Frequently Asked Questions

Frequestly Asked Questions About Oweesta

What does “Oweesta” mean?

“Oweesta” is a Mohawk word for money or item of exchange.

What kinds of organizations does Oweesta help?

Oweesta helps create Native community development financial institutions (NCDFI) including business revolving loan funds, credit unions/associations, banks, venture capital institutions and housing loan funds. These local organizations then have the capacity to assist individuals, businesses and organizations with financing and technical assistance for the development of small businesses, homeownership, community facilities, financial education programs, etc. in Native communities. Click here to go to our Programs and Services.

How is Oweesta funded?

Oweesta is supported through earned income from development services and investments, as well as a combination of private and public funds including foundations, federal programs, banks, other CDFIs, and individual donors. We are not a federal, state or tribally-owned/run organization, but a private, national, Native CDFI intermediary serving all Native communities. Click here to see Our Supporters.

How is Oweesta connected to First Nations Development Institute?

The present-day Oweesta Corporation began as the Oweesta Program and Fund of First Nations Development Institute back in the mid 1980s. In 1999 Oweesta became a separate corporation that has grown into the premier Native CDFI intermediary in the country.

Frequestly Asked Questions About Native CDFIs

What is a Native CDFI (NCDFI)?

NCDFI stands for Native community development financial institution, which is an organization dedicated to providing development services (training and technical assistance) and various types of financial services (checking, savings, consumer loans, business loans, housing loans, etc.) to Native communities encouraging them to become strong and self sufficient. CDFIs include loan funds, banks, credit unions/associations and venture capital institutions. Credit unions were among the first forms of CDFIs in this country going back to the early 1900s, modeled after efforts originating in Germany and England in the mid 1800s. A Native CDFI (NCDFI) works for the betterment of a Native community and can be located anywhere there is a significant Native population, whether it is on a reservation (federally-recognized and non), in an Alaska Native village, across the Hawaiian Islands or in a metropolitan area anywhere in the 50 states or beyond – as long as the institution is truly serving that Native population. Over the years Oweesta has more narrowly defined what a Native CDFI is by evaluating the level to which they assist the Native population and by its management/staff makeup.

How can I start a NCDFI for my community?

A good first step is to look over our information and sign up for one of the training programs to determine if this is the right step for your community. You can also work with the CDFI Fund on this process and apply for one of the Native CDFI start-up technical assistance grants available through the Fund. If you take these steps as you organize your group in your home location, the process of starting a NCDFI is not that difficult with the proper guidance.

Does the tribe have to start the NCDFI?

While it is often an effort of the tribe to start a NCDFI and it is helpful to have the administrative and financial support of the tribe in the early years of a start up, it is not mandatory for them to be involved. Many CDFIs around the country were simply started by a group of concerned citizens, business people, homeowners or a group of individuals living in a certain geographic area. Most of the groups we help get started do work with the tribe in some fashion, either as a spin-off from a tribal department, a subsidiary of the tribe and/or a place where the tribe invests assets for the growth of the organization. There could, however, be a grassroots movement to develop a NCDFI without the direct involvement of the tribe(s) for a local, regional or larger market.

How do I find money to start the NCDFI?

There are many sources of funding for NCDFIs throughout the country, and organizations like Oweesta, NCCA, CFED, the CDFI Fund, USDA and others offer clear suggestions for what route(s) you might take. Most of these same organizations also have money available in the form of investments and/or grants. There are also many foundations with programs emphasizing Native economic and housing development projects. Many groups with connections to their tribe have also received start-up funding from the tribe itself.

What kinds of topics do the training and TA programs at Oweesta cover?

Oweesta focuses on building strong and viable Native CDFIs through training and technical assistance programs that include chartering and incorporation, infrastructure, governance, board/committee roles and responsibilities, capitalization, market studies, loan and financing policies, etc. We respond to specific requests for assistance at the local level, and adapt one-on-one sessions to specific needs of the organization and their stage of development. We will also employ consultants or experts on staff for fieldwork with a particular client if necessary. See our Training and Technical Assistance page for more information.

Frequestly Asked Questions About Building Native Communities Curriculum

Who wrote the Building Native Communities (BNC) curriculum?

The curriculum was a combined effort of staff and consultants from First Nations Development Institute, Oweesta and Fannie Mae.

Where can we order the Building Native Communities curriculum?

The curriculum can be ordered by calling 1-800-665-0012 and will usually be sent in batches of 25 student workbooks and one instructor guide. You can also order six- page colored brochures to share with your organization, board, tribal council, etc. It should be noted that recommended instructor-training workshops are held throughout the country by Oweesta trainers, so that instructors are completely familiar with all aspects of the curriculum and the process of setting up their own trainings before they order workbooks. Click here to download the curriculum workbooks, a resource guide and many other useful documents for research and planning.

Where and when do the instructor trainings take place for the Building Native Communities curriculum?

Part of an organized schedule, instructor trainings take place throughout the year in various locations across the country. Special instructor training workshops can also be arranged right in your local community.

Who conducts the trainings for the Building Native Communities curriculum?

Oweesta has a cadre of highly experienced and professional trainers, some of whom were the first to pilot the curriculum years ago. This group continues to add techniques, coursework and peer trainers as the workshops continue.

What do the instructor trainings for the Building Native Communities curriculum cover?

The training workshops are normally two days in length. The lead instructor takes the group through each module including the EITC addendum, emphasizing techniques for planning, organizing and teaching their financial education program using the Building Native Communities, EITC and/or other curriculum addendeums. There are also workshops with a third day attached for grooming national or regional trainers. This optional, but integral, day is filled with lessons on becoming an instructor for train-the-trainer workshops so that you can go to your home location and spread the word and/or be able to teach at regional or national sessions in the future.

Are there trainings for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) workbook?

There are trainings for the EITC workbook and in most cases the EITC trainings are combined with the instructor training for the Building Native Communities curriculum, although there will be occasions where just the EITC material is covered. This will depend on the venue and goals of the particular session, wherever and whenever that might be.

Will the BNC curriculum be expanded beyond its present scope and topics?

It is our intention at Oweesta and First Nations Development Institute to expand the BNC curriculum whenever possible to include more topic areas important to Native communities. One example of this is the recently completed Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) addendum workbook.

CONTACT US

First Nations Oweesta Corporation
2432 Main Street
Longmont, CO 80501
303.774.8838
info@oweesta.org

Oweesta is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

ABOUT OWEESTA

Oweesta is the only existing Native CDFI intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. Specifically, Oweesta provides training, technical assistance, investments, research, and policy advocacy to help Native communities develop an integrated range of asset-building products and services, including financial education and financial products.

Asset-building tools stimulate reservation economies by providing tribal members the opportunity to acquire financial management skills and build and accumulate assets through small business creation, homeownership, education, and much more.

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