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Oweesta Presents our Campaign “When Money is Red”

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oweesta is launching a campaign called When Money is Red that will run on our social media platforms throughout the month of November for Native American Heritage Month.

When Money is Red is a campaign that envisions the possibilities of investing in Indian Country. We have witnessed firsthand in our role as a Native CDFI intermediary 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. The problem is Native people and issues continue to be invisible in the mainstream.

With this campaign, Oweesta will revisit the problematic history of wealth creation in this country, highlight the ongoing policy issues that keep Native people from fulfilling their economic destiny, and pose calls to action for policymakers, philanthropic institutions, and the general public alike to honor and celebrate our continued place in history and in this country.

We chose the name When Money is Red as a twist on the history of wealth creation across most of the developed world. Colonization brought on the genocide of First peoples and the destruction of culture and land, and modern-day policies and prejudices perpetuate those colonist practices. We will look to subvert the history of blood money in this country and build power towards economic justice for Indian Country.

This Native American Heritage Month, we want to make it clear: Indigenous people are not relics of the past; we are present, we persist, and we will recreate our futures. We can’t change the narrative alone. We invite you to join the movement:

  1. Join our mailing list to follow our campaign When Money is Red.
  2. Support the campaign using the Partner Toolkit.
  3. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for upcoming programming and conversations around making money red.
  4. Attend the Indigenous Community Organizing & Storytelling virtual event featuring Oweesta.

In Solidarity,
Oweesta Corporation

Oweesta Releases Two Groundbreaking Reports on the Native CDFI Industry

Oweesta is thrilled to release two groundbreaking reports that provide an in-depth look at the Native CDFI industry. Both of these reports are part of our commitment to share best practices, key findings, and successful or promising models widely.

Native CDFI Financial and Lending Performance Report

Our Native CDFI Financial and Lending Performance Report looks at the health of our lending portfolio and offers an insightful synopsis, backed by data, of the overall strength of investing in Indian Country. We plan to produce this report on a yearly basis as a tool for Native CDFIs to understand how their operations and financial performance sits in comparison with their peers, in order to guide decision-making at their organization. The report includes:

  • Synthesized quarterly borrower reporting data from 28 Native CDFIs and one Native CDFI banking institution.
  • An analysis of investments across loan type (business, consumer, housing, and agriculture) and/or asset size.
  • Data that supports the belief 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.

A special thanks to our partners and borrowers for sharing their borrower information on a quarterly basis, and to Northwest Area Foundation for sponsoring this report.

Housing Market Study

Oweesta’s study Opportunities and Challenges for Native CDFI Housing Lenders: Innovative Mortgage Lending Solutions in Native Communities provides an in-depth exploration of the housing market in Indian Country. Looking at surveys and data analysis, the report paints a clear picture of Native CDFI’s crucial role in developing the housing landscape on tribal trust lands and beyond. The report includes:

  • An analysis of institutional challenges as well as the creative solutions undertaken by Native CDFIs to overcome those challenges.
  • Actionable recommendations for Native CDFIs and partners to adapt to the growing demand for housing.

Oweesta is grateful to the many partners and contributors to this report and Freddie Mac for funding the research behind this report.

Oweesta Welcomes Fern Orie as Chief Programs Officer and Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships

Longmont, CO – Oweesta is pleased to announce that Fern Orie has joined the organization as Chief Programs Officer and Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships. In this capacity, Orie will serve as a critical member of the executive leadership team and will lead Oweesta’s strategic efforts to impact national policy to expand capital access for Native communities, strengthen our private and public partnerships, and oversee Oweesta’s capacity building efforts in support of our Native CDFI partners.

“I’m excited to join Oweesta after working in partnership with them at the Wisconsin Native Loan Fund all of these years. Leading the Wisconsin Native Loan Fund, I experienced how Native CDFIs are agents of change and are the most powerful resources to help communities thrive. It is an honor to now support the broader Native CDFI movement on a national level,” said Fern Orie.

Orie brings 20 years of experience working in the Native housing and community development industry. She recently served as the founding CEO of the Wisconsin Native Loan Fund (WINLF) for the past fourteen years, where she established a statewide housing Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) providing housing, consumer, and business loans to tribal members on all eleven Wisconsin Indian Reservations. Since 2015 she has served as the founding Chairwoman of the Wisconsin Indian Business Alliance, a unique collaboration of the four Native CDFIs of Wisconsin. Additionally, Orie serves on the Board of Directors as the Vice Chairwoman of the national organization, the Native CDFI Network.

