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 Kim Peone

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) has hired Kim Peone, a tribal citizen of the Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington, to serve as its executive director. 

Peone is the first woman to head the SWAIA. The decision comes after the SWAIA board conducted a national search. Peone began her position yesterday, April 15.

Peone is well known in Indian Country and brings a long history working in finance and management.  Most recently, she served as the CEO/CFO of the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation, which owns and operates 12 tribal business enterprises that generate close to $140 million in annual revenue. Priorly, she served as deputy financial officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Born in Santa Fe, Peone’s father Richard (Eastern Band of Cherokee), and mother Annabelle (Colville Confederated Tribes), met while attending the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and started a family. While Peone has spent most of her adult life away from Santa Fe, she relocated back to the town of her birthplace last year.

“The Board is excited by the impressive background Peone brings to SWAIA to lead Indian Market through our Centennial year (2022) and into the next century. Peone’s 30 years of experience in Indian Country, astute business and financial background, as well as great managerial and leadership skills were a perfect fit for SWAIA’s needs going forward,” SWAIA Board Chair Tom Teegarden said.

Borrowing from the scripture found in the book of Esther, Peone told Native News Online on Thursday morning  she is up to the task to lead Indian’s premier art organization.

“SWAIA is the beacon of American Indian art, not just in Santa Fe, but the Santa Fe Indian Market is known globally for its fine art, And, we plan to market on a global level. SWAIA is an essential organization through its Indian Market that benefits our artists” Peone said. “I am glad to be back and am glad to embrace any challenges for a time such as this.

Peone comes to SWAIA after the organization announced earlier this month that the 99th Santa Fe Indian Market, planned for August 15–16, 2020, is being postponed and the Centennial Celebration, slated for 2021 will be moved back until 2022 due to to public safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a tough decision to postpone the 99th Indian Market this year in the wake of COVID 19, especially given the economic impact on our artists and the event’s $165 million-dollar impact on the economy of northern New Mexico,” said Traci Rabbit, artist and Board member. “We must move forward, and I am confident Kim’s background and abilities will successfully lead SWAIA into the future. There are many challenges ahead for organizations like SWAIA, and the Board is committed to ensure that its legacy and influence will not only withstand those challenges, but emerge stronger.”

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Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. He can be reached at [email protected]