Nixyaawii Community Financial Services earns U.S. Treasury certification

MISSION — The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation announced the U.S. Department of Treasury on Jan. 3 certified Nixyaawii Community Financial Services as a Community Development Financial Institution.

Nixyaawii is a tribally owned nonprofit that provides loans, homeownership assistance, business development services plus financial education to CTUIR members, reservation residents and tribal employees. According to a press release, the Treasury’s certification means Nixyaawii will be recognized as an institution that helps communities typically left out of banking and investment. There are more than 1,000 Community Development Financial Institutions and about 70 are associated with American Indians.

“This is truly a milestone for our organization and the Tribal community,” Nixyaawii Board President Kelly George said in a statement. “So many people have worked hard and held confidence that an economic development tool such as this could happen.”

Nixyaawii Community Financial Services has been years in the making, but only opened last year.

In 2015, the CTUIR began exploring the concept of starting a loan fund and created a business plan under the direction of Wildhorse Resort & Casino CEO Gary George. In February 2020, the tribes’ board of trustees approved the plan, which called for the consolidation of several tribal services, including business development, the homeownership program and tribal credit under one entity. Although Nixyaawii officially opened for business on July 1, 2021, and held a ribbon cutting ceremony the next month, staff stayed at their prior workplaces due to the pandemic and supply chain issues.

In individual statements, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Jeff Merkley congratulated the tribes on its new certification.

“Big congratulations to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation for earning this designation as a formal Community Development Financial Institution and their work to establish this financial mainstay to help tackle historic injustices that have blocked credit for Native communities,” Wyden said.

“CDFI’s like Nixyaawii Community Financial Services are crucial to building equitable economies and opening the doors of opportunity to all, and I am so pleased to see them receive this formal certification from the Treasury,” according to Merkley.