‘Everything starts with place’
Banking support has given Wells Fargo a role in successful Native American and Alaska Native community-building efforts.
In addition to committing $50 million over five years to supporting Native American communities, Wells Fargo has also supported the business of building up Indigenous communities to remember and honor the tribes and people who are traditional stewards of the land.
“By working with community builders in Indigenous communities, including tribal entities and local organizations, Wells Fargo supports the enduring spirit of Native American and Indigenous people,” said Dawson Her Many Horses, Native American business leader for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking. “It’s a privilege to be a part of the economic success that will continually propel them forward.”
As part of the “Working for Generations” campaign during Native American Heritage Month, Wells Fargo is putting a spotlight on its work with the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona and the Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Alaska, two groups that are making a difference in traditionally Native American and Alaska Native communities.
An anchor for the revitalization of an Alaskan community
Carol Gore, president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, or CIHA, grew up in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, Alaska, homeland to the first residents of the Cook Inlet region.
In the late 1970s, after construction of a pipeline caused an economic boom and quick population surge, followed by a sharp decline in work opportunities resulting from a steep decline in oil prices, many Mountain View dwellings went into a steady decline. The landscape became dominated by substandard rental housing owned by absentee landlords, and the neighborhood suffered from high crime rates and commercial disinvestment.
As the Tribally Designated Housing Entity for the Cook Inlet region, CIHA focused reinvestment in affordable housing in Mountain View beginning in 2000. They also began partnering with local businesses to help address the disinvestment in the once thriving commercial corridor of the neighborhood.
Gore recalls that Wells Fargo was one of the first financial institutions to realize that the neighborhood had “good bones.” CIHA has long been a banking client, and Wells Fargo served as a low-income housing tax credit investor early in the Mountain View revitalization effort.
“We looked at one home at a time, one building at a time, one family at a time. And we knew that over time that would make a big difference in this community and really to the neighborhood as a whole.” — Carol Gore, president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority
The Mountain View revitalization was one of CIHA’s first major ventures under Gore’s leadership, and has become federally recognized as a model for a community-centric approach.
“The framework we worked with is something I learned from my mother,” said Gore, who is of Unangan/Aleutian descent. “It’s the firm belief that everyone matters, and everything starts with place. This belief allows us to bring our compassion, our innovation, and our value system to the table, and serve at a community level. We need to respect the place. If we do that, we will do the right things for the people who are there.”
CIHA approached the neighborhood revitalization effort by listening to residents, talking with municipal employees to identify problematic structures, and working to preserve the aspects residents most enjoyed.
“We engaged really with a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer,” said Gore. “We looked at one home at a time, one building at a time, one family at a time. And we knew that over time that would make a big difference in this community and really to the neighborhood as a whole.”
From the initial demolition of blighted structures to the construction of single-family homes, duplexes, and triplexes, a major revitalization soon took hold, including welcoming green spaces, an influx of small businesses, reinvestment in the local schools, a municipal library branch, and the ongoing comeback of community pride.
Supporting a clear vision for economic success
In 2007, the Hualapai completed the three-year process of building the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped structure that extends more than 70 feet past the Grand Canyon walls. They now share the gift of their natural surroundings with the scores of tourists that visit the region every year.
“It is a tourism experience that respects Hualapai culture and the spiritual and natural gifts of the canyon while giving tourists from all over the globe an up-close look at one of the most awe-inspiring views known to man,” said Ruby Steele of Grand Canyon Resort Corporation.
“The guests who have walked on Skywalk have helped us create hundreds of jobs and an entire economy.” — Ruby Steele, Grand Canyon Resort Corporation
The Skywalk helps provide economic support for the Indigenous community. With its tribal headquarters in Peach Springs, Arizona, far from a metropolitan area, and no casino operations, the Hualapai operate the Skywalk and related destinations as a primary revenue source.
“The guests who have walked on Skywalk have helped us create hundreds of jobs and an entire economy,” Steele said.