Credit unions are depository institutions that offer disinvestment possibilities for those seeking to move their money out of banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The federal government counts more than a dozen Indian-owned credit unions as majority Native American owned, with many more partially Native American.
According to the National Credit Union Administration, 14 Indian-owned credit unions currently are majority Native American owned. Credit unions are cooperatives, meaning the members are the owners. Minority status is conferred by the number of minority members and directors. So if the majority of members/directors is Native, NCUA counts the institution as an Indian-owned credit union. The 14 comprise two percent of a total of 603 minority-owned credit unions.
Depositing money in a credit union is a little more involved than depositing money in a bank. A person has to qualify to be a member according to criteria known as field of membership (FOM). Traditionally, credit union FOMs were restrictive, with members from just one affinity group, like members of a union local or an employer. Now, though, FOMs are much less restrictive and many more are qualified to join.
For instance, members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe are eligible to belong to Sisseton-Wahpeton Credit Union (Agency Village, South Dakota). But they aren’t the only ones. The total FOM is “members and employees of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribe, employees of area schools, Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, (and) members of organizations of the above.”
In addition, Sisseton-Wahpeton is designated as a low-income credit union, as are most of the Native-controlled ones. That allows it to accept non-member deposits from any source, including tribes.
The 14 Indian-owned credit unions (that’s an increase from 13 since 2013) have a combined total of 37,056 members, according to NCUA’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI). Their total “shares” (deposits) come to $151 million, and they have combined assets of $185 million.
In another 34 credit unions, Indians are one minority group out of several that, added together, make the credit union count as minority owned.
Indian-owned credit unions tend to be quite small, with an average asset size of $13 million. However, their deposits are insured by NCUA, much as bank deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The largest Native-majority credit union appears to be West Oahu Community of Waianae, Hawaii. It has $50 million in assets and 4,866 members. Hawaii First, Kamuela Hawaii, is next at $38.3 million in assets and first in members with 7,756. The smallest appears to be Rabun-Tallulah, Tiger, Georgia, with $671,000 in assets and 164 members.
Four of the credit unions are based in Hawaii but there are also ones in the states of Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
What follows is a list of Native-owned credit unions as designated by NCUA, ranked by asset size and members.
West Oahu Community Waianae, Hawaii $50 million 4,866
Hawaii First Kamuela, Hawaii $38.3 million 7,756
Four Corners Kirtland, New Mexico $27.5 million 5,293
Molokai Community Kaunakakai, Hawaii $23.6 million 4,564
Local Union 1186 IBEW Honolulu, Hawaii $14.9 million 1,091
Wolf Point Wolf Point, Montana $12.5 million 2,657
Sisseton-Wahpeton Agency Vil., South Dakota $5.2 million 1,710
Lakota Kyle, South Dakota $4.2 million 2,517
Choctaw Choctaw, Mississippi $2.1 million 2,062
White Earth Reservation Mahnomen, Montana $2 million 1,320
LCO Hayward, Wisconsin $1.7 million 1,654
Seneca Nation of Indians Irving New York $1.6 million 809
Northern Eagle Nett Lake, Minnesota $743,000 593
Rabun-Tallulah Tiger, Georgia $671,000 164