The American Indian gradually is coming into his own as an economic force and, for the past six years, the American Indian National Bank has been nurturing that growth.

Conley Ricker, new chief executive officer of the bank, said in a recent interview that "our goal is to reduce the Indian's dependence on the federal government, to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency and reduce their dependence on Uncle Sam."

Chartered in 1973, American Indian Bank's primary role is as a depository for and source of funds and government grants for financing a variety of Indian business ventures. The bank is owned by a group of tribes and Native American corporations as well as 365 individual Indian shareholders. There are about 200 to 400 tribes in the United States, 100 of which are potential customers, said Ricker, one of the two non-indians on the bank's board of directors.

Some of those sources of financing include lines of credit for Indian governments or businesses, advances against U.S. government contracts and loan guarantees by agencies of the federal government.

The bank's main office is in Washington and it has an office in Albuquerque, N.M., which handles and services loans. "We are located in one of the most dynamic and growing areas in the country," said Ricker, "and we will try to offer Washington residents our banking services." r

The bank provides services to various non-Indian groups as well, especially small businesses and non-profit organizations. Emphasizing its personalized service, the bank is pursuing more individual savings and checking accounts. It recently has expanded its data processing and operations capacity and offers such features as reconciliation services and comnbined statements. Overdraft checking accounts will soon be a feature.

"The service is unique," said Ricker. "We get to know our customers. There are no lines to get a check cashed."

To map out its strategy for the Washington area and to increase its loan and deposit business, the bank has set up an advisory council made up to individuals from government and the private sector.

Last year was the best ever for the bank, which had been struggling during its first five years. Earnings were $421,541, compared to an $885,435 loss in 1978. Both deposits and shareholder's equity were up from the previous year, and the bank strengthened its loan portfolio by liquidating non-performing loans and restructuring commercial and installment loans.