a Tribe-owned and operated CDFI in Northeast Oklahoma
Recently we’ve been featuring Native-owned banks on our blog because they serve an extremely important function in the financial well-being of Native tribes here in the United States. Traditional banks tend not to open branches in places accessible to the Indigenous people who live in rural and low-income areas. For many reasons, the most unbanked demographic in the country is Native. To learn more about the specific difficulties Indigenous people in this country face when trying to obtain financial services, read our article on Native American banking and why it matters.
Although Oklahoma is predominately white, the second largest population is Native American, with nearly 10% of Oklahomans identifying as Native in the 2010 census. Almost all of this group is of the Cherokee Tribe. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that most of Eastern Oklahoma would be given to the tribes living there, and the Northeast corner of the state is now all technically classified as Cherokee Nation territory. It only seems fitting that this area also has its own Cherokee-owned banking institution.
Local Bank has been operating in the region since 1907, changing ownership in 1996 but remaining Native owned and operated. They were previously called Bank of Cherokee County, but rebranded to Local Bank in 2023. They have five locations in Tahlequah, Park Hill, Grove, Sallisaw and Hulbert. They’re the only bank in Hulbert, a town with nearly a 50% Native population, and this location is their original branch and their headquarters. According to their website, they invest 95% of deposits back into Cherokee County.
This Better Banking Option is a CDFI, an MDI, and the first option that comes up when you search Tahlequah in our search engine. Local Bank does a significant amount of quality lending, with about 40% of their lending going to housing. They offer both online and mobile banking options, so even those who don’t live in the area can invest in the Cherokee Nation through their deposits.
If you live in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Alabama, you may be living on land that belonged to Cherokee people since at least A.D. 1000. A deposit in Local Bank becomes available to Cherokee people today in the form of bank loans and services—a gesture that acknowledges on whose land we live.
Check out their website to move your money today. Search “Native” on our blog to find other Native-owned Better Banking Options.
This article was edited in 2023 to reflect their name change and new branch locations.