The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and the Northwest Area Foundation on Friday announced a collaboration to fund Native American-led community development initiatives across the United States. 

To launch the initiative, FHLB Des Moines awarded $5 million to the foundation to fund the work of Native Community Development Financial Institutions, the organizations said in a release. Based in St. Paul, Minn., the Northwest Area Foundation works with 75 Native American nations in an eight-state region, including Iowa. 

“The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines is excited to collaborate with the Northwest Area Foundation to support Native-led strategies that strengthen economic opportunities for Native people,” said Mike Wilson, president and CEO, FHLB Des Moines. “This partnership leverages both of our organizations' long-standing commitments to serving Native areas, and puts capital to work for the benefit of private economies and asset building strategies in Indian Country.”

The bank’s district, consisting of 13 states and three U.S. Pacific territories, encompasses approximately one-third of the country’s native population. The Federal Home Loan Bank serves as a source of low-cost funding and liquidity to member financial institutions. 

Community development financial institutions are supported through a U.S. Treasury program aimed at meeting the needs of economically underserved communities by offering affordable financial products and services. In 2016, CDFI program awardees financed more than 11,300 businesses, provided funding for more than 33,500 affordable housing units and supplied more than 427,000 individuals with financial literacy or other training. 

“Over years of working closely with Native CDFIs, we have come to understand that they are a powerful means by which Native communities are building long-term economic and cultural wealth,” Kevin Walker, president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Area Foundation, said in the release. “We hope this new collaboration will help Native CDFIs push their groundbreaking work even further and capture the imagination of new investors and new partners.”

Friday’s kickoff event also included panels with native-led organizations and other stakeholders about creating and strengthening partnerships to spur community development. 

In related news, Iowa State University announced today that it has begun to offer research-based financial education classes to residents of the Meskwaki Nation in Tama. 

“The Meskwaki community is one that we have been trying to reach for several years,” said Suzanne Bartholomae, an assistant professor in human development and family studies and state specialist in family finance with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. “A key to our success with the Meskwaki Nation is to build a relationship with community leaders and members that establishes trust and respect.” 

The Meskwaki Nation, also known as the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in Iowa. The tribe enrolls about 1,300 members, including about 800 who live on the 8,000-acre settlement in Tama County. Nontribal members, including spouses, also live there.