As printed in the Argus Leader…

Juel Burnette left Wells Fargo & Co. last year after a 23-year career with a specific focus as the Sioux Falls branch manager of 1st Tribal Lending.

“We’re a mortgage company that’s focusing on providing home loans and homeownership opportunities to Native Americans on and off the reservation nationwide,” Burnette said.

Burnette wasn’t alone. The other three loan officers are former Wells Fargo employees, all of whom have years of experience working together in lending to Native Americans.

The office of 1st Tribal Lending, a division of Mid America Mortgage, is at 1300 W. 57th St.

“The beauty of this was our clientele came with us I think due to experience, so we didn’t have a big loss there,” said loan officer Eric Sprenkle. “The tribes, they reached out to us and wanted to continue to do business with us. They have a trust in us … because of that experience we have.”

The Sioux Falls branch of 1st Tribal Lending is the easternmost branch for the lender, which specializes in using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program. Other branches are in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Oklahoma.

The program was created in 1992 as a way to remedy the lack of home loans to Native Americans.

“There weren’t a lot of lenders out there that were participating in bringing mortgage capital to Indian Country, specifically on the reservation,” Burnette said, “so this was the government’s way of trying to entice lenders to open up their doors.”

The program enables lenders to give loans for land held in tribal trusts and allows lenders to give loans not just to tribal members but also to tribes and tribal housing authorities.

“It’s unique in that way that it’s the only program that allows a non-individual to be the borrower,” Burnette said. “We’ve done several projects for tribes and tribal housing authorities, so they can provide homes to their tribal membership also. They typically do that to help those families that aren’t quite ready today or if they just want to build on their current rental stock they have or add to it.”

And Native Americans don’t need to live on tribal lands to take advantage of the program.

“It’s open up to the entire state of South Dakota, and there’s some misconception about that because a lot of lenders and tribal members think you have to be on the reservation in order use the program, and that’s not the case,” Sprenkle said. “If you’re a Native American here in Sioux Falls, you can utilize the program.

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