Our reservations are often faced with harsh geographic isolation, but the internet has opened the world to us and provided real opportunities for economic advancement through e-commerce. These opportunities have shown tremendous promise since we’ve introduced them to our own tribes and those across the continent. For the first time in many of our lifetimes, our people are steadily – and happily – employed. They are feeling the personal value that comes with a regular paycheck. They are seeing the businesses we’re establishing reinvesting in our communities and increasing the quality of life.
As we explore these opportunities, especially those that have arisen through online lending and alternative financial products (NAFSA’s core constituency), we must have the freedom to pursue our destiny. If the government is going to sever the lifeline which has supported our people, they must be open to our efforts to achieve economic security on our own.
Make no mistake – we do not want our people to be poor. We do not want our communities to be dangerous or our children undereducated. We value self-sufficiency, as it has been the foundation of our culture for centuries. Most of all, as sovereign nations with a proud history of self-governance, we do not want to be federal dependents.
Our culture is and has always been about survival and determination – and that’s really at the core of the great American dream. We want to support ourselves. We want to be a part of that dream. We want the self-sufficiency to go hand in hand with our long history of self-governance. We have found a way to make those ideals a reality and it is giving us hope for our future.
It is our ultimate hope that, as Congress uses every manufactured crisis to blindly hack away at the programs that have supported us for years, they see the innovative economic models we are developing, understand the promise it is providing to our sovereign nations, and allow us to freely pursue a brighter future for our people. Only then will the promise of economic prosperity we’ve seen on the horizon be fully realized.
Brandon is executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA)