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Lawmakers Discuss Tribal Businesses

Kealey Bultena

South Dakota lawmakers are examining economic issues facing Native Americans. Legislators have several months – and an election – before the new session begins, but they’re holding interim meetings and work sessions. Lawmakers on the State and Tribal Relations committee heard testimony Thursday about stimulating growth in Indian Country. But some businesses are attracting scrutiny.

Payday lending or cash advance businesses make relatively small, short-term loans. These companies operate across South Dakota, including on the state’s Native American reservations. Tanya Fiddler is the executive director of Four Bands Community Fund. She says many payday advance businesses charge exorbitant interest rates, and that’s bad for tribal communities.
"The solutions to it are tribes enacting consumer protection code," Fiddler says. "When you have sovereignty, what a wonderful opportunity to make laws to protect your people."

Fiddler says tribes must also help people gain personal finance skills. She says her organization finds many Native Americans borrow money from payday lenders in emergency situations.

Fiddler admits the payday lending industry presents a challenge, because the same companies that take advantage of people’s crises also create dozens of jobs.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).