial management decisions that often have little training before being elected to serve their member’s best interests.

The program targets tribes with economically successful operations that place significant dividends into individual trusts that are paid out to tribal members when they become adults.

His paper further asserts that the program will help to build confidence and financial awareness. It lastly mentions that the Tribal Exchange is one component of a larger financial literacy campaign with targeted learning initiatives for youth and adults. The program also expands the horizons beyond the reservation boundaries and builds camaraderie when teams compete with other tribal peers from around the country.

Pata stressed the importance of financial education of Native people.

“Within Indian country, the daily chat is not about the stock market. But today, many tribal leaders are concerned about investing into their youth. We are trying to excite people about building assets and becoming exposed to financial terminology. We want to build the skills of tribal leaders.

“The pilot groups consist of the BIA schools, the NCAI staff and other teams. I hope we win; I spoke to my team captain about the strategy of our team. It will be fun! It’s also very exciting to engage with our youth. I hope that this will help the youth to be real excited too.”