On March 2, Woodlands National Bank opened its first branch office in the Twin Cities. Located at 11th Street and Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, it will provide a full range of personal and business services to the community.
Woodlands National Bank is owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and headquartered in Hinckley. It has branches in Onamia, Hinckley, Sturgeon Lake, the Mille Lacs reservation, and Cloquet. The bank focuses on serving minorities, and President and CEO Lew Anderson looks forward to working with the diverse communities of the Phillips neighborhood.
Anderson says that
Woodlands National Bank recently received an “Outstanding” in its
Community Reinvestment Act Performance Evaluation. The federal Office
of the Comptroller of the Currency conducts the assessment, which
covers a bank’s record of meeting the credit needs of its entire
community, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent
with safe and sound operation. Only the most deserving banks receive
the high rating.
is excited to bring this expertise to Minneapolis, “We want to bring
this level of service to Native people and to all folks in the Phillips
Anderson has been a major force for bringing the bank
to the urban Native community. “It has been his vision to open this
branch,” said Joanne Whiterabbit (Ho-Chunk), who has been hired as the
branch manager. “He wants the bank to provide opportunities to the
entire Indian community.”
In 2008 the Woodlands National Bank
was invited by the Native American Community Development Institute
(NACDI) and the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce to meet
with Minneapolis-based Native organizations to discuss the possibility
of establishing a bank that would serve the Franklin Community and
Native Americans in particular. Anderson pursued the prospect and
received support from NACDI, MAICC and other community organizations.
we open an office in a new location, I like to invite a community
member to join the Board and provide feedback,” Anderson said.
says experienced mortgage and commercial bankers are only an hour away
and can be at the Minneapolis location all day if clients need them.
“All the branch offices also have video conferencing, so when we need
to meet, we can all meet face-to-face, if not in person,” Anderson
said. “We have a television and camera set up in Minneapolis, so it
will be a full part of the bank network.”
says the bank brings all the products of a big bank but with the
benefits of a community bank that knows what is happening in Indian
communities. She’s particularly excited to bring the bank’s expertise
in HUD Section 184 to Minneapolis.
“It’s a program tailored to
Native people, to help get them into homes and to help with
refinancing,” she said. “It is a new federal program and not many banks
in the United States participate.”
As clients join, Woodlands
National Bank will add more staff. “We want to be responsive to the
community,” Whiterabbit said. “If we need commercial lenders or more
bankers at the Minneapolis branch, we will hire them.”
Lacs Band of Ojibwe started the bank when it bought First State Bank of
Onamia in 1996, becoming only the third Indian tribe in the United
States to own a bank. The bank also became the first Native-owned bank
to be granted a national charter.
At that time, Mille Lacs Band
was looking to diversify its financial investments. “The band has a
very successful gaming business,” Anderson said. “But the bank allows
it to expand its opportunities and increase economic development.”
bank is part of the band’s overall efforts to overcome economic
stagnation and high levels of joblessness in the Mille Lacs Reservation
When the bank was first purchased by the Mille Lacs
Band, it had $17 million in assets. Within three years, its assets had
increased nearly 50%. That prompted Mille Lacs leaders to acquire Rural
American Bank in Hinckley, with a branch office in Sturgeon Lake.
bank has expanded over the past ten years to bring its full-service
banking and unique approach to more customers. The bank offers
personal, business, and real estate services as well as ATMs, online
banking, IRAs, and safety deposit boxes.
“ATMs were unfamiliar
to many Mille Lacs Band members,” Anderson wrote in a 2001 article.
“But a marketing campaign resulted in dozens of new accounts, moving
account-holders into mainstream banking. Among other advantages, they
can now receive direct deposits from Social Security and other federal
In addition to Whiterabbit as branch
manager, there will also be a full-time teller and banker at the new
location. The bank will be open Monday through Friday with the
possibility of Saturday hours if clients express a need.
National Bank is also a founding member of the North American Native
Bankers Association which recognizes that tribally-owned banks are
fundamental to tribes’ economic self-determination and works to
increase the number of Indian-owned financial institutions.
National Bank is located at 1113 E. Franklin Ave., Suite 108 (in the
Ancient Traders Complex) in Minneapolis. For more information call