OLIPP semifinalist For Harvard Award

By Nate Wisneski (nwisnes@oneidanation.org)

The tribe’s Oneida Life Insurance Plan Plus (OLIPP) is getting national attention as it was named a semifinalist for the Honoring Nations award from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Honoring Nations identifies, celebrates and shares excellence in American Indian tribal governance. At the heart of Honoring Nations are the principles that tribes themselves hold the key to generating social, political, and economic prosperity and that self-governance plays a crucial role in building and sustaining strong, healthy Indian Nations.

OLIPP provides all enrolled tribal citizens with a $15,000 life insurance benefit. Their beneficiary is free to use the tax-free benefit for final expenses, bereavement, debt reduction or however they choose. About 62 percent of eligible tribal members have beneficiary forms on file.

The OLIPP replaces a burial policy that paid a $5,000 benefit that wasn’t able to keep pace with inflation and provide a full benefit.

Out of a pool of diverse, remarkable and powerful programs, 18 programs were selected as semifinalists. These programs have demonstrated tremendous impact in their communities and evidenced great effectiveness, significance to sovereignty, transferability and sustainability – the criteria by which Honoring Nations assesses applicant programs. These programs will all be presented to the Board of Governors, and the Board will select six applicant programs to receive site visits. In October, the Honoring Nations Board will select three programs as High Honors and as many as three programs will be selected as Honors. Awarded programs provide models of success. By sharing their best practices, all governments – tribal and non-tribal alike – can benefit.

“Our destiny in is our hands. Being capable of directing our own future and defending the futures of our children and the futures of our nations is profoundly important. Honoring Nations understands this – and is a very, very positive program in Indian Country,” said Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Indian Nation and chairman of the Honoring Nations Board of Governors.

Honoring Nations is the flagship program of The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is a member of a worldwide family of governmental best practices awards programs. As the program’s Director, Megan Hill explains, “Honoring Nations recognizes innovative programs and initiatives operating throughout Indian Country and provides a unique opportunity for our nations to learn about and replicate these outstanding tribal governance success stories in their own communities.”