Sovereign Tribe Betting on Financial Education to Protect Youths’ Legacy
By Right About Money Staff Report
November 14, 2016
The casino operating Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin is betting big on financial education. Beginning this school year, tribal youth must take a financial education course in high school and pass a final exam before they get a piece of the Native Americans’ lucrative gambling business–a birthright for generations.
Until this year, tribal members had only to graduate and be 18 years of age to collect a share of gaming revenues. Those who did not graduate received their legacy at age 25.
Often called “18 money,” every young adult in the tribe gets up to $200,000, a one-time legacy that too many have frittered away in the past. “It’s important that they make sound financial decisions with that money because it doesn’t come around again,” says Michelle Cloud of the Ho-Chunk Department of Education.
The Ho-Chunk senior class numbers 320 this year and for the first time must complete online financial literacy coursework by spring. Students are required to take an initial test to set a baseline of financial knowledge, and then begin a curriculum that incorporates written and video components and covers a range of financial topics, including saving, investing, taxes, credit, retirement and consumer protection.
Upon passing their financial literacy exam, graduates receive their money. For the first time, those who have not graduated from high school also must take a course and pass it in order to receive their legacy at age 25.
The Ho-Chunk Nation is a sovereign government that operates revenue-generating businesses (both casinos and non-gaming businesses) to fund the needs of the tribal membership. The Nation also receives grants and loans to increase employment and develop their enterprises.
But while the Ho-Chunk’s new financial literacy requirement represents a pro-active move towards economic prosperity long-term, a general lack of financial knowledge among tribal nations nationally contributes to serious economic barriers. According to the last U.S. Census, the median income of Native Americans is about $35,000, compared to $50,000 for the nation as a whole, and 28% of Native Americans live in poverty, compared to 15.3% of the general population