Native360’s Pete Upton joined Native American leaders from across the country Nov. 28-29, 2018, for the Native CDFI Network’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Upton is executive director of Native360 Loan Fund Inc., and chairman of the board of directors of the Native CDFI Network. The annual event brings together Native community development financial institutions, traditional lenders, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and policy makers.

The Native CDFI Network is a member organization, formed in 2009, to unify Native CDFIs serving Native trust land communities, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. The Native CDFI Network’s mission is to be a national voice and advocate that strengthens and promotes Native CDFIs, creating access to capital and resources for Native peoples.

The Native CDFI Network’s Annual Conference allows participants to engage in dynamic sessions and visit with congressional leadership on Capitol Hill. It is part of the national CDFI organization’s goal of expanding capital, training and resources available for native-owned businesses as wells as home ownership, Upton said.

“Most of the work done by Native CDFI professionals across the country occurs right in our own back yards,” Upton said. “But once a year, we travel to Washington, D.C., and share our collective successes and challenges. It really is invaluable and there is a lot of sharing that goes on.”

“The Native CDFI Network seeks to create opportunities to share our stories, identify our collective priorities, and strengthen our industry — making sure our political leaders in Washington understand the good work we do,” he added. “Native CDFIs help provide financing to start new Native businesses, provide home ownership loans, plus other financial products and strengthen the Native communities they serve. We really do change lives.”

There are more than 70 certified Native CDFIs today, there were only two 20 years ago. These fledgling organizations, while full of deep passion to increase assets and wealth among their people, face many challenges to achieving success.

“As a strong national network, the Native CDFI Network empowers our members to engage our best ideas, connect to one another, and collectively tell the success stories that foster systemic and sustainable Native community and economic development, Upton said.