An experienced, dedicated Board of Directors with backgrounds that span a variety of industries, including business and financial management, strategic planning, law, education, health care, economic development, grants and programming, humanitarian services and multicultural diversity sets the stage for the strategic direction of PWNA and governs our administration and finances.
PWNA’s Board structure includes several special oversight committees, including a standalone Audit Committee, a Finance Committee, Fundraising/PR Committee, Personnel Committee, and Board Governance & Development Committee, each of which makes its recommendations to the full Board of Directors.
Passionate about improving quality of life for Native Americans, PWNA’s Board members volunteer their time and expertise to help PWNA achieve its mission and vision with efficiency and integrity. Our individual Directors are identified below. With the exception of PWNA’s President, all of them are independent voting members of the Board.
2022 Board of Directors
Jackie Blackbird, Chairperson
Jackie is an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) and Assiniboine (Nakoda) tribes of Montana's Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Her traditional Aaniih name is 'Itha Gibi That' (translated to English means' Walking Woman'). Jackie graduated from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management with a Bachelor's in business. Currently, Jackie is the Chief Communications Officer for a tribally-owned business on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Island Mountain Development Group (IMDG). Before IMDG, she worked at Nike for eighteen years, spending most of her career managing Nike's N7 Fund, building capacity for sport and physical activity, and providing grants to maintain or expand programming in tribal communities. When not at home with her family and community, Jackie enjoys traveling and attending tribal ceremonies. As part of her give-back to the community, she serves as a Board member for Native Wellness Institute and the Pine Ridge Girls' School. Jackie brings to PWNA her knowledge of tribal communities and experience in partnership building, grants, program management, and strategic planning.
Christina Kazhe, Vice Chairperson
Nationally recognized and respected for her legal expertise in tribal sovereignty, land restorations and federal recognition, Christina is a member of the Navajo Nation and affiliate to the Mescalero Apache Tribe. An attorney, Christina specializes in protecting the interests of Native American communities. Her experience spans Indian Child Welfare advocacy, tribal self-determination, taxation, reservation economic development, gaming law, and environmental and cultural preservation. Before opening her own firm, she practiced federal Indian law with Monteau and Peebles LLP and commercial litigation with Morrison & Foerster LLP. Currently, Christina serves on the Board of Directors for The California Endowment and the Elk Grove Unified School District’s American Indian Education Program. She holds a Juris Doctor from Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and a Bachelor’s in Human Development and Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. Passionate about our mission, Christina brings multiple skills to PWNA, including legal and public policy expertise, strategic thinking and non-profit leadership.
Corey Mzhickteno, Treasurer
Corey is enrolled with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. He has 14 years in tribal business operations, with experience from front-line employee to casino management, special projects and business expansions, to board member and public liaison. Previously, Corey served 12 years of Active Duty with the U.S. Air Force and is currently a Reservist flight instructor. Corey holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the Washburn University School of Business and a Master’s in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Corey also serves as a board member for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s businesses, which provide financial support and economic development to reservation programs and surrounding communities in Northeast Kansas. Passionate about making a meaningful impact across Indian Country, Corey brings to PWNA skills in tribal business operations, organizational behavior, public service and federal government.
Dr. Nicole Been, Secretary
Dr. Nicole Been (pron. Bean), a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and member of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town and the Deer clan, is recognized for her expertise in sports, Native education and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Recently named to the ‘Native American 40 Under 40’ class by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, she is a cofounder of the Been Foundation focused on youth with socioeconomic challenges. She also cofounded Duck Street Investments, LLC, holds Graduate Faculty status at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and recently became Associate Athletics Director of DEI at the University of Oklahoma. Previously, Dr. Been helped Bacone begin the transition from private institution to tribal college and university (TCU) and implement distance learning, served as Dean of the Division of Indigenous Online Teaching and Learning and held several other roles at the college. An alumnus of OSU, Baylor University, and Bacone where she was on the women's basketball team, Been has deep experience in the world of sports and education, working with Orlando Magic of the NBA, the Baylor Lady Bears basketball program, OSU Athletics, Big 12 Conference women’s basketball tournaments and Langston University Athletics. A three-time published author with a Ph.D. in health, leisure, and human performance from OSU, Dr. Been brings to PWNA strategies to help close the gap in Native educational achievement, economic development and financial literacy in rural and tribal communities, and nonprofit leadership experience.