“Oweesta is excited to have Fern join the team at a time when Native CDFIs are increasingly becoming vital lifelines for financial recovery of their communities,” said Chrystel Cornelius, CEO and President of Oweesta. “Fern has been a fierce champion of the Native CDFI industry for decades; we are confident her experience and passion will help carry Oweesta forward as we work to drive $100M of capital into Native communities by 2030.”

Orie is a strong advocate for the cultural and economic prosperity of Native people in her home state of Wisconsin and has served as an ambassador of Indian Country at the national levels. She was appointed by the Governor to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee, and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability. She also serves on the Wisconsin Economic Development Association Board of Directors. In addition, she sits on the Board of Directors and Loan Committee of Bay Bank, a tribally owned bank, and on the Forward Community Investments New Markets Tax Credit Advisory Board. Fern serves on the Program Advisory Committee for the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College and also the Community Advisory Committee for Associated Bank. Orie holds a B.A. in Business Administration and is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

Media Contact
Denisse Ruiz
Communications Officer

Oweesta Corporation Certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Native Homeownership Network

Longmont, CO – Oweesta announces the certification of the Native Homeownership Network as a national housing counseling network under HUD. Launched in 2019, the Native Homeownership Network is the only housing counseling network comprised exclusively of Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Native non-profits seeking to increase homeownership on tribal lands, reservations, and urban environments across the United States. As a HUD-approved agency, the Network has the accreditation, financial support, and technical knowledge to further strengthen housing development in Indian Country.

“The HUD certification is a testament to the unwavering and groundbreaking work the Native Homeownership Network is achieving in the housing market,” said Heather Rademacher Taylor, Director of Programs. “COVID presented several unforeseen challenges and many of us had to shift priorities and focus on the dire needs of our communities. The Network members still upheld their commitment and pooled their resources to become the first and only housing counseling network dedicated exclusively to Native homeownership. We believe that protecting the livelihood of Native people includes promoting homeownership on Native lands.”

Only 53% of Native Americans are homeowners compared to the 71% of white households who own homes. Oweesta’s role as a national intermediary in Indian Country has always been grounded in addressing emerging needs around economic development of Native communities. As disparities in access to mortgage capital have continued to stall homeownership opportunities for Native families, the Network was established with the goal of organizing, training, and certifying a new cohort of housing counselors living in and advancing Indian Country. The ten organizations part of the Network are poised to expand their services and capabilities through increased homebuyer education, one-on-one housing/financial counseling, and financing. Already, the network has provided homebuyer education and housing counseling to over 1,000 families, helping create a movement toward homeownership in Native communities.

“We are the first peoples of the 50 states, yet a national HUD intermediary dedicated to our communities has been elusive for too long. This accomplishment is the result of two years of work, of collaboration among Native organizations all around the country that are doing the hands-on work of housing counseling in our communities. The achievement is for everyone in Indian Country,” said Robin Puanani Danner, Oweesta Board Vice Chairperson and member of the Native Homeownership Network. “Mahalo to the Biden Administration, to HUD Secretary Fudge, the incredible team at HUD for working with Oweesta Corporation to bestow certification as a national HUD counseling intermediary, and to the Network’s partners and supporters.”

The partnership behind the Network was made possible thanks to the generosity and vision of several partners and funders. NeighborWorks Montana coached the Network through the two-year process of becoming certified. Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American Express, and NeighborWorks America financially supported the initiative, which helped provide subgrants for Network members for their housing programs, training and exam preparation, and in some cases, to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The Native Homeownership Network will focus efforts on expanding the network by inviting more organizations to join, sustaining existing programs, and narrowing the housing gap by creating more Native homeowners.

