First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) recently announced its appointment of Chrystel Cornelius to serve as its new associate director of contracts and quality control.
The Longmont, Colorado- and Rapid City, South Dakota-based development finance program, Oweesta (from the Mohawk word for money), works to develop Native assets at a local level. In 2000, Oweesta became the first Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund and certified national Native CDFI intermediary, providing technical assistance, training, research and lending for local Native CDFIs in all 50 states.
An enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Cornelius is also of Chippewa decent from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota. In her new role, Cornelius will oversee Oweesta’s contracts, grants and compliance of programs and will assist with partnerships and collaborative efforts with various funding agents.
“We are very excited that Chrystel has become a member of the Oweesta team,” said Jon Panamaroff, Oweesta's executive director and senior vice president, in a company press release. “Chrystel provides additional understanding about the needs of Native communities because of her first-hand experience in economic and tribal development. Her passion and technical expertise will be vital in continuing our mission to increase tribal economic sovereignty.”
Cornelius previously served as the executive director of the Turtle Mountain CDFI from its inception, bringing the institution to full certification status issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. "I can personally attest to the trials and tribulations of early stage development of Native CDFIs,” Cornelius said in the release.
Cornelius also spoke to the importance of Oweesta’s work in Indian Country: “More than six years ago, the Turtle Mountain CDFI participated in the Oweesta training program on establishing a CDFI to serve our community members. Oweesta’s technical assistance and support during the first few years of development was paramount to our success as a sustainable and vigorous lending institution. I am honored to work with an organization that is dedicated to supporting Native communities. With the growth and maturity of the Native CDFI industry, and the assistance Oweesta provides to these organizations in all stages of development, we are truly changing the economic landscape of Native communities.”
In addition to serving as the executive director of the Turtle Mountain CDFI, she was a tribal planner for seven years for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, providing her extensive experience in tribal government structures and coordinating with various government and private funding entities. Cornelius has a bachelor’s degree in business management, is a certified trainer and presenter in various asset building strategies and serves as a congressional advocate for Native financial literacy efforts.
Oweesta is currently accepting resumes for an accountant in Longmont. To view a full position description, go here.