In November, the U.S. observed National American Indian Heritage Month by celebrating traditions and contributions by Indigenous people. Yet, while there are 5.2 million people who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native – a 39 percent increase from 2000 – many continue to face severe inequalities. Today, we examine how one company is making efforts toward amending these historic and persistent inequities to invest in Indigenous communities.
At the end of last month, Bank of America announced that its 2021 racial equality and economic opportunity funding will include grants comprising of $3.3 million to organizations that provide crucial services to Indigenous people. They are also extending their work with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and EAB to support economic stability and institutional change at tribal colleges. Furthermore, to bolster access to water in Indigenous communities, the bank is launching a four-year, $1 million partnership with Water First, which will train young Indigenous adults for careers in water sciences. Andrew Plepler, Global Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at Bank of America explains that the company recognizes “that more needs to be done, and we continue to explore partnerships and expand our commitment to invest in Native American-owned small businesses, jobs development, and critical needs.”
Our research has found that 72 percent of individuals believe that financial institutions have a responsibility to address inequities in our financial system. Today’s example shows how brands in the financial services industry can start the process of empowering and giving back to America’s First Peoples. As President Joe Biden stated, our Nation cannot thrive “as long as inequities affecting Native Americans persist.”