Three Indigenous Community Development Financial Institutions recognized for their compelling strategies for financing change in their communities


NORTHAMPTON, MA/ACCESSWIRE/October 20, 2022/ Rooted in Indigenous culture and history, Indigenous Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) provide access to equitable and affordable finance in Indian Country, where mainstream finance traditionally fails to reach. Last night, three Indigenous CDFIs – Akiptan, Haa Yakaawu and Nimiipuu Fund – were honored by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), Oweesta Corporation and Wells Fargo with the 2022 Native CDFI Awards.

“Indigenous CDFIs unlock economic opportunities through innovative financial products, advanced capacity building efforts, and deep relationships with their respective tribal communities,” said Chrystel Cornelius, President and CEO of Oweesta Corporation. “It is an honor to recognize these Indigenous CDFIs who are deeply involved in their communities to fund change.”

Launched in 2019, the National Indigenous CDFI Awards recognize Indigenous CDFIs for creating economic opportunity and promoting wealth creation within their tribal communities.

“Indigenous-led CDFIs strengthen Indian country,” said Dawson Her Many Horses, senior vice president and head of Native American banking at Wells Fargo. “We are proud to recognize Akiptan, Haa Yakaawu and Nimiipuu Fund for their tireless efforts to reduce inequality by rolling out financial products that support housing, small businesses, food production, and more.

The laureats

This year, two Indigenous CDFIs are honored with Catalyst Awards, which support compelling strategies to help tribal communities overcome barriers to economic development and access to capital. The Catalyst Awards come with a $150,000 grant.

Akiptan, Inc. is a Certified Indigenous CDFI whose mission is to connect Indigenous agricultural producers with the capital and other resources they need to succeed. Based in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Akiptan will use the grant to increase staff and develop new financial literacy tools for agricultural producers, as well as design a learning game for youth-focused financial literacy.

“Receiving the Native CDFI Catalyst Award is incredibly exciting and humbling,” said Skya Ducheneaux, CEO of Akiptan. “It is recognition that Akiptan’s hard work is paying off and that we are truly making a difference in Indian Country. The award provides an opportunity to not only expand our reach to more indigenous agricultural producers, but also to tell our story and share our successes with other indigenous CDFIs, as well as broader CDFIs and financial industries.”

Haa Yakaawu, based in Southeast Alaska, promotes self-sufficiency among citizens and tribal organizations through home ownership. With the Catalyst Award, Haa Yakaawu will expand a suite of home loans tailored to the needs of Indigenous families. In a region where geography can be a barrier, Haa Yakaawu will build its mortgage pipeline by providing in-person lending counseling and technical assistance to borrowers in small Alaskan villages.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be recognized nationally for our support of Alaskan Native home ownership,” said Jacqueline Pata, President and CEO of Tlingit Haida Regional. Housing Authority, which partners with Haa Yakaawu and represents 12 of the 19 tribal communities in the area.

“CDFIs are always strained by our limited funds for operations. The award presents us with a tremendous opportunity to expand our operations so that we can reach more tribal communities in some of the most remote areas in the southeast of Alaska,” Pata said.

The Nimiipuu Fund was recognized with a Seed Award, given to an emerging Indigenous CDFI with a strategy showing exciting potential for success and impact. The Nimiipuu Fund promotes economic growth, while embracing the cultural values ​​of the Nez Percé Reserve and surrounding communities. With the $75,000 grant, CDFI will launch a home rehabilitation loan product to address the need for quality affordable housing.

“This award will allow us to expand our current line of loan products to meet the needs of our community,” said Jonelle Yearout, Managing Director of the Nimiipuu Fund. “Our CDFI is working to improve the housing stock and the quality of life on the reserve.”

“Indigenous CDFIs have a deep understanding of their communities. With determination and unwavering commitment, they seek creative and innovative ways to meet the capital needs of their people,” said OFN Interim President and CEO Beth Lipson. “This year’s recipients are leading the way and creating real change for Indian Country, and I extend my sincere congratulations to them.”


About OFN

Opportunity Finance Network is a leading national network of more than 370 Community Development Financial Institutions, specialty lenders that provide responsible financial products and services to low-income rural, urban and Indigenous communities nationwide. As a trusted intermediary between CDFIs and the public and private sectors, OFN works with its partners – banks, philanthropies, corporations, government agencies and others – to create economic opportunity for all by strengthening and investing in CDFIs.

Wells Fargo, Thursday, October 20, 2022, Image from press release

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