With the Monday launch of the new Center for Indian Country Development, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis will take steps to boost prosperity in Native American communities in the region.
In its coverage, MPR News noted that tribal communities have long lagged behind the rest of the nation in employment and economic development.
One of the leaders of the new Fed effort, Patrice Kunesh, who is of Standing Rock Lakota descent, told MPR that the center within the bank will apply the Minneapolis Fed's expertise to the stubborn problems that have long stood in the way of economic opportunity in Indian Country.
Forum News reported that the Fed has been working "under the radar" with tribes for the past 25 years, and will "take the next step by opening the center" within the bank. The center will seek to help reservations obtain more credit and lending, boost economic development, diversify the economies and decrease the poverty rates in tribal communities.
The center will bring a “new voice and fresh look” to troubles on the reservations, according to Kunesh. It will serve tribes in its district, including those in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, northwest Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Native News Online reports the center will focus on initiatives including legal infrastructure development, improved access to capital for Native Americans, entrepreneurship and small business development. A 10-member center leadership council of regional and national experts in Indian Country development issues will help guide the center.
The effort will also work to improve educational opportunities, noting that in 2010, only 51 percent of students on the reservations graduated and school infrastructure conditions are “dangerous” for many tribal schools.“
While the arrival of casino gambling has been lucrative for some communities, the Forum News story says only about 30 percent of 567 tribes operate casinos, and only about 20 percent of them are profitable enough to significantly contribute to their reservation residents.