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A document historic in the realm of Native American and First Nations finance was signed in Winnipeg, Canada on July 17. The Aboriginal financial institution Tribal Wi-Chi-Way-Win Capital Corporation (TWCC), is leading a group of Native American and First Nations-owned capital corporations to start a new Aboriginal-owned chartered bank in Canada. Through the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), indigenous groups from New Zealand, Canada and the United States are now working together on economic development, finance, and trade.

The MOU was signed by Tribal Wi Chi Way Win Capital Corp, NativeOne Financial Holding Company, Willapa Bay Enterprises Corporation (WBE), and Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust. The proposed chartered bank, which would operate on a stand-alone basis, is designed to better serve the growing financial needs of Canada’s Indigenous economy.

Brenda Zurba, TWCC director of sales and marketing, states that, “From 1996 to 2006, the Aboriginal population grew by 45 percent, which is nearly six times faster than the non-Aboriginal population grew during the same time period. TWCC is endeavouring to capitalize on these exciting demographic trends, our wealth of experience, and our success, to establish a new chartered bank to further develop and enhance the financial services provided to Aboriginal people.”

Helping to spearhead this historic signing is NativeOne Financial Holdings Company, the partner company of NativeOne Financial, NativeOne Energy, NativeOne Advisory, NativeOne Financial Canada, and NativeOne Institutional Trading.

NativeOne was co-founded in 2009 by Don Lyons, a member of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians of California. NativeOne’s mission is to level the financial playing field for all Native Tribes and Canadian First Nations and deliver the very best financial services to its institutional customers.

Jon Deacon Panamaroff, president & CEO of Willapa Bay Enterprises Corporation and advisory board member to NativeOne Financial Holdings, explains why this Memorandum of Understanding was so important.

“This MOU,” Panamaroff says, “shows our commitment to expanding economic development beyond our own Tribal borders, to engage in free trade with other indigenous people throughout the world.  The purpose and scope of the MOU is to articulate the joint aspirations of each of the parties to pursue mutually beneficial business relationships. In particular, this MOU was intended to establish formal business relationships between TWCC, NativeOne, WBE and Pukeroa with the vision to work collaboratively as Indigenous-to-Indigenous.”

TWCC would be the major shareholder in the proposed bank, and the idea is for initial capitalization to be about $25 million, allowing the proposed bank to lend about seven times that amount until after a proven track record is established. The charted bank will operate a full suite of banking services—deposit-taking, mortgage, business and personal loans, and wealth management.

Founded in 1993 with just three employees, TWCC has been a great success as a lending institution, and has made a huge impact in First Nations communities. In just under 20 years, TWCC has grown to 180 employees. TWCC has lent a total of $47 Million in loans from a $7 Million capital base. Out of that $47 million, 725 businesses have been started, and 2,250 jobs were created. TWCC has established a 230 percent revenue increase since 2006.

Tribal Wi- Chi- Way- Win is an Ojibwa phrase that means “helping ourselves” or “helping each other,” and this Aboriginal Financial Institution (AFI) has managed to do just that in a few short years. AFIs were conceived and developed by the Canadian Federal Government in 1988. Brenda Zurba, who is half Ojibwa and half Ukranian, says, “Unfortunately it was a flawed business model in the fact that it kept the Canadian AFIs dependent on government funding in perpetuity. Today, there is a network of about 57 AFIs and only a few are self-sufficient in terms of reliance on Government funding. TWCC is one of those few AFIs.”

TWCC has generated true independence largely through relationships with First Nations people and businesses—and now, with the MOU, with other Native American-owned and First Nations-owned capital corporations. “It is fitting because we helped ourselves to become self-sufficient,” Zurba adds, “and we help others as well.”

TWCC WBE NativeOne 615x384 Canada, U.S. and New Zealand Indigenous Groups to Start an Aboriginal Owned Chartered Bank in Canada

TWCC, WBE and NativeOne representatives at the July 17 MOU signing at TWCC's Winnipeg executive offices. (Courtesy TWCC)