Indian Tribes And Pay-Day Loans

Indian Tribes have long been in the gambling business owning casinos in several states. Now in California they are getting into the pay-day loan business. Given their sovereignty they’ve been able to prevail over state authorities and unless the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gets involved, will continue to have their way. In some cases, it is possible that the tribes may be being paid by non-Indian lenders to offer the protection of their sovereign status so that the actual owners may avoid state regulations. There’s something sad and troubling about all this, as it was when the tribes chose gambling as a source of revenue. I remember the comment of a former professor, an African American very sensitive to the limited choices of all minorities given the extent of prejudice, “that’s all they had left.” Nonetheless I wish they could have made other choices. Although I believe in the right of individuals to beat to the sound of a different drummer, I find these choices at odds with the spiritual underpinning of Indian tribes. The lore of the elders is admired by so many as examples of wisdom, love or stewardship of the earth. There’s still poverty, despair and numerous problems on reservations and the wealth of the tribes has not helped everyone. Yet, even if I could understand the choice of gambling given the conditions that gave it rise and the fact no other business could have yielded such profits, it’s harder to understand involvement in pay-day loans, an industry known for many abuses and for preying upon those who are often the least able to repay.