Nikki’s Indian name is khwhele’ (Meadow Lark). She is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and of the Red Bird Clan. She is also Kalispel, Yakama, Nisqually, Cowlitz and Squaxin Island. Currently, Nikki is Acting Executive Director of the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute. She leads overall operations, grants, reporting and budgeting, conducts fundraising and donor relations, and oversees all CNAY youth engagement initiatives and the Youth Advisory Board. Previously, Nikki served as Associate Director and Program Manager at CNAY, and in various capacities from Coordinator to Director at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Her entire life, Nikki has worked on behalf of her people. Her biggest inspiration comes from her daughter Aplnmarimn’tsu’tn (Carries the Medicine). Nikki maintains her culture through language, ceremony and honoring the teachings passed on to her. She also has the honor of serving on the Miss Indian World Committee for the Gathering of Nations, the largest powwow in North America. Nikki brings to PWNA experience in grant management, youth and student services, advocacy and strong connections throughout Indian country.
A former AIEF scholarship recipient, MaKenley is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation tribe. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration from Northeastern State University and Master’s in Healthcare administration from Oklahoma State University. MaKenley has been working in tribal health care since college, completing job shadows and internships at W.W. Hastings Hospital the Cherokee-operated hospital. She started her career with Cherokee Nation Health Services as an Administrative Officer for a value-based care program the tribe participates in and then was promoted to Director of Patient Access Management in which she directed the scheduling and registration departments for the hospital and new outpatient health center. Since 2019, MaKenley has been serving as the Deputy Hospital Administrator for W.W. Hastings Hospital. She always wanted to work in healthcare but more specifically the health care system of her own tribe. MaKenley brings her knowledge of healthcare (rural and tribal), finance, operations and strategic planning to PWNA.
Currently a senior leader of Walmart’s Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (CDEI) team, Emily focuses on enterprise strategy, brand identity, external relations, digital engagement and benchmarking related to CDEI. She led development of the first online tool that requires suppliers of Walmart and Sam’s Club to report on their diversity, as well as digital, written and video communications to share the organization’s efforts to empower women. She developed strategic plans for building corporate reputation and engaging the millennial market segment, and serves on the leadership team for Tribal Voices, Walmart’s Indigenous Associate Resource Group, to inform and engage communities on Native issues. Emily first joined Walmart in 2011 to focus on real estate and legal, then joined the Walmart Foundation and then the Public Affairs team to serve as liaison for Native Americans and people with disabilities. In support of Native youth, Emily serves as co-chair of the American Indian College Fund’s (AICF) Next Generation Advisory Council to develop and implement strategies that increase the number of Native students who hold college degrees and provide insights on engagement with younger constituents and donors. Prior to Walmart, Emily served as Member Services Director and later Director of the Heritage Youth Development Center at the Joplin Family YMCA, working with youth organizations and engaging community stakeholders. She holds a Bachelor’s from Missouri Southern State University. Emily brings to PWNA expertise in diversity, strategic planning, strategic communications, benchmarking of organizational effectiveness, and empowerment of women and youth.
Joshua Arce, PWNA President & CEO (non-voting member)
Josh joined PWNA as President & CEO in January 2020 in PWNA’s 30th year of serving Indian country. A citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, he has more than 20 years of experience in education management, social work, and business development. Most recently, he served as Chief Information Officer of Haskell Indian Nations University, advancing their IT infrastructure and services to better meet their mission. Other public sector experience includes tribal law and governance; after-school, youth, foster care and housing programs for low-income families; and diversity and inclusion. Josh has also volunteered for the Kansas court-based Citizen Review Board for child welfare and Lawrence+Memorial Hospital for health equity, diversity, and inclusion. Josh earned his B.A. in social work from the University of Kansas and then a J.D., specializing in tribal law, applied indigenous leadership, federal Indian law and Indian gaming law. Sincere and forward-looking, Josh actively supports the advancement of Native communities.
