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Zogby Poll Finds Support for Tribal Sovereignty

WASHINGTON – Results from a new poll by the IBOPE Zogby International polling firm indicate that an overwhelming majority of the American public supports tribal sovereignty—the well-established concept that tribes have the right to govern themselves.

The poll, released in mid-November, found that 88 percent of the U.S. public supports a component of sovereignty for Native American tribes. The survey found that the overwhelming majority of respondents supported honoring longstanding treaties between the government and tribes.

“This poll shows that almost 9 out of 10 Americans support honoring the sovereignty of Indian country, as established by treaties with the Federal government,” Montana state Democratic Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe, said in a statement accompanying the release of the data.

Windy Boy is a member of the newly formed Native American Lending Alliance (NALA), which pursued the study with Zogby in order to measure overall public sentiment about financial services choices for American Indians. The alliance was formed this year with a mission of protecting Native American sovereign rights and enable responsible financial alternatives designed to meet the consumer needs with transparency, value, and convenience. According to organizers, NALA protects consumers’ rights with best practices that ensure these guiding principles are respected.

“Taken together with the universal support for Native American Sovereign rights from the U.S. Senate Banking Committee’s hearing last week – it is clear to NALA members that innovation in the financial services industry has a groundswell of support,” Windy Boy said.

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On November 8, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing, titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Economic Development in Indian Country,” which Windy Boy said unequivocally supported American Indian sovereign rights, because some members of the committee highlighted the rights of Native peoples to engage in the financial services industry.

At the hearing, Dante Desiderio, executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association, testified that Congress has agreed that tribal governments need the tools to access and attract capital and investment, but has not authorized their full use.

“Because of built-in uncertainty, added cost and risks, tribes have not been given the full opportunity to succeed,” Desiderio said. “In addition, Congress has also recognized the need to identify and remove existing barriers, but no action has been taken.

“To be successful, Congress should give tribes full use of government financing authority, include tribes as accredited investors with the SEC, and, in its oversight role, encourage the responsible agencies to identify and remove barriers to growth.”

“Financial independence is essential to maintaining the sovereignty of our people,” Windy Boy added. “Only through entrepreneurship and economic development will Native Americans prosper, grow and continue on the traditions of our ancestors.”