The unemployment rate on reservations ranges from 35% to 85%.
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.
2021 Board of Directors
Christina Kazhe, Chairman
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.
Jackie Blackbird, Vice Chairman
Jackie is an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) and Assiniboine (Nakoda) tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation of Montana. Her traditional Aaniih name is ‘Itha Gibi That’ (which 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 Talent Development Director for a tribally owned business on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Island Mountain Development Group (IMDG). Prior to IMDG, she worked at Nike for eighteen years, spending the majority 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 is serving 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.
Corey Mzhickteno, Treasurer
Corey is affiliated with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas and the Citizen Band Potawatomi of Oklahoma. He has 12 years’ experience in tribal business operations, from front-line employee to physical upgrade projects and Board governance. Previously, Corey served at Headquarters Air Education & Training Command (AETC), where he focused on innovation and work culture in flight training, national events, Congressional inquiries and Airforce communications. Corey began his military career in 2005 with the ROTC and after 12 years decided to dedicate more time to serving the needs of tribal communities. Corey holds a bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting from the Washburn University School of Business in Kansas and a master’s in Aeronautical Science with an emphasis in Aviation Safety from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Corey has also served as a board member for Prairie Band Casino & Resort, which provides financial support to reservation programs and surrounding communities. Passionate about making a meaningful impact across Indian Country, Corey brings to PWNA skills in business operations, event planning and public service.
Nikki Pitre, Secretary
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.
Dr. Nicole Been
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.
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.
Ashleigh Hughes, CFRE, Vice President of Fundraising and Development
Ms. Hughes joined PWNA in September 2020 and has accomplished a great amount for the organization’s Development team since. Ms. Hughes has distinguished herself through contributions to the non-profit and political sector, serving as a strategic planner, board strategist, community organizer, spokeswoman and fundraiser for a diverse portfolio of organizations. With 17 years of experience, Ms. Hughes has secured over $150 million+ in public funds. Most recently, Ms. Hughes served as Vice President of Development and Communications for Goodwill Industries of Dallas, Inc. building the vision and framework for the first in-house development department, overseeing a $42 million capital campaign and endowment to support job creation for individuals with barriers to employment. Formerly, Ms. Hughes represented The Army Distaff Foundation as Administrator of Philanthropy and Public Relations spearheading new-market growth, public affairs, and securing $17 million for capital growth at a medical facility for America’s service members and their families and was subsequently named 50 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit organizations. Ms. Hughes also served as Managing Director and Director of Development for a non-partisan think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, in Washington, DC where she enhanced strategic partnerships and new business initiatives, while co-authoring The Surge: the untold story, accredited with the 2010 Military Channel Award, GI Film Festival Award and Special Jury Award. At the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Ms. Hughes secured $85 million and a lead gift of $10 million towards a $286 million campaign to construct phase II of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. She also served as a Research Analyst for the Presbyterian Clergy Project on Human Rights and represented Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties and United States Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), in Washington, DC. Ms. Hughes is a Certified Fund-Raising Executive, speaker for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and maintains professional affiliations with the National Association of Professional Women, Board Source and Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. Ms. Hughes and her husband returned to Texas in 2013 where together they raise their two young boys.
Amber Kinney, Sr. Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Amber Kinney joined PWNA as Sr. Vice President and CFO in January 2016. She was attracted to the PWNA mission out of a desire to improve lives, meet critical needs and improve communities in strong alignment with her personal values. Amber oversees Finance, Accounting, Risk Management, Audit and Tax, Compliance and Financial Planning and Analysis activities at PWNA. Amber has a passion for using her skills and talents to improve the community and has deep experience in leading nonprofit financial functions, having held executive roles in the nonprofit sector since 1995. Prior to PWNA, Amber was the CFO for Dallas’ AT&T Performing Arts Center where she oversaw Finance, Analytics and Shared Data Services and Ticket Services. While at ATTPAC, she had the opportunity to lead work on several initiatives, including the successful transition of systems and processes from construction to operations. Other nonprofit organizations where Amber served include the Woodall Rodger Park Foundation, Child Care Associates and the Dallas Summer Musicals and DSM Management Group where she led Accounting, HR and IT functions. In each organization, Amber led successful Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system implementation projects. Before transitioning to the nonprofit world, Ms. Kinney honed her accounting skills in private industry for several years. Ms. Kinney holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor’s from LeTourneau University. Amber has been recognized for her expertise in nonprofit financial management and was named as “Outstanding CFO Nonprofit Organization” by DCEO Magazine in 2014. Amber is also a member of Financial Executives International. In addition to her professional role, Amber serves the community as a volunteer and currently is Treasurer of Traffick911, a nonprofit that frees youth from sex trafficking by building trust-based relationships.
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, a non-profit organization serving 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.
Other Key Staff