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New Mexico Tribes Take on ABCs of Finance

By Shawn Abeita
Dawn of Nations Today

A group of participants in a 10-week financial literacy course, offered by the New Mexico Project for Financial Literacy, pose for a graduation photo on May 4, 2009 at the Learning Resource Center in Bernalillo, N.M.
photo credit: Shawn Abeita

Assets, collateral, market value and principle. As recently as 10 years ago these financial terms did not mean a whole lot to tribal members in New Mexico. Today, these financial terms are sweeping across tribal lands throughout the Land of Enchantment. Financial literacy is reaching Native Americans in New Mexico through internal and external sources.

“Financial literacy is a subject that has bypassed us a lot,” Marvin Ginn, director of tenant services for the Pueblo of Laguna Housing Authority said. “Financial literacy is important for everybody.” This is why the Pueblo of Laguna Housing Authority serves as an internal financial literacy source which is reaching out to tribal members in New Mexico. Ginn said educating Native Americans about responsible financial decision making needs to be done because if tribal members are financially literate they will become financially responsible.

The Laguna Housing Authority offers two financial literacy classes per year and is looking into offering the class on a quarterly basis in the near future. Ginn said with subsidized housing limited, financial planning is even more crucial for tribal members to qualify for home loans on tribal lands. “Tribal members must be accustomed to mortgages.” Ginn said. In Pueblos where internal financial literacy classes are not offered, tribal members are seeking external sources to learn about financial literacy.
The tribes are turning toward the New Mexico Project for Financial Literacy.

The six-year-old project, based in Albuquerque, N.M. was founded by Vicki Van Horn, who is the executive director and a CFP. Van Horn said the organization employs certified financial planners to teach a wide variety of financial education topics to individuals and businesses throughout New Mexico. “We are values based and client centered,” Van Horn said.

Van Horn also mentioned that with a down economy the project is thriving.
“(There is) a lot of interest in the classes offered,” she said, “and more urgency in the individuals signing up for the classes, even though we are teaching the same things as before.” Van Horn added that she has noticed an increase in the Native American participation in the classes taught. She recalled a recent graduating class with participants from Santa Ana, San Felipe and Santo Domingo.

Jay and Rachel Sanchez, both of Santo Domingo Pueblo, are among the recent graduates of the financial literacy class. Because financial literacy classes were not available in their Pueblo, they enrolled in and completed the financial literacy class offered by the New Mexico Project for Financial Literacy. The couple said they were looking to expand their jewelry business, so they enrolled in the class. “(We wanted to) learn financial management," said Jay Sanchez. Sanchez said based on the money-saving concepts he learned in the class he hopes to better his business.

Another student of the financial literacy class is Micah Esquibel of San Felipe Pueblo.
Esquibel said he took the class in hopes of reaching his goal of homeownership.
“This class is very helpful,” he said. “I learned how to save money, build wealth and better money management skills.”  Not to mention the handful of financial terms he walked away with.



Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 4; Issue 1; May 2009, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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