By Tanya Fiddler
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.