Getting to Know Lakota Funds

Elmer Clairmont and Agnes High Horse purchased their rental home in the Eagle Nest Housing Development, a low-income housing tax credit project initiated by Lakota Funds over 20 years ago.


One of the First

Established in 1986 as the first Native American community development financial institution (CDFI), Lakota Funds began by helping entrepreneurs on the Pine Ridge Reservation realize their dreams through $500 loans. Today, Lakota Funds continues to play a vital role in improving life for the Lakota people by placing capital with new and growing businesses on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations and surrounding areas. Since their inception, they have deployed over 1,419 loans totaling over $24.2 million, helped establish or expand 983 businesses, and created 2,348 permanent jobs. With lending at the heart of their mission, Lakota Funds provides business and agricultural loans up to $300,000.

In addition to being the first-ever CDFI on an Indian Reservation, Lakota Funds has achieved several more historic milestones, including:

  • The launch of a child development account program, a unique matched savings program for youth as young as Kindergarten-age, designed to build the family core – the first of its kind on any reservation in the nation.
  • Becoming the first Native CDFI to be approved as an FSA guaranteed lender.

The conversion of Eagle Nest Housing, a low-income tax credit housing development, into privately-owned homes. Not only was Eagle Nest the first Native American tax credit financed low-income housing project in America, but it was also the largest-ever influx of residential housing units on deeded land into the Pine Ridge Reservation real estate market.


Partnering to Create Homeownership Opportunities

Another history-making first came through an initiative spearheaded by Lakota Funds to create the Lakota Federal Credit Union. When the Credit Union opened its doors in 2012, it became the first federally-insured financial institution on the Pine Ridge Reservation since 1935. It remains as the only depository institution on the Reservation. Over 10 years later, Lakota Funds and the Lakota Federal Credit Union continue to work collaboratively to leverage resources and expand services to the communities they serve. One aspect of that partnership has directly supported increased homeownership rates for Native American families since the Lakota Federal Credit Union began offering mortgages in 2021. If applicants do not immediately qualify, they are able to engage in Lakota Funds’ credit builder program. After completing the credit builder program, they become mortgage-ready and then re-engage with Lakota Federal Credit Union.


Supporting the Local Construction Industry

Long before that partnership, Lakota Funds was supporting homeownership in other ways. In 2012, Lakota Funds deepened its work with building contractors by offering specialized contractor development services for this critical sector of the Reservation’s economy. Over the next couple of years, Lakota Funds continued to focus on the construction industry by developing and delivering a range of in-person and online courses to build the capacity of this sector. The lending products and development services that Lakota Funds provides, continue to support local building contractors today.


Building a Housing System

With extensive experience in this area, it was a natural fit for Lakota Funds’ Executive Director, Tawney Brunsch, to get involved with the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition’s Physical Issues Committee. As Chair of the Committee since it was formed, Tawney has led the group to identify several barriers to the lack of housing stock on South Dakota’s reservations.

“It’s not just a house, it’s about creating a system,” she explains.

By establishing a construction industry capacity building initiative, the group is working on several fronts to build infrastructure and systems that create more opportunities for homeownership. Through robust and holistic programming, the Physical Issues Committee has launched the construction internship program, inspector certification trainings, contractor workshops and trainings, and appraiser apprenticeship opportunities.

Tawney ascertains these efforts with the Coalition have helped strengthen Lakota Funds’ work with building contractors. By partnering on and participating in the construction internship and contractor workshops, it has enabled Lakota Funds to increase direct interactions with contractors and communities.

“It has put is in a good position to help more contractors and advance the types of products we offer to meet their needs,” she says.

Lakota Funds’ Deputy Director, Ellen White Thunder, has also taken an active role in the Physical Issues Committee, becoming a certified residential building inspector herself. Although known for being an extremely difficult test, the pass rate at the last inspector certification training doubled under Ellen’s leadership.


Advocating Homeownership Opportunities

Tawney says that with Lakota Funds serving as the fiscal sponsor for the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, it means “we are going to be right out there in the lead making it happen.”

She points out that the Coalition has identified issues that are impacting all of Indian Country, such as the USDA Rural Development 502 Direct Loan and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan. The advocacy work by Coalition members has made substantial changes to both of these programs, leading to increased access to mortgage capital for Native American families.

“We are creating models with the potential to be replicated and scaled, and it’s going well beyond South Dakota. These issues are very near and dear to me, and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” states Tawney.

Getting to Know Eric Shepherd

Eric Shepherd, Vice Chairman

Eric Shepherd (third from right) was seated on the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition’s inaugural Board of Directors in June 2022. He serves as the Vice Chairman and is the Executive Director of Sisseton Wahpeton Housing Authority.


