Raising Awareness of Native Financial Well-Being
Native Indigenous Peoples Month is a time to reflect on the important traditions, contributions and cultures of Indigenous communities around the world. (Photos by Alabastro Photography)
During Native Indigenous Peoples Month, I'm reflecting on the important traditions, contributions and cultures of Indigenous communities around the world, including the many Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest.
I am excited to advance my knowledge base of the rich Native and Indigenous heritage and cultures that exists here in this part of the country. When I joined BECU, I met with BECU's Native Indigenous Peoples Employee Resource Group to learn about issues and ideas the group was discussing. I felt a sense of pride and humility as members of the ERG wrapped me in a beautiful handmade blanket, a welcome tradition they value deeply.
Last month, I was once again touched at a BECU event, our Day or Purpose, where Kyle Schierbeck of the Hunkpapa Lakota of Standing Rock Sioux shared a blessing in his Native Lakota language.
In his blessing, he talked about "Unkitawa," a Lakota word, meaning "ours, yours and mine." It is "the embodied concept of what is mine is equally yours, therefore equally responsible to care for each other." I have so much to learn and understand.
We take our responsibility to care for our members and communities to heart, working to remove barriers and create opportunities for financial well-being for all communities.
Native American households, on average, face a significant wealth gap, stemming from generations of oppression and structural injustices, according to the National Indian Council on Aging, Inc.
At BECU, we are working to make a difference.
BECU's financial education team is developing programs tailored to the experiences of Native American youth. I am proud of our financial educators' efforts, and I know there are opportunities for us to do more.
BECU's Native Indigenous Peoples ERG is another way we're working to support Native and Indigenous people within our own organization. The group was founded by employees so they could come together to support each other, build community, share concerns, and identify solutions to further the BECU mission, vision and values.
We're also taking steps to recognize our responsibility to Native people. We began our Day of Purpose with our acknowledgement that BECU occupies Native land and encouraged employees to acknowledge their own land occupation. Our call to action for employees is to seek out and support local Native and Indigenous-owned businesses and community organizations.
There is so much opportunity for non-tribal financial institutions like BECU to do more to create systems and services that are culturally appropriate, build trust and work toward closing those gaps.
As the leader of a member-focused financial institution, I am committed to driving changes that contribute to robust financial futures for the communities we serve.