The Native Homeownership Network member organizations are:

Four Directions Development Corporation (FDDC) Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)
Hawaiian Lending & Investment (HLI) Tiwa Lending Services (TLS)
Lakota Funds Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT)
Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial (MOOF) Wisconsin Native Loan Fund (WINLF)
NACDC Financial Services (NACDCFS) White Earth Investment Initiative (WEII)


To learn about joining the Native Homeownership Network, contact:

Heather Rademacher Taylor

Director of Programs

Media Contact

Denisse Ruiz

Communications Officer

Oweesta Awarded MacArthur Funds Supporting an Equitable Recovery

July 27, 2021

LONGMONT, CO Oweesta is to be awarded a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to support our work in realizing sovereign and self-sustaining economies on Indigenous lands. 

The grant is part of roughly $80 million in awards MacArthur announced today in support of the foundation’s Equitable Recovery initiative, centered on advancing racial and ethnic justice. Oweesta is one of 15 organizations receiving part of the $16 million grants under the focus area of advancing “Self-determination of Indigenous Peoples” established to support Indigenous communities’ autonomous pursuit of a recovery guided by their priorities, cultures, and practices. 

“Oweesta is deeply honored to be part of MacArthur Foundation’s strategy for an equitable recovery that uplifts self-determination efforts of Native people” said Chrystel Cornelius, President and CEO of the Oweesta Corporation. “As Native communities often have to navigate in landscapes with scarce funding opportunities, through funding initiatives such as these, we can create pathways and programs that allow Native people to take control of their financial lives and begin to build wealth for future generations.”

For over 20 years, Oweesta has been a pillar for the economic advancement of tribal and Indigenous communities through their investment, capacity building, and educational activities. This grant will provide Oweesta the flexibility to make agile and responsive decisions in the face of the evolving needs seen in Native communities, especially as pandemic recovery phases continue to unfold across Indian Country.

“As we emerge from this moment of crisis, we have an opportunity to improve the critical systems that people and places need to thrive. Our systems and structures must be rebuilt,” said MacArthur President John Palfrey. “We are committed to ensuring that our response to the pandemic is focused on supporting the reimagining of systems that create a more just, equitable, and resilient world.” 

To advance racial and ethnic justice, MacArthur is supporting work in multiple focus areas, including: 

  • Racial Justice Field Support, with a focus on combatting anti-Blackness, supports building Black power by supporting Black-led and -focused philanthropic organizations. MacArthur also will take a leadership role in positioning reparations and racial healing as issues that philanthropy helps to meaningfully address.
  • Public Health Equity and COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery supports improving access to resources for immediate health challenges while advancing new policies, models, and structures to support a more equitable and resilient public health sector in the future.
  • An Equitable Housing Demonstration Project supports restoring communities and reducing incarceration and housing instability by generating an array of housing solutions that can help to permanently end the use of jails and prisons as housing of last resort.

MacArthur identified the areas through a participatory process with a diverse group of external advisors, who informed its strategic approach. The participatory process aimed to center the voices of communities that are affected by the Foundation’s decisions and have a stake in the grantmaking outcomes. The Equitable Recovery initiative is funded by MacArthur’s social bonds, issued in response to the crises of the pandemic and racial inequity.

This is the first time Oweesta has received a grant from MacArthur. Almost two-thirds of the awards represent new grantee relationships, and most of the organizations are led or serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The grants also reflect MacArthur’s global reach with 45 percent of new funding supporting work outside of the U.S., including 12 percent in India, and 14 percent in Nigeria, where MacArthur has offices. 

Equitable Recovery Initiative 

In the fall of 2020, MacArthur established a $125 million Equitable Recovery Initiative. The Foundation deployed $40 million of bond proceeds through 24 grants. Initial grants focused on strengthening voter mobilization and election protection, addressing anti-Black racism, and supporting Native Americans impacted by COVID-19. Grants also supported Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations in Chicago, technology and justice, and a fund for social entrepreneurs advancing racial equity.

View all Equitable Recovery grantees.

Media Contact

Denisse Ruiz, Communications Officer

Oweesta Corporation


About Oweesta Corporation

Oweesta Corporation provides opportunities for Native people to develop financial assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs contributing to economic independence and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities. Oweesta is the longest-standing Native CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities.

Oweesta Joins NeighborWorks America Network as Charter Member

July 19, 2021

Oweesta Joins NeighborWorks America Network as Charter Member

LONGMONT, CO — Oweesta Corporation has been selected as a charter member of the NeighborWorks America network. Oweesta is one of several organizations to join NeighborWorks and its member organizations that serve over 4,500 communities nationwide, focusing on community revitalization, homeownership expansion, and the production of affordable housing to meet the housing needs of hundreds of thousands of people.

