President Clinton today will address about 850 bankers, Native American leaders, and state officials at a conference to encourage lending and economic development on tribal lands.
Julie L. Williams, acting comptroller of the currency, also will urge more Native American tribes to operate their own financial institutions.
Only six tribes have established national banks, Ms. Williams said in an interview this week, a process made difficult because Native American tribes often must adapt their legal and court systems to allow regulation by federal banking supervisors.
"We must distinguish their sovereignty as a nation from our need to ensure the safety and soundness of every institution," she said.
To help Native American communities launch or acquire national banks, the OCC issued guidelines Wednesday for tribal ownership.
The conference is sponsored by the White House and 11 federal agencies, including the Treasury Department.
At a separate meeting on tribal lending this week in Albuquerque, Ellen S. Seidman, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, said regulators are increasingly adding lending on Native American lands to banks' Community Reinvestment Act obligations.
"Lenders can no longer ignore tribal lands because of the perceived difficulties or lack of lending opportunities," Ms. Seidman said in a speech Wednesday. "If financial institutions have federal reservation lands within their lending markets, they need to learn to serve them."