About Us

Our Mission

First Nations Oweesta Corporation supports economic growth in Native American communities through the creation, development and capitalization of Community Development Financial Institutions.

Our Strategy

Native community development financial institutions directly provide Native American communities the tools and capital support required for real and sustainable job creation, small business development, commercial real estate development, affordable housing/home ownership while also offering basic banking services and financial literacy training to “underbanked” Native American communities who have been historically targeted by predatory lending practices.

Our Values

We Believe that When Armed with the Appropriate Resources, Native Peoples Hold the Capacity and Ingenuity to Ensure the Sustainable, Economic, Spiritual and Cultural Well-Being of Their Communities.”

About Oweesta

Our Staff


CORNELIUS, Chrystel (Oneida/Chippewa)
Executive Director

ARAGON, Evette (Cherokee/Iroquoian)
Administrative Office Manager


Director of Programs

HANSEN, Chris (Chippewa)
Training Coordinator


BIAS, Kristi - Oklahoma
Senior Advisor for Programs & Development




TRUMP, Emily
Lending and Compliance Manager


Chief Financial Officer


POWERS, Debbie
Staff Accountant


General Information and Administrationinfo@oweesta.org



Our Directors

First Nations Oweesta Board of Directors
First Nations Oweesta has a nine-member Board of Directors, all of whom are Native American. The board consists of a diverse representation of Indian Country, including different tribes, geographic areas, community and Native leaders, and business and professional representatives. Oweesta does not have an advisory board, but has advisory committees with board participation that provide input on different programs. The board recommends and appoints new members. The executive committee consists of the chairman, president, treasurer, secretary and heads of the various committees.

Michael E. Roberts

Tom Vigil

Marguerite Smith
Vice Chair

Shyla Sheppard

Donald Sampson

Chandra Hampson

Gelvin Stevenson

Benny Shendo, Jr.


 Susan Jenkins






Oweesta Timeline


1982- Policy research and community organizing begins for the development finance program later named Oweesta (from the Mohawk word for money), based on a conceptual blueprint in First Nations’ original planning documents.

1985- The Lakota Fund is founded; first micro-enterprise peer lending fund on a reservation; Study released of banking and access to capital on a reservation. First Nations begins to raise awareness in Indian Country of the Community Reinvestment Act, a law meant to end the credit redlining of financially under-served areas, including most reservations.

1986- The Oweesta Program and Fund is established, dedicated to addressing the critical lack of access to development capital and credit in Native communities; first model of Community Development Financial Institutions in Indian Country. On a continuing basis, First Nations participates in the emerging CDFI movement.

1988- First study of informal sector economic activity on a reservation, demonstrating micro-enterprise among tribal members.

1989- First annual Oweesta Conference in Denver, on reservation lending and capital management; representatives from 40 tribes attend.

1992- The Lakota Fund becomes an independent entity as planned.

1993- First Nations provides information the US Department of Justice will rely on in bringing successful legal actions against two border town banks for their lending policies toward Native Americans.

1994- The Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions Act of 1994 becomes law, incorporating many of First Nations’ recommendations and several of the structures of the Oweesta Program and Fund.

1995- Start of successful three-year effort to bring the CDFI Fund into compliance with its authorizing legislation by conducting a study of lending and credit needs in Indian Country.

1998- First Nations conducts detailed surveys and analyses of banking and credit services on reservations; testifies on major bank merger implications for Indian Country at Federal Reserve Bank hearings in San Francisco and Chicago.

1999- Oweesta Program and Fund becomes First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta), an affiliate of First Nations Development Institute.

2000- Oweesta becomes first CDFI Fund certified national Native CDFI intermediary, dedicated to providing technical assistance, training, research and lending for local Native CDFIs in all 50 states.

2001- Oweesta teams up with affiliate First Nations Development Institute to provide grant program for start up Native CDFIs, known as the Little Eagle Staff Fund.

2003- Oweesta receives contract with partner NCCA to provide specialized training and TA program for Native CDFIs called the Native Communities Financing Initiative (NCFI).

2004- Oweesta receives funding from CDFI Fund to develop comprehensive website for Native financial institutions after survey to local Native CDFIs.

Contact Us


Main Office and Mailing Address:
2432 Main Street, 2nd Floor
Longmont, CO  80501
(303) 774-8838 Phone
(303) 774-7841 Fax
www.oweesta.org Website
info@oweesta.org Email

To contact specific departments, please
visit the Our Staff page.


Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ Oweesta

FAQ Native CDFIs

FAQ BNC Curriculum

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