Although the Lakota Federal Credit Union has been opened for only four months, it already has $1.4 million in assets, 528 members, and the unique distinction of becoming the first ever federally insured financial institution to serve the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota’s Black Hills region.
Six credits unions from the Black Hills area, their employees and board members, as well as the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas and other dignitaries gathered in Kyle, S.D., last Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the newest member of the Dakota credit union family, the league said.
"It was a real pleasure to attend this special event and celebrate (just) the sixth new credit union chartered in the last six years,” said Robbie Thompson, president/CEO of CUAD. “Lakota Federal Credit Union is very much needed, and the cooperative ‘people helping people’ philosophy will serve this community well."
Whitney O’Rourke, manager of LFCU, welcomed U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who said, “People should be proud of the role that the credit union is playing in the Pine Ridge economy. Everyone deserves to have access to an insured financial institution, and this credit union can be another piece of the puzzle for this community.”
The credit unions that attended the grand opening were the $92 million Highmark FCU in Rapid City, the $49 million Northern Hills FCU in Sturgis, the $29 million Dakota Territory FCU in Deadwood, the $59 million Sentinel FCU in Ellsworth Air Force Base, the $43 million Rapid City Telco in Rapid City and the $980 million Black Hills FCU in Rapid City, the league said.
LFCU has opened about 600 new accounts. Many of these accounts were opened by Native Americans who otherwise do not have access to traditional banking services on the 2 million-acre reservation, according to CUAD. The new credit union has approved more than $350,000 in loans. According to CUAD, many of these loans will pay off high-cost payday or title loans.
The 2.7-million acre Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest regions in the U.S. with few natural resources and no industry, according to the American Indian Relief Council, a social services agency. Nearly 70% of the reservation’s residents live in poverty, according to the AIRC.