Community Dividend

Federal Reserve Governor Meyer visits Ninth District Indian reservations

An interview with Federal Reserve Governor Laurence H. Meyer, who visited two Minnesota Indian reservations in May 1998.

David Fettig | Editor
Margaret Tyndall | Community Affairs Manager

Published July 1, 1998  | July 1998 issue

Authors' note: On May 20, Federal Reserve Governor Laurence H. Meyer visited two Minnesota Indian reservations to discuss economic development with leaders of the reservation communities.

At the Mille Lacs Reservation near Onamia, Governor Meyer was welcomed by tribal Chief Executive Officer Marge Anderson, who led a meeting with tribal officials and staff members at which a wide range of economic issues were discussed. At the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet, Meyer, tribal Chairman Robert "Sonny" Peacock and other officials and staff members engaged in a dialogue about the economic outlook for tribes.

Governor Meyer also met with lenders from Cloquet-area financial institutions to discuss issues and opportunities relating to lending in Indian Country.

The Region, a quarterly publication of the Public Affairs Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, recently interviewed Governor Meyer and discussed his visit to Minnesota's Indian Country. What follows is an excerpt of the article that will appear in the September 1998 issue of The Regionin which Governor Meyer discusses his visit.

Region: What was your impression of your trip to northern Minnesota, including visits to the Mille Lacs and Fond du Lac reservations?

Meyer: My recent area of specialization at the Board has been Consumer and Community Affairs because I chair the oversight committee for this area. When I travel to Reserve Banks, I usually try to visit with community nonprofit organizations, bankers and local government officials to learn about the success of banks—and private/public sector partnerships in which they participate—in facilitating affordable housing, small business lending and general economic development in low- and moderate-income communities.

Because the Ninth District has a large number of Indian reservations, we decided to use this opportunity to acquaint me with the special challenges of banks lending and providing financial services on Indian reservations. The two reservations I visited each had casinos and both had taken advantage of the revenues from the casinos to invest in community development projects. In one case, I visited a quite extraordinary elementary school—both high-tech and attuned to the cultural values of the tribe—as well as a health clinic that incorporated traditional healers with all the modern facilities. It was very interesting to see this blending of technology and long-standing cultural tradition. On the other reservation, I visited a very impressive community college. In both cases I met with the Indian leadership and bankers, and had a good opportunity to explore ways to facilitate more effective relationships between banks and the reservations.

Most of the time on these trips I'm looking at urban areas, and this is one of the first times that I've seen these challenges in more rural communities.

Region: Did you come away with any new insights?

Meyer: I think I understand better the need for a two-way education process. Bankers have to be better educated about tribal law and about how the tribal court systems work. Also, tribes need to be better educated about what banks need to make loans—on Indian reservations or anyplace else. There have to be, sometimes, adaptations that take place; we have to sit around the table and build those relationships so they work more effectively. As we all know, bankers do not like uncertainty, so what we need to do is find ways to reduce what they view are the special uncertainties having to do with misunderstanding and the variation from tribe to tribe of the legal systems.

In the complete interview, Meyer discusses a wide range of topics from his professional life as a member of the Board of Governors to current changes in the banking industry. To obtain the September 1998 issue of The Region, call Public Affairs at (612) 204-5255. The Regionis also available at