Before Lakota Federal Credit Union opened its doors in November 2012, a credit union was a foreign concept to the Native American people living on South Dakota’s sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Shayna Ferguson has played a pivotal role in educating the reservation’s residents about what a credit union is and how its services can benefit residents’ financial lives.
Ferguson was hired as a member services representative at the $5.6 million asset credit union in Kyle, S.D., in 2012, one of only two employees at the newly established credit union. Today, she manages the first and only federally guaranteed financial institution on the two-million acre reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota Sioux.
“I’m so excited to see new things happening for the reservation and for the Oglala Lakota people and having the credit union here to serve our members it’s awesome,” Ferguson tells the CUNA News Podcast. “I just feel joy. It’s an honor to be part of this because this is something that the reservation and the Oglala Sioux people needed.”
For her efforts and contributions to the credit union industry, Ferguson was recognized as a 2017 Credit Union Rock Star.
Prior to the credit union opening its doors, there hadn’t been a financial institution on the reservation since the 1950s, so residents had to travel about 45 minutes to a bank in the nearest town in South Dakota or Nebraska.
Once Lakota Federal opened, word of mouth played a huge role in spreading the word about what a credit union is and how it could help members, Ferguson says.
“There was a lot of hesitation, especially because everybody hears ‘federal credit union,’” Ferguson says. “It took a lot, but word of mouth is huge on the reservation. And a lot of people who joined us initially were kind of familiar with credit unions.”