Four Bands Community Fund encourages Cheyenne River to rededicate efforts that build financial capability


Submitted by Heidi Cuny, Cuny Communications

DSCN5042_v1With April as Financial Literacy Month in full swing, Four Bands Community Fund is hosting a myriad of activities to help build the financial capability of local residents on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Activities include hosting after school meetings for youth, engaging residents through social media platforms, enrolling residents in a matched savings program, and gaining personal commitments from individuals to make positive changes in their financial habits.

“It has been four years since our Tribe adopted a resolution to embrace efforts to improve the financial literacy and entrepreneurial capacity of all Tribal members and residents on the Reservation, and we have come a long way since then. April as Financial Literacy Month is a way for us all to rededicate our commitment to improving our quality of life by adopting a healthy financial lifestyle,” says Tanya Fiddler, Executive Director of Four Bands Community Fund.

This month Four Bands is launching the Making Waves Club, an after school program hosting activities on personal finance and entrepreneurship that is open to 7th-12th grade students. The club stems from the overall Making Waves program established in 2009 to replace poverty and unemployment with concepts of financial literacy and entrepreneurship in the schools, homes, and communities of the Cheyenne River Reservation. Four Bands is also encouraging people of all ages to support our community’s financial growth and to become a WaveMaker by downloading a WaveMaker Pledge from their homepage and bringing the completed form into their office.

Additionally, Four Bands will be sharing a variety of posts on Facebook so that WaveMakers can share their personal financial successes with others who are looking to do the same. “After promoting financial literacy concepts for over a decade, we know that it takes overwhelming support from the community to make a lasting change,” comments Fiddler. “We need to support, learn, and grow from each other on this journey.”

Since its inception in 2000, thousands of people on the Cheyenne River Reservation have graduated from the Four Bands financial literacy course. Nearly 300 of those were Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal employees who completed a specialized financial literacy training that was offered last spring and summer. After three hours of training, the Tribal employees who participated in this course increased their financial literacy by 25%. “This is a dramatic increase in just a short period of time, and we look forward to continuing to see behavioral changes – especially decreases in payroll deductions – that result from this training,” says Lakota Mowrer, Assistant Director of Four Bands Community Fund, who worked closely with the Tribe to administer the training.

Individuals who obtain a Credit Builder Loan or participate in the matched savings program offered by Four Bands also complete financial literacy training. Both of these programs position individuals for a positive pattern of asset building. “It’s not really the knowledge you gain from a financial literacy course – it’s what you do with that knowledge that makes a difference,” comments Fiddler. Credit Builder Loan recipients who improve their credit score see an increase of 100 points on average. Over 100 people who have completed the matched savings program have used over $400,000 to achieve asset-based savings goals, such as obtaining a higher education degree or certification, purchasing a home, or starting a business.

“There are really so many ways people can improve their personal financial management skills, and most of them are just small adjustments in daily patterns. But it is those small things that make a great change over time,” says Mowrer.