With intersecting legal systems, a legacy of institutional disinvestment, competing territorial definitions, and significant and urgent unmet demands for rural housing, Native American communities have unique housing needs that require tailored and intentional solutions. This webinar will provide an overview of the state of Native housing in and around Tribal lands. A panel of experts will offer insights on structuring successful community development projects, opportunities for investment, and strategies for partnerships to ensure equitable development and opportunities for homeownership for Native American consumers and communities. Panelists will discuss current challenges for developing housing on Tribal lands, how they are similar or different from national issues, and what is needed for federal and local housing policies to meet the needs of Native people. This webinar is the fifth in our series sponsored by NeighborWorks America.
Mellor “Mel” Willie (Moderator) – Mel Willie is NeighborWorks’ Director of Native Partnerships and Strategy. His role at NeighborWorks is to lead the organization’s Native Commitment to expand its investment in tribal communities. Mel is a national leader in Indian Country with over 23 year’s of experience in non-profit management, government, political, public and intergovernmental affairs and has represented tribal interests at the local, tribal, state and national level. He is a member of the Navajo Nation, born and raised on the reservation in northeast Arizona. Before coming to NeighborWorks, Mel served as principal of Chee Consulting, working with a range of clients to advance and strengthen tribal communities. Having served as past Executive Director of the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) and as special advisor to one of the nation’s largest public housing authorities, Mel is intimately familiar with providing affordable housing through highly regulated federal programs. He is a graduate of Southern Utah University (B.S. Political Science) and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management (2009). In 2013, Mel completed prestigious yearlong fellowship with some of the nation’s top progressive senior leaders through the Rockwood Leadership Institute.
Libby Starling – Libby Starling is a Director in the Community Development / Center for Indian Country Development Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. She leads the division’s work in housing policy and manages the division’s Strategic Communications, Operations and Native Engagement staff. Prior to joining the Fed in 2019, Ms. Starling was the Deputy Director of the Community Development Division at the Metropolitan Council, the Twin Cities’ regional planning agency, where she led the creation of the region’s 2040 Housing Policy Plan. Previously, she was previously the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. A native of central Pennsylvania, Ms. Starling holds a Master’s of Planning in Public Affairs degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Jacqueline Pata – Jacqueline Pata was appointed President & CEO of the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority in April 2019. Previously from 1989 to 1998, Ms. Pata was the Executive Director of THRHA and continued to serve THRHA in the role of Ex-Officio on the Board of Commissioners prior to her appointment as CEO. Before returning to THRHA, Ms. Pata led for nearly 18 years, the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, DC as Executive Director. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Programs for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development where she was responsible for the implementation of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act. Additionally, she served as Chairwoman of the Native American Indian Housing Council where she led the charge to reform the Indian housing program and was a Board Member at Sealaska Corporation from 1999-2019. Currently, Ms. Pata is the 2nd Vice President for the Central Council of the Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and serves on a variety of national executive boards including as a Vice Chair for the Board of Directors of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and as a Board Member for the George Gustave Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Pete Upton – Pete Upton (Ponca) is the Executive Director of Native360 Loan Fund, a certified Native Community Development Financial Institution that focuses on entrepreneurship and financial literacy development for Native Americans. Serving as Executive Director since 2011, Mr. Upton has built the organization from its start-up phase into a successful lending organization that continues to experience growth while ever increasing its community impact. Mr. Upton has been involved with the Native CDFI Network since it was a grassroots movement. From 2011-2012, he served on the steering committee that was instrumental in the Native CDFI Network’s initial organizational development steps. In 2012, Mr. Upton became a founding board member and served as the Chairperson for the Peer Learning Committee. As Native360 serves Native communities in three states, Mr. Upton understands the challenges of serving both rural and urban areas in various different jurisdictions. He values strong networks and cultivates partnerships to deliver technical assistance throughout a vast service area. Mr. Upton is a powerful advocate for equal access to capital.
Fern Orie – is the Chief Programs Officer and Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships for the Oweesta Corporation, a national Native CDFI Intermediary offering financial products and development services exclusively to Native CDFIs and Native communities. For the past fourteen years, Ms. Orie served as the founding CEO of the certified Native community development financial institution (CDFI), Wisconsin Native Loan Fund, a statewide housing and consumer revolving loan fund.Ms. Orie has nearly 20 years of experience in the Native housing field. She is a strong advocate and very active in the Native community and economic development field regionally and at the national level. Additionally, Ms. Orie serves on the Board of Directors and Loan Committee of Bay Bank, a tribally owned bank in Wisconsin. She also serves on several Boards at national and state levels. Fern is an enrolled tribal member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.