Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition: Building self-sufficiency and prosperity (Guest Post: Christy Finsel)

ONACChristy Finsel is an enrolled tribal member of the Osage Nation and the Coordinator of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition.  She has been engaged in asset building research and program design and implementation since 2003. 

Oklahoma is home to thirty-nine federally recognized tribes and their citizens.  Through Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, tribes and Native non-profits are administering innovative Native asset building programs such as financial education, credit builder workshops, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance sites, and entrepreneurship training programs.  Our partners also offer homeownership assistance and foreclosure prevention, emergency savings programs, matched savings accounts, and children’s savings account programs.  

History and Mission of ONAC

ONAC staff and leadership team

Since 2007, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, known as ONAC, has represented a consortium of Oklahoma tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities.  ONAC has been coordinated and led by Native asset building practitioners.  The mission of our coalition is to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities through the establishment of comprehensive financial education initiatives, Individual Development Accounts, and other asset-building strategies.  While we believe that individual assets are important, we also are interested in simultaneously building family and community assets.

What Can ONAC Bring to the Table? 

ONAC provides free training and technical assistance to tribes in Oklahoma that wish to design and implement various asset-building programs.  Additionally, ONAC offers peer learning opportunities through conference calls, webinars, and convenings.  As a Native asset building coalition, ONAC also provides constituents with asset building resources, models, and strategies; an annual conference; a forum to talk about any tribal, local, state, or federal asset building policies; and opportunities to connect to Native and non-Native asset building practitioners in Oklahoma and around the country.  

In Spring 2014, ONAC offered first-ever mini grants for Native asset building projects.  The positive response to these grants from our constituents helped us document the need for more funding for Native asset-building projects in Oklahoma.  In the past year, we have prepared various resources related to Native Children’s Savings Account  (CSA) programs and are actively seeking funding for pilot CSA projects with our constituents.

Upcoming ONAC Conference


On July 15, 2014, ONAC will hold our annual conference at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.   All are welcome to attend.   In terms of those who may most benefit from participating, we think that Tribal leaders, Tribal program directors, Native nonprofit leaders, and Native asset building practitioners would benefit from the conference.  We also welcome researchers, state representatives, students, cultural advisors, policy organizations, and funders to join us to learn more about asset building in Native communities.  ONAC encourages financial institutions and their regulatory bodies, media, national asset-building organizations, Oklahoma nonprofits serving Native and non-Native populations, inter-tribal organizations, and representatives from various federal departments and agencies to attend. 

During the conference, we will share information about ONAC’s recent activities and honor our Advisory Committee Members.  We plan to hear from the Ford Foundation about the Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime Initiative; have time to listen to Representatives William Fourkiller and Bobby Cleveland provide state legislative updates in relation to tribes; and learn more about the Choctaw Native Promise Zone and what this means for Oklahoma. 

Our sessions allow participants to receive information from asset-building administrators from around the state about what is working with Native asset building and hear from the four ONAC mini grant awardees about their projects.  We will also offer time for updates from Native asset building resource partners such as First Nations Development Institute, the U.S. Small Business Administration, AARP, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, HUD, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and those assisting with the Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities Study.  In addition, we will have a session about the Duke University National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color Project.  One of the co-principal investigators from that project will share the Native data they gathered from Tulsa in their study.  We will then hear from Representative Seneca Scott about the issues he is hearing from his Native constituents in Tulsa.  We will end the day with a networking reception and membership drive.

The cost for the conference is $25.00 for the day.  For more information about the conference, please go to http://www.oknativeassets.org/2014conference.  If you have any questions about ONAC or the 2014 ONAC Conference, please contact Christy Finsel, ONAC Coordinator, at cfinsel@oknativeassets.org  

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The opinions stated in guest articles are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

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