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The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis formally launched its Center for Indian Country Development (CIDC) in August, bringing together resources and stakeholders from tribal, federal and state governments with private sector efforts to promote economic development in Indian Country.
The Federal Reserve System is uniquely structured to work with all interests and government programs to promote economic growth, said Chris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation headquartered in Little Canada and a member of the center’s leadership council.
“I cringe when I hear someone refer to ‘Indian policy.’ There is only a policy for some government agency or program. The rest of us all deal with multiple and diverse policies, programs, treaties and laws,” Stainbrook said.
As a case in point, individual entrepreneurs face different challenges with capital formation, starting and expanding businesses than do tribes, added Al Paulson, president and founder of Marketplace Productions LLC, a St. Paul-based business services and consulting firm.
An enrolled citizen of the White Earth Nation, Paulson was a founder of the National Indian Business Association and the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce. The Fed, he said, is “ideally structured” to work with tribal leaders and with individual entrepreneurs of Native American descent. “I know how important that is because I’ve always walked in two worlds,” he said.
In announcing the launch of the center, Minneapolis Fed bank president Narayana Kocherlakota noted that the regional bank has been working in Indian Country for the past 25 years.
The new center will build on that experience, he said, while focusing on legal infrastructure development, improved access to capital for Native Americans, entrepreneurship and small business development, effective coordination and design of economic development programs, and related education and research.
“The center provides energy and coordination to Indian Country development initiatives across the Federal Reserve System and takes a lead role in forging Federal Reserve partnerships with other national and regional organizations,” he said in a statement.
Launching the center is something of a swan song for Kocherlakota. He is leaving the bank at the end of the year to return to academia at the University of Rochester.
The University of Chicago and Princeton University educated economist, however, has ties that anchor him to the region serviced by the bank. He spent much of his childhood in Winnipeg when his parents were on the faculty of the University of Manitoba, and he previously taught economics at the University of Minnesota and University of Iowa.
The bank earlier announced that was creating the center and that co-directors of CICD are Patrice Kunesch and veteran Minneapolis Fed executive Susan Woodrow.
Kunesch, of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe descent, is a former law professor at the University of South Dakota who in recent years served as undersecretary of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She previously served as deputy solicitor for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior and as counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Connecticut.
Woodrow, meanwhile, is the executive officer for the Minneapolis Fed’s branch office in Helena, Mont. The bank is one of 12 regional Federal Reserve banks. Its Ninth Federal Reserve District includes Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, northwestern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
This region covers a huge portion of Indian Country. The center will work nationally for the Fed system from this base. Members of the newly named CIDC Leadership Council reflect that national scope.
Joining Stainbrook on the council were Dante Desiderio, executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association, Washington, D.C.; Sarah DeWess, senior director of the First Nations Development Institute, Longmont, Colo.; Miriam Jorgensen, research director, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, University of Arizona; Elsie Meeks, board member for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and chairperson, Lakota Funds, Kyle, S.D.; Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director, National Congress of American Indians, Washington, D.C.; John Phillips, executive director, First Americans Land-Grant Consortium, Alexandria, Va.; Jaime Pinkham, vice president of Native Nations Programs, Bush Foundation, St. Paul; Gerald Sherman, vice president, Bar K Management, Roscoe, Mont.; and Sarah Vogel, a Bismarck attorney and former North Dakota commissioner of agriculture.