WASHINGTON, D.C., July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) today sharply denounced a Democratically-led Senate bill that would result in the loss of billions of dollars of sorely-needed tribal revenue, drastically increase Native American unemployment in Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico, and sadly curtail the long-standing relationship between Native Americans across the nation with Democratic law makers.
Earlier this week, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation that directly targets Native Americans nationwide and would prohibit tribes from engaging in a wide array of Internet-based commerce.
“This legislation demonstrates the complete lack of understanding and respect that should be afforded to tribal government entities, clearly provided for under Presidential Executive Order. Restrictions like Merkley’s bill will stifle innovation and only further isolate tribes that have suffered from more than 250 years of oppression,” said Barry Brandon, Executive Director of NAFSA. “Internet Commerce provides a financial lifeline for tribes who struggle every day with overwhelming poverty and a lack of access to the financial opportunities afforded to other Americans. Just as gaming has promoted economic development, Internet Commerce will help tribes who are not able to engage in gaming and who have experienced significant losses in casino revenue.”
Native Americans have long been staunch supporters of the Democratic Party. For years, tribal leaders and members have sponsored Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns and hosted fundraisers for Democratic candidates and incumbents across the country. Reliable estimates are that Native Americans vote 90 to 95 percent in favor of Democratic candidates.
“For our allies in Congress who have counted on the Native American vote for decades, it is alarming that these members would chose to build a virtual wall that would prohibit tribes from sharing in the 21st Century economy while favoring their own state businesses over Indian Country,” Brandon said. “Adding insult to injury, the Senators’ announcement of this action refers to Native American commerce only as ‘rogues,’ which is politically insensitive.”
NAFSA member tribes engage in internet commerce and online lending throughout the U.S. The organization has established a set of Best Practices which all member tribes follow. Additionally, tribal governments have established regulatory bodies, similar to those that effectively self-regulate the Indian gaming industry. NAFSA members, the Chippewa Cree Tribe in North central Montana has established a lending enterprise that now provides 50 percent of all revenues to the tribal economy and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in Central Oklahoma employs more than 55 full-time employees as well as tribal members as part of their tribally owned internet commerce operations.
“If enacted, this policy will have a number of dire consequences for economies throughout Indian country,” said Katherine Spilde, a tribal government gaming expert at San Diego State University. “A powerfully destructive consequence of this legislation could be an absolute end on online gaming throughout Indian country.”
NAFSA encourages all tribal members and like-minded constituents to contact their respective members of Congress to express their concern about the abrogation of sovereign rights provided to Native American tribes under treaties with the United States.
The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) formed in 2012 to advocate for Native American sovereign rights and to provide institutional support for tribal governments that offer responsible online lending products. Through the protection of consumer rights and sovereign immunity, NAFSA provides vital services to tribally-operated lenders serving the under-banked population with better short term financial services while at the same time furthering economic development opportunities in Indian Country.
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