Misty Rhodes, VP of Administration and Human Resources
Misty Rhodes currently serves as Vice President of Administration and Human Resources for Partnership With Native Americans. Her primary role is creating, enforcing, and evaluating legally compliant human resources policies, procedures, and best practices for PWNA. She also identifies and implements long-range strategic talent management and retention goals for the organization. Misty completed her Master’s degree in Management from Southern Nazarene University, graduating summa cum laude, and her Bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs and Administration, from the University of Oklahoma. She is also a certified Lean and Six Sigma Green Belt. Prior to PWNA, Misty served in a dual role for the University of Oklahoma Outreach as both the Contract Administrator for the United States Postal Service Personnel contract at the National Center for Employee Development, and as the Executive Director of Operations responsible for the oversight and general management of all support services for University Outreach. Misty’s proficiency in budgetary and personnel management, problem-solving, and cross-sector coordination enabled her to excel in two key leadership positions where she successfully directed operations valued at $61.7M and managed the day-to-day activities of over 500 University personnel. She also spent 10+ years in the travel and leisure business with the Hertz Corporation where she served in numerous leadership roles including customer relations, billing and rental extensions, fleet, and operations. Misty has 30 years’ experience in managing Operations and Human Resources responsibilities (private, corporate, academia and non-profit). She provides counsel and instruction to PWNA’s Sr. Leadership and all employees regarding policy and procedure, productivity and positive discipline, evaluations, team building and leadership development, coaching and mentoring. Misty brings multiple skills to PWNA and is passionate about the mission and the people we serve.
Rafael Tapia, Vice President of Programs
Rafael Tapia, Jr. is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and serves as the Vice President of Programs at PWNA, aiding hundreds of reservation communities across 9 states. Rafael’s prior public and private sector experience is concentrated in the areas of human, economic, workforce and community development. Rafael has previously served as Senior Advisor to the Office of the Chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Arizona Department of Commerce Tribal Liaison to the 22 Arizona Indian Tribes, Business Development consultant, and small business owner. Rafael holds an MBA from the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, as well as an Economic Development Certificate from the Oklahoma University College of Continuing Education. As the Vice President of Programs at PWNA, Rafael oversees approximately $20 million worth in immediate relief services delivered across 9 states, impacting approximately 200,000 Native American citizens a year. During his tenure, Rafael helped co-create many of PWNA’s capacity building services, further aligned its immediate needs and long-term solutions services, and expanded services in each of our six program pillars. New services created and implemented include the Southwest Long-Term Solutions Program, Emergency Preparedness and Response - expanded from one state to five states, mentorship and support services for our American Indian Education Fund scholarship recipients, and a train-the-trainer program focused on ancestral foods and nutrition education. The impact PWNA has had in Indian Country has deepened as a result of this work with the help of Rafael’s leadership.
Julie Solo , Controller
Julie Solo serves as Controller for PWNA and brings more than 20 years of experience in accounting, the last 12 years in nonprofit organizations. Julie is leading day-to-day operations of the general ledger, cash management, accounts payable, payroll, revenue and expense areas, and also overseeing financial reporting, revenue reporting, grants compliance, audits, 990 preparation and the operating budget. This includes ensuring the accuracy of the company's reported financial results and ensuring that reported results comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Prior to PWNA, Julie’s most recent roles were as Controller of Portland Community Health Center, where she oversaw accounting operations and federal grants compliance; Senior Accountant at The Opportunity Alliance in charge of large scales of accounts reconciliations, fundraising gifts reconciliations and month-end reporting; and Accountant for the City of Portland, Maine Social Services. Julie holds a master’s in Accounting from DeVry University in Chicago and a bachelor’s in Business Administration and Accounting from Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. She is proud to support our mission dedicated to the advancement of the Native Americans communities.
Other Key Staff
Jasey Jones: Director, Mission Advancement
Joe Langenderfer: Director, Planned Giving
Amanda Lee: Director, Digital Fundraising
Richard Miller: Director, Programs
Helen Oliff: Director, Communications
Angela Sharp: Director, Development Operations