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Investment options sought for Yurok Tribe settlement funds

December 18, 2007 by Nicholas Grube, Triplicate

KLAMATH — Now that Yurok Tribal members will receive the bulk of a $92 million settlement fund, a grassroots movement has formed to help those people invest that money.

On Wednesday, the Yurok Alliance for Northern California Housing will host an investment seminar in Klamath in an effort to provide different options and strategies for tribal members who wish to invest their share of the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Fund, which is approximately $15,500 each.

Executive Director of the Yurok Alliance, Jan Wortman, said this instant influx of money, if spent wisely, gives tribal members the opportunity to dramatically change their lives.

"This money, even though it's not a large sum, could be the basis for someone to have a strong financial future," Wortman said.

Representatives from New York Life and Chetco Federal Credit Union will be on hand to inform people of various investment options and personal finance options. Financial literacy materials will also be available.

"I think if you have the information," Wortman said of these financial resources, "you're going to make better, more informed decisions."

She said tribal members will also have the chance to learn about investing in the Yurok Alliance, which is an independent community development financial institute that is not a part of the tribal government. By investing in the community development financial institute, Wortman said, tribal members could pool their money together in a capital fund that would generate even more money.

"One of the exciting things is that because we are a non-profit ... we have the capacity to go out and get grants and matching funds," Wortman said. "If we had half a million dollars (from tribal members), then we could turn that into $4 million."

Ideas for how to use this money, Wortman said, include buying a business, in which everyone who invested owns a share and makes money off the profits. Another option could be creating a tribal lending institution, similar to a credit union, in that people combine their money and provide low interest loans to other tribal members.

Planning for these options, though, are still in the preliminary stages, Wortman said, and she hopes to get a better sense of what people want during the seminar.

But most importantly, she said she hopes people realize how important this money can be if even a portion is invested.

"You can have it all. You can do it all," she said. "Even though it is not a large amount of money ... you really can change your life with it."

Reach Nicholas Grube at ngrube@triplicate.com.

If You Go

•What: Yurok Alliance investment seminar and pot luck. Any member of the public is invited.

•When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

•Where: Yurok Tribal Office, Klamath.

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