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The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) has published an open letter of commendation to Oprah Winfrey and Lisa Ling for the episode of Our America with Lisa Ling that recently aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Subtitled Life on the Rez, the program looked at the issues and people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The show met with mostly positive reactions from Natives, if the Twittersphere is any guide. Many of those watching said they felt Ling’s coverage was preferable to the job Diane Sawyer did on an episode of 20/20 that aired last fall.

Below is the full text of the letter issued by NAFSA:

An Open Letter from the Native American Financial Services Association to Lisa Ling and the Oprah Winfrey Network

Dear Ms. Ling and Ms. Winfrey:

We want to commend you on your recent episode of Our America with Lisa Ling, which highlighted the startling realities happening on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and throughout much of Indian country. This Our America episode illustrated to the rest of America what those of us who are active tribal members know all too well – that life in Indian country is riddled with a host of problems. Furthermore, these problems put at risk our culture, which has existed on this continent for thousands of years.

Reservations today face very serious and systemic problems that can only be addressed through economic development and job creation. Faced with untenable unemployment rates and extreme poverty on our lands, many of us do not benefit from the revenue streams that some tribes enjoy. Harsh geographic challenges, severe underdevelopment and dwindling populations make traditional business models unsustainable for many tribes.

Luckily, we have found one model that works – e-commerce. Through e-commerce, we are able to provide new and sustainable pathways to economic prosperity for tribes across the nation. By enabling tribes to pursue these new initiatives, we provide jobs and incomes to those in Indian country that need it most.

If, for any reason, these exciting new initiatives were to be threatened, the result would perpetuate the unforgiving cycle of poverty many tribes are facing. Recently, several tribes banded together to form the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) to address this issue and to ensure Native Americans are allowed to freely enjoy the economic independence which has evaded us for far too long. Through the protection of consumer rights and sovereign immunity, NAFSA allows tribal governments to serve the under-banked with better short-term financial services, furthering the economic development opportunities which have shown so much promise throughout Indian country.

Our efforts are already showing tremendous potential. Montana’s Rocky Boy reservation – home of the Chippewa Cree tribe – has benefited greatly from online financial services, providing hope for the reservation. We produced a short documentary on these efforts, which can be viewed at We hope you will take the time to see how we are proactively addressing the needs of our people.

We want to thank you again for highlighting this most troubling problem and for allowing us to shine a light on how it may be solved. We would welcome you on any of our reservations at any time to see how these problems are being addressed in a responsible manner.

Thank you again for your continued advocacy.


Barry Brandon

Executive Director, Native American Financial Services Association

About NAFSAThe Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) formed in 2012 to advocate for Native American sovereign rights and enable tribes to offer responsible online lending products. Through the protection of consumer rights and sovereign immunity, NAFSA provides vital services to tribally operated lenders serving the underbanked with better short term financial services, furthering economic development opportunities in Indian Country.

SOURCE Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA)