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Meeks named to Consumer Advisory Council

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WASHINGTON - Elsie Meeks, executive director of the First Nations Oweesta Corp. of Virginia, has been named to a three-year post on the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board.

Meeks, who is a Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, is no stranger to high-level federal advisory posts, having been named the first American Indian to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at the urging of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

The Consumer Advisory Council meets three times a year in Washington to advise the Fed on consumer credit and financial services.

Meeks, an entrepreneur and businesswoman in addition to her post at Oweesta, follows another American Indian on the CAC. Robert Cheadle, Chickasaw, served on the council for three years beginning at the start of 2000.

Cheadle, an attorney in the legislative office of the Chickasaw Nation in Ada, Okla., helped organize and host the recent Fed symposium on banking opportunities in Indian country, which was held in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Previously, as an attorney for mortgage agency Fannie Mae, he negotiated the first agreement to do private mortgages on the Navajo Nation. He is also a former attorney general and housing administrator for the Chickasaw Nation. During his tenure as housing administrator, Cheadle helped design a mortgage program, "Chuka Chumasi," which has been adopted for use by several other tribes in Oklahoma and won the Social Compact Award.

Meeks also attended the Scottsdale Fed conference, and gave a presentation on the Native financial literacy course developed by First Nations Oweesta and the Fannie Mae Foundation.

First Nations Oweesta is a unit of First Nations Development Institute, Fredericksburg, Va. It has two main areas of focus, developing Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and promoting financial literacy for Native people.

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The unit has made three loans to Native CDFIs. (CDFIs lend or invest in low-to-moderate income areas.) And the financial literacy course has published 18,000 workbooks and trained 500 trainers in more than 30 locations around Indian country.

Meeks previously was executive director of a Native CDFI, the Lakota Fund, based in Kyle, S.D. Started in 1985, the Lakota Fund has made small business and microenterprise loans and has helped develop housing on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Meeks is also an entrepreneur on the reservation, having helped start a grocery store and a company that breeds stock for rodeos.

Other projects include serving on the board of the National Community Capital Association and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing. She has also received the "South Dakota Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year" award from the Small Business Administration.

In other news at First Nations Oweesta, the former head of another South Dakota Native CDFI has joined the company.

Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, first director of the Four Bands Community Fund, started on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation at Eagle Butte, S.D., has been named training and technical assistance director at Oweesta.

Four Bands began making micro-enterprise loans last year and earned its CDFI designation from the government in January 2002.

After leaving Four Bands, Sarkozy-Banoczy went to the Little Traverse Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan, where he helped establish an economic development department.