The Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, recently convened a panel of leading experts to discuss the fundamental obstacles standing in the way of asset building in Native communities, and the innovative strategies that Native nations, Community Development Financial Institutions, and other organizations are deploying to overcome those challenges and build stronger futures for Native people.
About Miriam Jorgensen
Miriam Jorgensen is Associate Director for Research for the Native Nations Institute for Research, Management, and Policy (NNI) at the University of Arizona and Research Director at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Her areas of specialty are governance and economic development in Indian Country, and her work has addressed issues as wide-ranging as welfare policy, policing and justice system development, enterprise management, asset building, and philanthropy to Native America.
About Elena Chávez Quezada
Elena Chávez Quezada is Senior Associate for the Aspen Institute's Initiative on Financial Security (IFS). Elena is responsible for examining legislative policies on savings and investment. She contributes to IFS policy proposals and advises on IFS's legislative strategy. Ms. Chávez Quezada previously worked at the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance (CDVCA), where she coordinated policy activities relevant to the community development venture capital industry and organized CDVCA's annual conference. Ms. Chávez Quezada, a native New Mexican, also worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in Washington, D.C. She is a board member of the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union, and holds a BA and MPP from Harvard University.
About Karen Edwards
Karen Edwards is the principal of KME Consulting, LLC, established in 2006, whose clients include First Nations Development Institute, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, National Congress of American Indians, and both the Center for Social Development (CSD) and the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, at Washington University in St. Louis. Ms. Edwards previously worked for Washington University in St. Louis for over twenty years, where she assisted Dr. Michael Sherraden in founding CSD in 1994, and worked on several research projects related to the effectiveness of IDA and asset-building policies and programs in the United States. While with CSD, Ms. Edwards also established a body of collaborative work between CSD and the Buder Center for American Indian Studies on asset-building research in Native communities.
About Elsie Meeks
Elsie Meeks, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, is the President & CEO of Oweesta (First Nations Oweesta Corporation). Elsie has over 20 years experience working for Native community economic development. Prior to her leadership and work at Oweesta, Elsie was active for 20 years in the development and management of The Lakota Funds, a small business and micro enterprise development loan fund CDFI on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She serves as chairperson of The Lakota Funds and is a board member of Corporation for Enterprise Development, Northwest Area Foundation, Council on Foundations and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing. She is also an International Advisory Council member of Native Nations Institute and on the Board of Governors for the Honoring Nations program of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. She completed a six-year term on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was the first Native American to serve on the Commission. Elsie is presently the chairperson for the Native Financial Education Coalition, for which Oweesta serves as lead organization. Elsie and her husband Jim make their home on their ranch near Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
About Peter Morris
Peter Morris has been involved in Indigenous policy, research and advocacy for over a decade - both in his home country of Australia, and in the United States. He currently serves as the Director of Strategy and Partnerships for the National Congress of American Indian's Policy Research Center, managing the day-to-day operations of the center, coordinating policy research related to tribal governance and economic development, and leading the Center's outreach to mainstream think-tanks and academic research centers. Peter earned his Masters degree in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona and completed his undergraduate work at the University of New South Wales. Peter has also worked as Director of Policy for First Nations Development Institute and Director of Scholar Recruitment at the University of Arizona. His research has been published in academic journals and he has provided advice on Indigenous policy to senior policymakers in Australia and the U.S.