American Indian Tribes to Congress: Respect Our Sovereignty

Chairperson of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Sherry Treppa

Chairperson of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Sherry Treppa

Published February 12, 2016

WASHINGTON – Appearing today before a House Financial Services Committee hearing examining the treatment of American Indians by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a key American Indian leader urged Congress to once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Indian Country to help ensure the CFPB respects the historic government-to-government relationships of federal entities and sovereign tribes with any rule they produce on short-term lending.

Sherry Treppa, Chairperson of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake offered impassioned testimony on the struggles her tribe has overcome through the centuries from staving off existential threats to ensuring economic self-sufficiency.   Chairperson Treppa said the tribe’s decision to enter into ecommerce short-term lending empowered her Nation to finally rebuild and transform its economy, education programs and the social services it provides to its most vulnerable members.

Now tribes like Chairperson Treppa’s are facing a possible threat to their economic vitality as the CFPB prepares to announce a new rule on short-term lending that may ignore the strict regulatory framework that her tribe and many other members of the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) have established to protect consumers.  Chairperson Treppa called on the CFPB to acknowledge the robust regulatory framework that her tribe and others created and operate within.

“In contrast to our experience working with other federal agencies as well as state and local governments, the CFPB has refused to engage in a meaningful dialogue about our shared interests and so far has shown little interest to work together, where necessary, as co-regulators,” said Chairperson Treppa.  I remain concerned that the CFPB is developing its proposed action in a vacuum without consulting with tribes to learn about the innumerable tools that we have developed to ensure that we conduct business in a manner that is fair, responsible, compliant and benefits our tribal members and the American consumer.”

She urged Congress to take an approach that respects tribal sovereignty and one that takes account of both consumer need and the robust self-regulation that sovereign tribes such as the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake have established.

Barry Brandon, Executive Director of NAFSA noted that Dodd-Frank, the legislation that created the CFPB, specifically assigns co-regulator status to tribal nations.

“As federally-recognized sovereign nations, NAFSA member tribes enact and operate under strict tribal lending laws that safeguard borrowers and regulate tribal businesses,” Brandon said.  “NAFSA is hopeful the CFPB’s rule will respect the status of tribal nations as co-regulators as specified by the Dodd-Frank Act, and ensure consumers remain protected while preserving the right of American families to access the financial products that they need.”

Both Chairperson Treppa and Brandon urged the Congress to help ensure that the CFPB does not ignore the special relationship the federal government has with tribes and engages in a meaningful dialogue about their shared interest in protecting consumers.

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