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The list of fiscally-sound, shovel-ready economic development projects in Indian Country is long. What’s always in short supply is available capital to finance development. Minnesota-based Indian Land Capital Company (ilcc.net) was formed to help address that need. Founded in 2005 by the nonprofit Indian Land Tenure Foundation (iltf.org), ILCC is a Certified Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides flexible financing to tribes and tribal enterprises.

As a Native-owned and operated entity, ILCC understands the challenges of doing business in tribal communities and creates customized, flexible loan packages that suit the specific needs of the tribe and the unique circumstances of the purchase. Working with ILTF, ILCC also provides technical assistance to tribes as they develop and execute land acquisition strategies.

ILCC’s goals are clear: To help Native nations recover, manage and gain jurisdiction over 90 million acres of alienated land; consolidate undivided interests in land with fractionated ownership; eliminate ‘checkerboarding,’ (mixed patterns of land ownership and jurisdictions) on Indian reservations; and help strengthen tribal communities and sovereignty.

Lending on ‘full faith and credit’

A diverse economy is crucial to the future vitality of tribal communities. Tribes are engaged in a variety of innovative projects in the new economy – the carbon credit and financial services markets, for example – as well as sound investments in farming, ranching, manufacturing and recreation. 

ILCC recognizes tribes as sovereign nations and lends to them in a way that respects their sovereign status. The organization understands that tribes are sophisticated, credit-worthy political and economic entities that represent good business opportunities. ILCC also knows the importance of reacquiring land for cultural preservation, purchases that can be very difficult to finance through traditional lending institutions, while ensuring that the land remains in the hands of the tribe in perpetuity. 

Unlike traditional lending institutions, ILCC lends to tribes based on “full faith and credit” meaning that the land doesn’t need to be used as collateral for the loan. This enables tribes to process land purchases more quickly and efficiently while avoiding costly legal fees. It also minimizes complications during the fee-to-trust process for the land. 

Making an impact in tribal communities

One of ILCC’s biggest challenges historically has been acquiring enough capital for its lending pool to meet the needs in Indian Country. In recent years, however, investment by banks, philanthropic funds and other organizations has significantly grown that capacity. As a result, many more projects have been financed in recent years, from meat processing facilities and buffalo ranching in the Dakotas to commercial development in the Pacific Northwest, to sawmill operations in the Midwest, and many more. 

ILCC’s long-term impact on tribal communities has been significant. For the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians in California, for example, the impact of recovering nearly 700 acres of their traditional homelands on the Pacific Ocean has been immense. “This acquisition would not have been possible without the assistance of ILTF and ILCC,” said Kashia Tribal Chairman Reno Keoni Franklin. “Not only did they play a major financial role in our acquisition of the property, they also provided valuable advice and were a strong voice of empowerment for us when we doubted if we could complete the purchase.”

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