Grantees & Grantmaking | August 16, 2023

Q2 Grantmaking: Akiptan Keeps Native Agriculture Rooted in Relationships

Building lasting relationships reflects Native cultural values, helps Native communities thrive on their own terms, and informs this quarter’s grantmaking.

“Indian Country is relationship based, so we choose a partnership approach to everything we do,” says Skya Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Lakota) executive director of Akiptan, a Native community development financial institution with a national reach that’s based on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in Eagle Butte, SD.

“We build lasting relationships through site visits with borrowers—and regular conversations that transcend spreadsheets with our lenders.”

Skya Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Lakota), executive director, Akiptan. Photo courtesy of Akiptan.

Skya says Akiptan staff members who work directly with borrowers are all still wearing dirty boots—meaning they either come from an agriculture background or they’re still actively farming or ranching themselves.

Because Akiptan’s people come from the communities they serve and because they invest the time and energy to be relational rather than just transactional, they’re in a position to be especially informed and effective partners with their clients. After all, they’re not just lenders looking at spreadsheets all day, they’re steeped in firsthand farming and ranching experience from the boots up.

Many Native farmers and ranchers lack access to mainstream banks and other sources of capital. Akiptan was founded to help remove that barrier.

Sakari Farms—an Akiptan client and Native-owned (Inupiaq) tribal farm and educational business in Tumalo, OR—uses its test kitchen (left) to create food that respects ancient traditions. Its hoop house (right) provides for a longer growing season and is key to the botanical products it grows and sells. Photos courtesy of Sakari Farms.

So far, Akiptan has financed operations on 24 reservations across the country. However, demand outpaces the organization’s capacity, despite its ongoing expansion. In fact, a 2022 market study estimated a profound unmet financing need among Native producers in the United States: more than $42 billion.

“Akiptan shines a light on what’s possible and paves the way for a more just future,” says NWAF Program Officer Christianne Lind. “I encourage other funders and impact investors to learn more about and support this transformative work.”

“Akiptan shines a light on what’s possible and paves the way for a more just future.”

Christianne Lind
Program Officer, Northwest Area Foundation

Our two-year, $250,000 grant to Akiptan is one of 12 grants totaling $533,950 we made in the second quarter of 2023. Among the other Q2 grantees advancing long-overdue change are:

Native Ways Federation of St. Paul—$50,000 to support a strategic planning process

Philanthrofund (PFund) Foundation of Minneapolis—25,000 toward a campaign to protect and advocate for members of the transgender community, particularly trans youth

For more information on these grants in particular or the work of the Foundation more generally, contact Paul Bachleitner, director of communications, at

Check out these recent posts that highlight how our grantees are making change—and the role we’re playing in standing alongside them:

Program Director Karla Miller reminds us that equitable food systems begin with awareness and discusses community-led strategies to reimagine them.

Advancing justice for immigrants and refugees demands efforts to overcome social and cultural barriers, as Program Officer John Fetzer writes.

Welcome to Chetna Tandon, our new director of people and culture (HR).

Photo top: Sakari Botanicals Sweetgrass Tea, one of the regional traditional foods produced by Sakari Farms. Photo courtesy of Sakari Farms.