Submitted by Cody Harjo, NAFOA

Shane Jett (center), CEO of Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Community Development Corporation, earned Native American Finance Officers Association’s 2018 Executive of the Year Award.

Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) hosted its 11th annual Leadership Awards Luncheon during its 36th annual conference at The Roosevelt New Orleans. In front of a record-breaking audience, NAFOA honored the accomplishments of a tribal leader, tribal executive, financial deal advancing tribal economies, and an education program positively impacting Native Americans.

John L. Berrey, Chairman of Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, is the distinguished recipient of NAFOA’s Tribal Leader of the Year Award. Shane Jett, CEO of Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Community Development Corporation, received honor as the Executive of the Year. NAFOA recognized St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin with the Deal of the Year Award, and the Pechanga Financial Education Online Course for Youth received the Program of the Year award.

“This year’s honorees include extraordinary people, a cutting-edge education program and an innovative financial deal nominated by the NAFOA community for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to Indian Country,” said VaRene Martin, NAFOA 1st Vice President. “The NAFOA board is humbled and honored to recognize and celebrate them on behalf of the NAFOA community.”

Tribal Leader of the Year

NAFOA honored John L. Berrey, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, with its prestigious 2018 Tribal Leader of the Year Award. Barry Switzer, former Dallas Cowboys head football coach, provided introductory remarks for the 2018 Tribal Leader of the Year Award. Switzer expressed that his friend Chairman Berrey has a “great mind, business acumen and a big heart.”

During Chairman Berrey’s tenure on the Quapaw business committee and as tribal chairman, the Quapaw Tribe experienced exponential growth in its enterprises and services. Most recently, he has become nationally recognized for his leadership and vision in tribal agricultural production, which promotes food sovereignty and environmental stewardship.

In addition to the successful Downstream Casino Resort, the tribe also operates Quapaw Cattle Company, Quapaw Processing Plant, Quapaw Honey, O-Gah-Pah Coffee and O-Gah-Pah Bison. The Quapaw’s agricultural businesses and programs represent innovations that enable farm-to-table supply services for its casino, provides quality local jobs and offer
more nutritional food options to its
local community.

Chairman Berrey is a member of Quapaw Tribe and Osage Nation and was born in Denver, Colorado. He credits his grandmother for ensuring he had a strong foundation rooted in his Native culture and religion. Chairman Berrey graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in journalism in 1991. He is a fourth-generation rancher and the father of two children.

Executive of the Year

NAFOA is pleased to announce that Shane Jett is the recipient of the 2018 Executive of the Year award. Jett is CEO of Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Community Development Corporation (CPCDC), the largest Native-owned financial institution of its kind. When Jett began as CEO in 2011, CPCDC’s revolving loan fund had $14 million under management and was the second-largest Native-owned Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the United States. Today, CPCDC is undisputedly the largest Native-owned, nonbank CDFI in the United States, with over $65 million under management.

During his seven-year tenure as CEO, Jett has championed a “whole-person approach,” which has both empowered his team and led to substantial financial success. In 2016, his team brought $47 million in new money to CPCDC, which was more than all combined funds raised since its 2003 inception. It alone, out of 70 Native CDFIs, was included in the United States Treasury’s Guarantee Bond Program, securing an allocation of $16 million. CPCDC concluded the year with another $25 million in funding from USDA’s Rural Development’s Community Facilities Relending Program.

Jett is known to invest in and expand opportunities for his employees. Upon learning members of his CPCDC team had unfinished college degrees, he redirected his professional development training budget toward college tuition. Today, all CPCDC staff either have completed or are on track to complete college degrees.

Deal of the Year

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin received the 2018 Deal of the Year Award for its innovative use of financing combined with the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program. This complex deal was years in the making. It provides refinancing of existing gaming debt, loans for new economic development project construction, obtaining NMTCs for repurposing the existing judicial building and development of a new judicial center. St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin used NMTCs with the financing for the economic development projects, producing a net $4.5 million of cash to fund the new judicial center in its entirety.

This deal provides a great model for tribes to leverage their funding for economic development projects and pair it with NMTCs to fund non-revenue producing governmental buildings. Existing debt refinancing lowers the tribe’s interest rates significantly and reduces its debt service payments. New financing and NMTC funding allowed the tribe to continue expanding its economic enterprises and provided over 90 new jobs. NAFOA congratulates St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

Education Program of the Year

NAFOA recognized Pechanga Financial Education Online Course for Youth as the Education Program of the Year Award for bridging an achievement gap impacting its youth. Recognizing that California was not adequately implementing financial education in their public schools, Pechanga launched an online course in June of 2017. Its curriculum is designed to empower and improve the financial health of young tribal members. Pechanga consulted with many stakeholders in developing the program, including Pechanga Youth Council and financial leaders across Indian Country, to determine key financial topics of concern.

The course includes a series of two- to four-minute videos and short quizzes covering basic financial concepts like budgeting and banking, as well as Native-specific topics like per-capita payments and General Welfare Exclusion Act benefits. In its first year, 100 percent of Pechanga high school seniors turning 18 completed the course. Early indicators show the program has been effective in improving understanding of financial concepts. Students taking a pre- and post-course assessment saw an average increase of 38 percent from 57.7 percent to 95.7 percent. NAFOA is proud to recognize Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians’ Financial Education Online Course for Youth for its outstanding work in improving the financial well-being of Native American youth.

NAFOA is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen tribal economies by promoting excellence in financial management, advocating sound economic and fiscal policy, developing innovative education initiatives, and providing essential information, resources and support to meet the challenges of economic growth and change. NAFOA hosts its 2018 Fall Finance and Tribal Economies Conference Oct. 1-2 at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.