“We are so pleased to have these organizations’ breadth of knowledge and expertise in our network,” said NeighborWorks America President & CEO Marietta Rodriguez. “At a time when becoming and staying resilient as a person and community has never been more important, these new NeighborWorks network organizations serve as trusted advisors. Every day they help residents understand all of the services and requirements available to help them own and sustain homes and provide many other services to enhance their lives.”

For more than 40 years, NeighborWorks America has served as the nation’s premier leader in affordable housing and community development working through partnerships, public and private, to drive change at the local level for individuals, families, and communities. Similarly, Oweesta partners with numerous Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to meet the needs of underserved and un-banked Native communities and create opportunities for wealth creation.

“Oweesta is honored to become a member of such an impactful and longstanding organization of affiliates, especially at a time that many Indigenous peoples look to assert our advancement in attaining homeownership on our ancestral lands,” said Chrystel Cornelius, President and CEO of Oweesta. “We have long admired NeighborWorks for uniting and uplifting committed organizations. We are better together. And together, we will strengthen our communities.”

The NeighborWorks network will increase Oweesta’s capacity to train, organize, and advocate for Native CDFIs as they grow the housing market in Indian Country through personalized counseling, homebuyer education, financing, and development of affordable housing. As a chartered member, Oweesta receives organization benefits from funding opportunities, technical assistance, training, and access to a vast network of community-based organizations.

Media Contact

Denisse Ruiz, Communications Officer

Oweesta Corporation


About Oweesta Corporation

Oweesta Corporation provides opportunities for Native people to develop financial assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs contributing to economic independence and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities. Oweesta is the longest-standing Native CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities.

About NeighborWorks America

For more than 40 years, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., a national, nonpartisan nonprofit known as NeighborWorks America, has strived to make every community a place of opportunity. Our network of excellence includes nearly 240 members in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. NeighborWorks America offers grant funding, peer-exchange, technical assistance, evaluation tools and access to training, as the nation’s leading trainer of housing and community development professionals. NeighborWorks network organizations provide residents in their communities with affordable homes, owned and rented; financial counseling and coaching; community building through resident engagement; and collaboration in the areas of health, employment and education.

Celebrating our History, and Announcing our Vision for the Future

In 2019, Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) celebrated our 20th anniversary as an organization. It was a time of deep reflection as we completed new strategic planning activities and discerned how we could best serve as an intermediary and bridge to capital in the upcoming decade. In these conversations, it was clear that Oweesta is both stronger than we have ever been and that we must continue to strive, grow, and push ourselves on behalf of the communities we serve.

Through these discussions with our Board of Directors and parent company, First Nations Development Institute, all concurred that the best way to support Oweesta’s growth was to legally separate and for Oweesta to no longer be a subsidiary of First Nations Development Institute.

Our relationship will remain a close, and Oweesta will be forever grateful for the legacy First Nations Development Institute created by their envisioning of Native Nations having equitable access to capital and investment as most of America enjoys. Both our organizations remain deeply committed to the service of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. We also share the same set of guiding values, believing that when armed with the appropriate resources, Native people hold the capacity and ingenuity to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural well-being of their communities. It with deep gratitude to ours elders and former board members who walked before us and created and built both of these amazing Native-led non-profit organizations that we share this news.

As we look to the future, it seems like there is no better time for Oweesta to take these independent steps. In this time of great reckoning and conversation in our nation, Oweesta remains steadfast in our commitment to capitalizing and supporting the growing Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) movement. As we have seen day after day these last twenty years, Native CDFIs remain one the strongest and most impactful tools for aligning justice and capital for indigenous communities across the country. Oweesta therefore remains as excited about working with these amazing partners as we were on the day that our organization was created.

To learn more about the Oweesta of the future, we are pleased to share our 2021-2023 strategic plan. For all that Oweesta has accomplished, and for what we will in the future, we wish to express our gratitude to First Nations Development Institute, our former Board of Directors, as well as our many grassroots partners. Without your commitment, passion, and strength, we would not have come so far.