April 24, 2011

Payday loans violate Native values

Applying Traditional Values in Today’s Economy

By Tanya FiddlerIt is important to arm our people with the knowledge to combat predatory lenders. It is common for predatory lenders, those with outrageous fees and extraordinarily high interest rates, to operate in border towns of reservations where they prey on the desperate monetary needs of low-income people. However, a Native-owned online lending organization located on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, apparently, was providing loans with interest rates of up to 300 percent not only to our own community members but also to out-of-state residents. Now, the Colorado Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against this lender for making unlicensed high-interest loans to consumers in his state.

The lender’s response: State laws do not apply to tribal members operating within the confines of their own reservation. Come to find out, this lender is not the only one hiding behind the veil of tribal sovereignty. Internet-based payday lenders in several states are fighting legal battles with similar defense tactics—they are immune to state laws and regulation because they are “tribal enterprises.” It seems as though the tribes are being used as fronts for these lenders to skirt consumer protection laws. Now, that puts an interesting twist on the predatory lending debate.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the defense of this lender from Cheyenne River is valid. Even if it is legally protected by our sovereign nation, it is contradicting the very essence of our Lakota culture. I have been persevering alongside many other talented and dedicated Indians in the United States to help develop private enterprise in Native communities for the past 15 years. The major difference between the Indian business model and the mainstream business model is that we carry our cultural beliefs into our business dealings. A Lakota who honors her culture would never charge a 149 percent interest rate or collect $300 in fees on a $500 loan because it violates the value of respect, or waohola.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Western Sky Financial Commercial and Rocky Boy Payday Loan Company.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nobody should be stupid enough to go to a payday lender, but hey, if white people want to be stupid, let them be stupid. Though I really don't like the "You can trust me, I'm an Indian." implications of the ad.