Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families

Nov 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 13-2: The Power of Partnerships, Media Reviews

BUILDING NATIVE COMMUNITIES COVERFannie Mae Foundation and the First Nations Development Institute, 2000
190 pages

Review by Jean E. Ness, Ed.D.

This unique curriculum is designed for Native audiences. Its purpose is to enable community members to realize their traditional values while making informed financial decisions for themselves, their family, and their community. Developed by a group of Native business/financial experts, the curriculum includes six sessions designed to help Native communities and their members adapt their traditional skills to the wise management of financial resources.

The sessions cover: building a healthy economy, developing a spending plan, working with credit and your credit report, and accessing credit. Each session begins with a Native story and includes photographs illustrating traditionally demonstrated skills in managing resources. They also provide a historical framework for the topic.

For example, the first session focuses on a discussion of building a healthy economy. As part of the session, participants are asked to complete a diagram illustrating the four seasons and how the ancestors would harvest throughout the year. The following discussion ties the ancient traditions to preservation of resources, budgeting resources, scheduling, and trading of goods. Each session builds on the theme of developing personal financial skills and culminates in the last session with learning about loans, interest rates, and insurance.

I highly recommend the curriculum. It could be incorporated into an introduction to business course at a tribal college, offered as a one credit evening course at a tribal community center, or incorporated as components into high school math courses as a survival skills unit. To my knowledge there is no other curricula of this nature on the market. It combines essential financial survival skills with Native culture, which is not easy to do.

The spiral bound, 190-page curriculum has a clean, easy-to-read design. Each session has activities for practicing new skills. Included in the back of the participant manual is a helpful glossary of terms and a certificate from the First Nations Development Institute and the Fannie Mae foundation to be awarded to participants who complete the Financial Literacy Curriculum. A teacher’s manual has additional activities and background information. It is available free of charge from the Fannie Mae Foundation, <> or call (202) 274-8000.

Dr. Jean Ness directs the Title III Business Finance Program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, a collaborative project with the tribal college and the University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

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