Two Outstanding Leaders Recognized for Commitment to Building Economies in Native Communities

Wisconsin Native Loan Fund planting seeds for business success

Wisconsin Native Loan Fund planting seeds for business success

Published November 15, 2015

DETROIT—Two Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) were honored Wednesday in recognition of their commitment to excellence in the Native CDFI industry at the 2015 Native CDFI Awards Ceremony, part of the 12th Annual Native CDFI Convening hosted by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta).

The Circle of Honor Award recognizes a Native CDFI that is successfully increasing access to capital and financial resources in Native communities by developing innovative loan products, promoting community development and overcoming challenges.

The 2015 Circle of Honor Award winner is Wisconsin Native Loan Fund, a Native CDFI located in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Native Loan Fund demonstrates outstanding leadership within the industry. Under the direction of Fern Orie, they have designed and managed financial products and technical assistance services to multiple reservations in the state of Wisconsin. By doing this, they have created partnerships between local banks, surrounding tribes and tribal members. They are recognized for their hard work and dedication to serving Native communities through CDFI efforts.

Wisconsin Native Loan Fund was selected from a highly competitive group of Native CDFI nominees  and  was  awarded  for  demonstrating strong  financial  performance,  diversity  in  creating lending products and development services to serve its target market and the commitment to advancing asset building efforts for Native communities on a local, state and national level. Wisconsin Native Loan Fund is led by Fern Orie, Executive Director, who accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

The Visionary Leader Award for Outstanding Achievement recognizes a person who has made a long‐ term contribution to the Native CDFI industry and whose local financing and asset building efforts make them an inspiration for others. Elsie Meeks has been an instrumental visionary leader in the Native CDFI movement for decades and has trail-blazed the path for all of the Native CDFIs. Her contributions, commitment, dedication, and passion in Indian Country have laid a strong foundation for the Native CDFI Industry.

“Our two award winners have been an inspiration to the whole Native CDFI field, and have proven a commitment to their respective communities as well as the industry as a whole by demonstrating a leadership role in advancing self-sufficiency and opportunity for tribal members and their communities,” said Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director, First Nations Oweesta Corporation. “We are honored to give much deserved recognition to our award winners, and thank OFN for their partnership in recognizing the achievements within the Native CDFI industry.”

“Congratulations to this year’s Circle of Honor and Visionary Leader Awardees for their dedication to serving low‐wealth and low‐income Native communities,” said Mark Pinsky, President and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network. “Wisconsin Native Loan Fund is at the forefront of the field, making an unforgettable impact in the market they serve. Elsie Meeks has been a leader within the industry since its inception and continues to be a driving force behind Native economic development throughout the nation.”

The awards ceremony capped off the 12th Annual Native Convening in conjunction with the 31st Annual OFN Conference where Native economic development practitioners and tribal representatives from across the country joined hundreds of other opportunity finance experts to share and learn about new ideas, strategies for change, and innovations from the field.

For more information on Wisconsin Native Loan Fund, please visit their websites at

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