Lael Brainard: Financial inclusion and economic challenges in the shadow of the pandemic - a conversation with tribal leaders

Speech by Ms Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, at the Roundtable with Oklahoma Tribal Leaders, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 13 October 2021.

Central bank speech  | 
05 November 2021

I would like to join Esther George in expressing my appreciation to the leaders of tribal nations assembled here for this opportunity to listen and learn from this afternoon's conversation. I also want to thank Governor Anoatubby for hosting us. I am humbled to be here at the First Americans Museum, which is promoting a richer understanding of Native American history by sharing the cultural diversity, history, and resilience of the 39 Native nations of Oklahoma.

In addition to civic and cultural contributions whose impact reaches far beyond tribal lands, I want to recognize the important economic contributions Native American communities are making, despite daunting impediments that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By working together to address economic challenges and improving access to financial services, we can build a more inclusive economy that supports the economic potential of Native communities here in Oklahoma and across the country.

The COVID-19 Pandemic in Indian Country: Challenge and Resilience

Tribal nations have long been a critical source of economic opportunity and stability. For the U.S. economy overall, tribes provided over 1.1 million jobs prior to the pandemic. Here in Oklahoma, when looking at how the economic activity of tribes compares with different industries in the state, tribes would rank 9th in output, at over $7 billion, and 11th in job creation-greater than either the construction or utilities industries. By one estimate, tribal government activities supported nearly 100,000 jobs in the state and brought nearly $5 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers as of 2017. Oklahoma tribes also contributed nearly $43 million for the construction and maintenance of Oklahoma roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure that are used by all Oklahomans.