KYLE, S.D. (8/18/14)--When someone has relied solely on nontraditional methods for safeguarding his or her finances--think under the mattress--it's not a stretch to imagine that that person might be hesitant to trust their money with someone else.
But one credit union in South Dakota is counting on its members, who reside on a reservation found in one of the poorest counties in the United States, to place their trust in it just the same.
And with more than 1,600 members, Lakota FCU, Kyle, S.D., with $2 million in assets, has served the Oglala Lakota tribe for the last two years, giving the Lakota people their first ever financial institution.
"People no longer have to drive long distances to Hot Springs or Rapid City to do their banking," Jim Kent, columnist for the Rapid City Journal, wrote in an Aug. 14 article. "But more importantly, Lakota money is staying on the reservation, as one tribal member who opens a savings account helps another tribal member start or finance their business, pay off their debts or purchase a new vehicle to transport them to their job."
In an area where people aren't accustomed to the idea of banking, however, it can be a tall order to get folks to trust the credit union as the right place to keep their money, Kent said.
That fact is never more apparent as when tribal members walk into the credit union with land buy-back settlement checks, cash four- and five-figure amounts and walk out without depositing any money, an occurrence that happens often, Kent reported.
Not only does that leave the members without financial security, but it also limits the investment that can be made in their community.
"The best way for the people of Pine Ridge to establish an economic empowerment zone is to do it themselves," Kent wrote. "The opportunity is there; all that's needed is trust in their fellow Lakota."
The credit union may need to be patient in allowing that trust to build, but waiting patiently would merely be taking a cue from the members they serve: the Lakota people, who waited 123 years for their first financial institution.