"For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all."

-John F. Kennedy in
the introduction to The American Heritage Book of Indians

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Western Sky Financial: Take Two

Over 8 months ago I saw a TV commercial that got my attention.  It was for Western Sky Financial, one of those payday loan services that promises to lend you money almost instantly.  The catch of course is you pay upwards of 194% interest.

Here is the original post...

"Get Cash Fast" Indians

...and a brief look at the commercial:

Here's a longer version with a little bonus racist commentary:

I decided to re-visit this topic because of the attention it has received not only on this blog but across the internet.  The Native American content of the advertisement has provoked strong reactions ranging from racist to thoughtful and reasonable.

Most people concentrate on the financial aspect of the advertisement (source):

"Nothing like preying on people at there most desperate."

"Hey at least he's honest on the TV commercial (it's not cheap)"

But many others focus right in on the Indian angle (source):

"It was still nice to see a Native American business advertisement."

"I think America needs to realize that Indians, as they call us, will be an economic force that every nation and creed will be coming to us for mortgages, loans, cars, and whatever other business "Indians" stereotypically did not conquer in the past"

"it's not rocket science. You get approved, and once again your in debt. The reservation has it's own laws. They can do any thing they want."

"lol, well if there not in the US can you take the money and not pay it back?"

I was particularly disheartened at the large number of completely ignorant comments:

"Do they come by with peace pipes when a person doesn't pay them?" (source)

"Great Spirit say time to take advantage of the white man." (source)

"interest rate soar like eagle." (source)

"Gives new meaning to 'getting scalped'" (source)

"F*ckin' Indians..." (source)

Once again, America has proven it's wonderful track record of peace, tolerance, and understanding with Native Americans. Even when confronted with a tasteful advertisement of a man wearing a business suit, the mere mention of Native America provokes the worst sort of reactions among my fellow citizens.

Even when someone starts to write a reasonable comment they completely lose it in the end (source):

"Hey, it's not like we forced them to leave their lands, committed what is essentially mass genocide, broke treaties (which are contracts), killed their sources of food, spread highly infectious & deadly diseases amongst their animals and people, or did highly devious trades with them.. Anyway, I noticed that the APR is clearly printed at the bottom.. 139%.. lmao.. but for payday companies, that's fairly low. It's still rape."

There is one additional angle to this story that is definitely worth mentioning.  At least two sets of comments claim that this enterprise may not be what it seems.

Here is jneen commenting on the original blog posting (source):

"I am Native American,Seneca, these guys requested a copy of my Father's bank statement,driver's license. If he had gotten the loan at 199% interest,I would have paid it off. Thank-God he was turned down because of his age and credit. Yes,they do make a credit check. Also it is a loan company in California,that you deal with. The Sioux "outsourced". This is a scam,using Native people as a cover. I doubt very seriously if the Sioux will see one cent of any profit made from this company."

and user briankjohn over on youtube (source):

"This is BS!!! These guys are not Indian, they do this crap all over the country, and are currently being sued in West Virginia where the Attorney General has demanded that they stop doing business in WV."

briankjohn was probably referring to this news release from the West Virginia Attorney General's office (source):

"Today Attorney General Darrell McGraw continued his effort to curb illegal activities of payday lenders by filing two lawsuits against 12 Internet payday lenders and their collection agencies."

It does not list Western Sky Financial among the 12 Internet payday lenders.

I did find the Western Sky Financial listing on the Better Business Bureau website which lists their address as Timber Lake, South Dakota.  This backs up the claim that they are indeed a "Native American-owned business operating within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation."

So is Western Sky Financial just a front for a California based loan company which uses Native people as cover as jneen claims above or is Western Sky Financial a legitimate Native business that simply outsources to the California company?

I'm inclined to believe the latter but there is a bigger story in this whole mess.  Regardless of the origins of this company, the comments popping up across the internet prove one thing- just how far we still have to go.



  1. why do you suppose the native amerikans are still called INDIANs ..and thhis is in an official context ...
    in the US census form Amerindian is defined as indigenous amerikan...so the term indian is synonymous with Indigenous ...but etymologically the word is related to indigens : which means poor , needy and destitute..
    if u can get ur hands on the latin version of sublimus dei , u might be able to decipher the word INDIAN

    1. In a statement obtained by Bloomberg, the company insisted that as a Native American-owned company, it's subject only to the laws and jurisdiction of its tribe. Curiously, its website also says that its loans aren't available to residents of 22 states, including New York -- a statement that seems at odds with the Attorney General's contention that it had made loans to nearly 18,000 New York state residents.

  2. I wonder if this is the same company I covered here:


  3. My boyfriend and I saw the commercial, and thought the rates on the $2,000 loan were not that bad, with only a $75 fee.
    My boyfriend gets VA Disability, and SSI every month, so we are not desperate for the money, we just wanted to consolidate some bills after an expensive move, having to get a washer and dryer, and bed.
    So, we apply for a loan with Western Sky, this was one of THE biggest mistakes we have ever made.
    The representatives were all EXTREMELY rude, they kept having us jump through hoops like a circus clown, saying they needed this, that, and the other thing, instead of being upfront about everything they needed-they may be upfront with their fees but they are NOT upfront with the requirements.
    We tried to speak to a supervisor multiple times, we were hung up on multiple times,even after we told TWO reps. to cancel our application, they still pursued us, avoid this place like the PLAGUE! The do not deserve ANYONE'S business the way they treat people!

  4. I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where I study modern U.S. and Canadian social and cultural history. I specialize in issues of myth, memory, and representation concerning indigenous peoples and the North American fur trade. In an effort to bring attention to these topics and put my thoughts into writing, I have started blogging. I hope you appreciate the resultswww.needrapidcash.com

  5. these are not payday loans! these loan interest are too high so people taking such loans will get into debt for a long long time. so owners from western sky should warn people about their sky interest rates before anyone applies for their cash advance.

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