A Tribute to Our Heritage
Dentalium shells, both whole and segmented, served as valuable beads in extensive trade networks, acting as currency, adorning clothing, the body, and used in funerary practices within the Northwest Coast and interior Plateau cultural regions, spanning both prehistoric and ethnographic periods. Among the Nez Perce people, this shell was known as 'éx̣sex̣s (pronounced EHQH-sehqhs) or in Sahaptin, áx̣šax̣š (UHQH-shuhqhs) – referred to as Indian money tusk (Dentalium pretiosum). In a tribute to our heritage and as a bridge to the future, Nimiipuu Fund has integrated the dentalium or ’éx̣sex̣s into our logo, symbolizing the enduring legacy of commerce in Nez Perce culture.
Tackling today's challenges demands innovative thinkers with diverse perspectives and a willingness to embrace risks. Nimiipuu Fund was born from a commitment to inspire and uplift the community, valuing actions that make a real difference. Since our inception in 2013, we have been propelled by progressive ideas, daring initiatives, and unwavering support.
The Nez Perce Tribe conducted a comprehensive Market Analysis in 2011, highlighting the urgent need for financial services and investment to boost individual finances and business growth within the Nez Perce reservation. Recognizing this need, the tribe secured a Native American CDFI Assistance Program Technical Assistance award of $117,422 from the U.S. Treasury CDFI Fund in 2012. This crucial funding facilitated the establishment of Nimiipuu Community Development Fund (NCDF), a nonprofit organization with a 501(c)(3) status, dedicated to driving economic development on and around the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.
Chartered in 2013, NCDF received support from the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA) and Northwest Area Foundation, enabling the organization to provide financial opportunities and support business ventures. NCDF's mission is to promote self-sufficiency, self-determination, and enhance the well-being of community members. Since 2016, NCDF has been extending loans to local, tribal, and community entrepreneurs, fostering financial literacy and business acumen among its clients. By empowering tribal members with financial knowledge, NCDF aims to create a more economically resilient and self-reliant community.
In a significant milestone, NCDF became an independent entity in the summer of 2019, formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nez Perce Tribe. This strategic move aligns with NCDF's growth plan, enabling it to advance to the next level of CDFI certification. Alongside this transition, NCDF rebranded itself as "Nimiipuu Fund," marking a new chapter in its journey. Nimiipuu Fund is dedicated to fostering economic growth not only within the Nez Perce reservation but also in the traditional areas of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Through providing access to capital, financial education, and entrepreneurial support, the organization is committed to creating economic opportunities, nurturing entrepreneurial spirit, and preserving cultural values.