Tribal leaders need financial management skills to lead their nations in today’s increasingly complex global economy. Despite America’s diverse financial sector, the FDIC noted that 44.5 percent of Native people are unbanked or underbanked—almost double the national rate. The Treasury Department reported that in 2001, 86 percent of tribal lands lacked a single financial institution, including a simple ATM.
These stark realities—and the fact that tribal leaders face increasingly complex financial decisions—led NCAI to launch a partnership with the Stock Market Game in 2008 to develop the Tribal Exchange. The Exchange teaches valuable financial life skills and team building while facilitating inter-tribal connections for American Indian and Alaska Native students. The program is funded through a grant from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), which allows students attending BIE schools to participate in the program for free. Over 1,500 students have participated since the program’s inception.
The Tribal Exchange is a 10-week program that runs through the fall semester and is open to Native students in grades four through twelve. Students are organized in teams of school clubs or classes. We have received high participation from groups comprised of students and teachers/advisors in mathematics courses in their respective schools and increasing participation among extracurricular activities/clubs, including Boys & Girls Clubs. Teams are generally comprised of three to five students to ensure that all students play an important role in the decision-making processes of the game. Each team is given $100,000 in game money to invest in a stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The game rules specify that each team must have at least two stocks and one bond or mutual fund in their portfolio to be eligible. The team that increases the value of the investment most by the end of the game period wins.