Native CDFI Awards Recognize Two CDFIs for Promoting Economic Justice, Sovereignty in Indian Country 

NACDC Financial Services, located on the Blackfeet Reservation, and Hawaiian Lending & Investments in Kauai receive grants to make capital accessible in tribal communities 

From left: Harold Pettigrew, Robin Puanani Danner, Angie Main, and Chrystel Cornelius.

Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2023) — Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) specialize in providing fair, affordable financial products and services to tribal members on and off reservation. Last night, two Native CDFIs — NACDC Financial Services and Hawaiian Lending & Investments (HLI) — were honored by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and Oweesta Corporation with the 2023 Native CDFI Awards for the lenders’ unique strategies to advance finance justice in tribal communities. 

“Native CDFIs have progressed over the last 20 plus years to be the imperative and instrumental vehicles for creating platforms of opportunities, initiating individual and community asset building efforts on a national scale,” said Chrystel Cornelius, president and CEO of Oweesta Corporation, the longest-standing Native CDFI intermediary. “These mission lenders act as critical entry points to the financial mainstream and create long-lasting change in their respective Native communities. We are so very pleased to recognize and honor these two Native CDFIs initiating incredible efforts for their communities. NACDC and HLI are dedicated leaders and agents of change in their communities, and they are both more than deserving of this award for their extraordinary vision and service.” 

The national Native CDFI Awards recognize Native CDFIs for creating economic opportunity and promoting wealth building within their tribal communities.   

“Native CDFIs are essential to helping tribal communities build economic sovereignty,” said Harold Pettigrew, president and CEO of OFN, the leading national network of CDFIs. “OFN is proud to partner with them and support their critical role in Indian Country. NACDC and HLI are two wonderful examples of Native CDFI ingenuity. They are helping to heal centuries-old injustices toward indigenous peoples and the Native CDFI Awards honor their extraordinary vision and service.”  

This year’s awardees 

NACDC, based on the Blackfeet Reservation, received a $100,000 Native CDFI Catalyst Award to build a trauma-informed financial services training program for employees of Native CDFIs. The training will help CDFIs better support clients who face money management challenges associated with historical trauma from the systemic stripping of land, culture, and Native heritage over centuries.   

The project is part of a larger effort of The Mountain Plains Regional Native CDFI Coalition, of which NACDC is a member, to build the talent pool of Native finance professionals through training, employment networks, creation of career pathways, and more. 

“The indigenous finance industry, like many other fields operating within Native communities, regularly feels the weight of historical trauma pushing against growth strategies,” said Angie Main, NACDC’s executive director. “NACDC is proud to lead in helping to lift this pressure as it relates to money management. The Native CDFI Catalyst Award is a meaningful acknowledgement that we are on the right track.” 

HLI received the 2023 Native CDFI Seed Capital Award for its food sovereignty strategy. The $50,000 grant will help the CDFI develop products and services that promote agricultural expertise and experience among Native Hawaiians living on trust lands. 

As a result of colonization, Native Hawaiians have been disconnected from their language, culture, and food sources. Entire generations have lived without agricultural knowledge. HLI’s food sovereignty strategy will support Native Hawaiians seeking to establish and grow family farms and ranches on trust lands. 

“Our tribal trust lands enacted by the U.S. Congress a century ago intended food production through family farming and ranching to thrive,” said Robin Puanani Danner, co-founder of HLI to serve Hawaiian homelands. “Over that same century, the flow of appropriate capital has been absent. Mahalo to Oweesta and OFN for supporting our efforts to build pipelines of agriculture capital to our tribal lands in Hawaii.” 

NACDC and HLI received the Awards last night in Washington at  OFN’s annual conference, the industry’s largest event. 

About OFN 

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) is the leading national network of community development financial institutions. Its membership of more than 400 mission lenders specializes in providing affordable, responsible financial products and services in low-income rural, urban, and Native communities nationwide. As a trusted intermediary between CDFIs and the public and private sectors, OFN partners with banks, philanthropies, corporations, government agencies, and others to create economic opportunity for all by strengthening and investing in CDFIs. 

Since its founding in 1986 and through 2021, the network has originated $100.4 billion in financing in rural, urban, and Native communities, helping to create or maintain more than 2.6 million jobs, start or expand more than 696,000 businesses and microenterprises, and support the development or rehabilitation of more than 2.3 million housing units and more than 13,600 community facility projects. 

About Oweesta

Oweesta Corporation provides opportunities for Native people to develop assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs, leading to economic independence, and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities. Oweesta is the oldest Native CDFI intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. Specifically, Oweesta provides training, technical assistance, investments, research, and policy advocacy to help Native communities develop an integrated range of asset-building products and services, including financial education and products. For more information, visit

Media Contact: 
Lisa Chensvold