Banks want to do the right thing, serve tribes

Dave Castillo, Nahua, is the CEO of Native Community Capital. (Photo courtesy of Dave Castillo)

Indian Country Today

Indian Country Today's newscast for Wednesday July 22. Our guest: Dave Castillo

Indian Country Today

As tribes continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, one thing has become evident, there is a lack of housing on reservations nationwide. 

What resources are there besides tribal housing that can alleviate this shortage? In 2003, tribal leaders in Arizona and New Mexico met to discuss the issue of the lack of capital from the the private sector for projects on reservations. The result was identifying the need for a business to help bridge that gap. 

One of the businesses is Native Community Capital. The team works with tribes, individuals and entrepreneurs to help them access private sector capital for projects on reservations. Dave Castillo, Nahua, is the CEO and he is our guest today. 

Here are a few of Castillo's comments:  

"Now is a strange, scary and interesting time for a lot of different reasons. I've been working specifically in the finance industry since about 2006. Bank's interest has ebbed and flowed over the years. And after the last recession, a lot of the bank's interest kind of went away."

"During Bill Clinton's administration it was at an all time high. Well, here we are in the midst of the coronavirus and some really interesting times with regard to George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, coronavirus, economic issues that have cropped up because of all those things. And all of a sudden we're getting a lot of interest from banks to say, 'Hey, we want to do the right thing and get back into serving tribes.' So that's been really welcomed and exciting."

"Throughout my career, it's been troubling to see opportunities come and go. And a lot of times tribal governments aren't ready to kind of hit the ground running when those opportunities present themselves. So us as a small organization, focused exclusively on getting financing to tribes and tribal members, now that it's come along we're ready and we're able to jump on it."

"The fact is there are more organizations like ours that are serving tribal members and there's more money coming online to finance those types of financial product needs."

"If you compare it to kind of what's happened historically you can see that that banks just have not been around. And everyone knows that, right? If you want to go do your banking, you're likely not going to find a bank on the reservation."

"If the average person hears 'guaranteed loan,' sometimes they think I'm guaranteed to get a loan. That's not exactly what that means. What it means is that the federal government in this case has said, look banks, we know you guys aren't out there serving tribal communities but as an incentive to serve them, what happens is if you make a loan to a tribal member through this program, we will guarantee that if there is a default, meaning if the person can't pay their mortgage, you as the banker will get made whole, we'll pay that off on their behalf. Now that doesn't relieve the tribal member of their obligation, right? I mean, what it means is that the bank can say, 'Hey, you know, instead of avoiding tribal lands and avoiding serving Native Americans, there's this little bit of incentive, and we're going to go ahead and use it'."

"We need both parties to meet in the middle. On the tribal government side, they need to get it approved as a 184 tribe meaning that HUD has looked at their mortgage ordinance, as well as their land documents and said, 'okay, you guys are good to go. We can enforce these on your behalf, et cetera, et cetera.' A tribal member needs to work on their credit, right? If they don't have a good credit history, they have to get ready to do that. On the other hand, the banks need to kind of say, 'Hey, you know, we've been shirking our responsibility here. We're not serving everybody that we could. And so let's put some money aside. Let's put some time aside, let's hire some Natives for goodness sake and go out there and look to serve tribes better.'"

"It's research that was done out of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. And it shows that less than 10 percent of the loans specifically for Native Americans through the (HUD) 184 program, less than 10 percent have been done on tribal trust lands. So that means that the banks basically decided, we could still serve Natives but we're going to do it in territory that we understand a little bit better in cities and towns, right? Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, LA, Seattle, these are all a different type of land status and less risk to the lender. So that's where the business has gone."

"I'll tell you real specifically, the bank regulators, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of the FDIC convened a bankers roundtable around Native American lending opportunities. And they do this quite frequently, on all types of different topics but this time it was on opportunities for lending on tribal lands or to Native Americans and they received the largest number of participants from banks around the country than they ever had before."

'So, you know, it's probably about 40, 45 banks, I think there were 55 people online and another 65 called in on the phone. And so, to be able to hear that from the regulator and say, wow, we got a huge response. And as a matter of fact, the reason they did the session is because banks were saying, how can we talk to you? How can we find out how we can make an investment in Indian country? And so they put the session together. So that's one indicator."

"Another indicator is just getting calls out of the blue from banks and saying, 'Hey, how can we help? How can we make an investment? What can we do?' And usually that process is pretty grueling, right? And one bank yesterday said, 'Look, we can close a deal with you within 30 to 60 days,' which is just unheard of. I mean, trying to get access to private capital through large financial institutions is usually not a piece of cake and not saying it's there yet, but the interest is there."

"I think it is for tribal leadership, I would say this is definitely a COVID intervention type activity, right? If you've got an agreement or a policy that's been on the tribal council docket for a long time, that can help you do this, now's the time to look at it. Cause at the end of the day, it means increasing your housing stock. It means more housing, home additions, new bathrooms, so people can social distance."

——

Dalton Walker is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. He joins us to talk about racist mascots and a look back at Shoni Schimmel's amazing play in the WNBA All Star game. Here are a few of his comments:  

“It finally appears that the Edmonton Canadian football team is changing. It's a controversial nickname after all. The team announced this week that it will discontinue their name and be simply known as the Edmonton Football Team until a new name is picked. The news comes less than three weeks after the football franchise said it wasn't changing.”

“Well, it definitely impacted Alaska Native people and also impacted the First Nation community in Canada as well. Some people in social and even other news reports, mentioned how the name needed to be changed. Of course, some didn't really have an opinion.”

"And it comes right after the Washington NFL football team made their announcement that they were finally changing their mascots.”

"And they (Edmonton) initially said through the research, they weren't going to but then things started coming out regarding sponsorship. And it's similar to the way Washington football ended up changing.”

“When the money started asking, ‘Hey, do we need this? Can it be, can it be changed?’ They started to listen to those people. And unfortunately it sounded like they didn't really listen to the people who asked for change simply because it was offensive.”

“Multiple people have come out against it. One said it was just basically about time. They are glad that Canada's finally doing something kind of taking a broader view at the states kind of shifting gears finally. So that type of message is there. A lot of younger advocates are just saying, ‘this name is something that doesn't acknowledge who they are and it shouldn’t be a talk, it should have been changed long ago.’”

“I guess now that the question remains who's next as many advocates continue to demand change across the board.”

“It was definitely a great memory to walk down six years ago. Shoni Schimmel, who was a role model to many in Indian country, had arguably her most exciting and impressive moment on the basketball court. When she played in the 2014, all star game, as a starter. She scored 29 points and wowed the crowd and was even named Game MVP after helping lead her team to victory."

“Her sister Jude has played with her at University of Louisville and briefly played pro basketball in Europe. Their younger sister, Milan, who I profiled earlier this year, set to start division one basketball at the University of Cincinnati in the fall. And they actually have a younger brother who just finished up a stellar high school basketball career.”

“So I guess time will tell us. Have we already have seen the best Schimmel on the basketball court?”

——

"Indigenous Futures Survey" research project

Also talked about in the newscast is the Indigenous Futures Survey, a joint project between the Center for Native American Youth, IllumiNative, and the Native Organizers Alliance, is looking for individuals to take its 15-minute online survey. Those who take the survey will be asked questions about how COVID-19 has affected their daily experiences, democratic engagement, and priority issues. All survey responses will be kept confidential.

The goal of the survey is to gather and disseminate information about the priorities and needs of Native communities in preparation for the 2020 election.

Any Native person wishing to take the survey can be entered in a raffle to win several prizes. The survey will close on August 1, 2020. More information can be found here.——

Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.

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