Opinion: Asserting sovereignty over tribal finances
"Let’s pause to consider a few lessons for Indian country from the global economic crisis.

First, Wall Street cannot be trusted to manage its own, let alone another’s, cash and risk. Private insurers like AIG that purport to protect tribes against financial loss, and imminent threats to Indian sovereignty, cannot be trusted with that responsibility. Just last month, those insured by the First Nations program were notified to find new insurance because it was without sufficient liquidity to continue operations.

Second, although the U.S. recently allocated $3 billion for tribal economic stimulus, it channeled those funds through broken BIA and state block grant delivery systems, which will delay its infusion into reservation economies.

Third, many tribes stand ready, willing and able to manage their own finances and risk. Notwithstanding, most tribes continue to rely on outsiders to do so, like private insurers that tribes pay $250 to $300 million in insurance premiums annually for financial “protection.” That quarter-billion dollars leaves the reservation every year, never to return.

With all of that in perspective, what if tribes could harness and reinvest that money in premiums they expend annually? Cease paying tens of millions of dollars to private insurers for states taxes? Reassert control over their financial and risk management? More directly defend against attacks on Indian sovereignty? And, almost immediately create new wealth and jobs back home?

Indian country stands ready to do all of the above. Yes we can, and should."

Get the Story:
Gabriel S. Galanda and James L. Robenalt: Holding big insurance captive (Indian Country Today 5/11)