Rooted in Native culture and history, Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide access to fair, affordable funding in Indian Country, where mainstream finance does not traditionally reach. Three Native 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.
“Native CDFIs open avenues for economic opportunity 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 native CDFIs who are reaching deep into their communities to finance change.”
Launched in 2019, the national Native CDFI Awards recognize Native CDFIs for creating economic opportunity and promoting wealth building within their tribal communities.
“Native-led CDFIs make Indian Country stronger,” 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 inequities by deploying financial products that support housing, small business, food production, and more.”
This year, two Native CDFIs are recognized 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 Native CDFI whose mission is to connect Native agricultural producers with 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 award to increase staff and develop new financial literacy tools for agricultural producers, as well as design a youth-focused financial literacy learning game.
“Receiving the Native CDFI Catalyst Award is incredibly exciting and humbling,” said Akiptan Executive Director Skya Ducheneaux. “It’s an acknowledgement that Akiptan’s hard work is paying off, and we are really making a difference in Indian Country. The award presents an opportunity not only to expand our reach to more Native agricultural producers, but also to tell our story and share our successes with other Native CDFIs, as well as the broader CDFI and financial industries.”
Southeast Alaska-based Haa Yakaawu fosters self-sufficiency for tribal citizens and organizations through homeownership. With the Catalyst Award, Haa Yakaawu will expand a home loan package tailored to meet the needs of Native families. In a region where geography can be a barrier, Haa Yakaawu will build its mortgage loan pipeline by bringing in-person loan counseling and technical assistance to borrowers in small Alaska villages.
“It’s an extraordinary honor to be nationally recognized for our support of Native Alaskan homeownership,” said Jacqueline Pata, president and CEO of Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority, which partners with Haa Yakaawu and represents 12 of the region’s 19 tribal communities.
“CDFIs are always strained by our limited funds for operations. The award offers a tremendous opportunity for us to expand our operations so we can reach more tribal communities in some of the most remote areas of Southeast Alaska,” Pata said.
Nimiipuu Fund was recognized with a Seed Award, given to an emerging Native CDFI with a strategy showing exciting potential for success and impact. Nimiipuu Fund promotes economic growth, while embracing the cultural values of the Nez Perce Reservation and surrounding communities. With the $75,000 grant, the CDFI will launch a home rehabilitation lending product to meet the need for quality affordable housing.
“This award will allow us to expand our current suite of loan products to address what our community needs,” said Jonelle Yearout, executive director of Nimiipuu Fund. “Our CDFI is working to improve the housing stock and quality of life on the reservation.”
“Native CDFIs have deep knowledge of their communities. With determination and steadfast commitment, they seek creative and innovative ways to meet the capital needs of their people,” said Beth Lipson, interim president and CEO of OFN. “This year’s award recipients are leading the way and creating real change for Indian Country, and I offer them my most sincere congratulations.”