News Release

Oweesta Corporation

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.

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.
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