A New Vision

Eric took the helm of the Sisseton Wahpeton Housing Authority as Executive Director in August of 2018 and has been working to transform the traditional housing authority paradigm in his community since then. Stepping into this position at a time when most tribal homes are nearing the end of their life span, he saw a need for revitalization – not only for the physical structures, but also for the vision of the organization.

“Materials have changed over the years. Our ancestors had to make do with what they had, and that worked for them at that time. We acknowledge those efforts and know that everything we have now is because of what they did. Today, we carry on that legacy by assessing and reevaluating and keep improving,” says Eric.

In less than five years under his leadership, with a commitment from tribal council to support new housing construction, SWHA his built 57 new homes. Rather than building homes to last the standard 20-30 years, they are taking a 50-year approach to embed resiliency into the physical infrastructure of their community. To support this strategy, Eric says his team’s motto is “built tight and ventilated right.” Under the Tribe’s development plan, SWHA will be building several scattered sites over the next 10 years.


Developing a Workforce

These accomplishments have not come without challenges, though. There is a huge age gap in the Sisseton area’s skilled labor force, which strains the efficiencies and productivity levels of SWHA’s construction teams.

“We had an awesome workforce back in the day,” says Eric. He explains that as Indian gaming gained momentum, more tribal members sought out those jobs. As a result, the trades workforce shrank.

While the majority of SWHA’s labor is over 50 years of age, there is a small but growing trend of 20-somethings entering the building trades. This is partially due to SWHA’s involvement in the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition’s Construction Internship Program. Through that program, about 20 young tribal members have gained hands-on experience in residential home building and about 10 have obtained full-time employment in the construction sector. With workforce development as one of SWHA’s top priorities, they have approached this issue holistically by engaging several other tribal departments. The result of this collaboration has been an integrated road map to building their local workforce.

“I am super proud of my team for taking on those tasks and wearing different hats,” says Eric.


Changing Perspectives

Another challenge that Eric is consistently navigating at SWHA is the astronomically high demand for low-income rental housing. Eric has spearheaded the development of a revolutionary, data-driven program to alleviate that demand by creating pathways to affordable homeownership. Based on income brackets, the program has placed 20 previous renters into new lease-to-own units. Through the leasing period, tenants will be investing into a tangible asset and building skills to successfully take on homeownership.

“We have the entry points for housing options, but this is an exit plan based on self-sufficiency,” proclaims Eric.

The program, currently in its first year, is changing the community’s perspectives surrounding tribal housing. This new view embraces low-income rental units as transition points, rather than permanent dwellings. By moving tenants through low-income units, versus into them, SWHA will be able to lower demand for tribal housing to a more manageable pace while creating opportunities for economic advancement for everyone.

In another step outside of the traditional housing authority box, Eric and his team are creating a handful of Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). One of these entities will include the renovation of an existing hotel to capture more tourism dollars flowing through the state. The idea behind these for-profit entities is to generate income that will support SWHA’s self-sufficiency and decrease reliance on the federal government.

“We’re changing the perspective of what ‘housing authority’ means,” he explains.


Leaving a Legacy

As a champion fancy dancer, competing in almost every state across the country, Eric has seen a lot of Indian Country. From the time he was a young boy, Eric remembers his elders impressing upon him that he was a descendant of strong tribal leaders and that he should carry his heritage in a proud way. Eric knew that his great, great grandfather was one of the first chairmen of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and that other relatives had served in various tribal leadership capacities. But, he grew up in an urban area of Southern California and didn’t fully grasp the meaning of those lessons from his elders until later in life when he moved home to the Lake Traverse Reservation.

This broad range of varied experiences have shaped his unique perspectives and approaches to his work today. As a father of six, he takes a longer view. He isn’t just fulfilling immediate needs for shelter, but he is also developing housing for future generations. His belief that everyone should be able to grow up in a safe and affordable home is a driving force that keeps him going every day. It was also part of what inspired him to become part of the Coalition. He wanted to be a voice for the region and to reach tribal communities across the nation so they could also leave a legacy of homeownership.

His foundational message, “You can do a lot more with your housing authority. It’s doesn’t have to be just what we’ve always done.”

Coalition Names Housing Development Director

The South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition is pleased to announce that we have selected Red Dawn Foster (Oglala Lakota and Navajo) as Executive Director to lead the formation and launch of our housing development subsidiary, an entity that will support tribal communities in their efforts to increase the number of safe and affordable homes.

“Housing is the foundation to economic development and overall health and wellness of families,” says Foster. “I’m excited to be part of helping Native communities to leverage resources and find innovative solutions.”

Foster is in her third term as a South Dakota State Senator representing the 27th district. She brings over 15 years of experience working with tribal communities in the community and economic development field. Foster holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Master of Arts degree in Business Administration.

“We are thrilled to have Red Dawn on board. This is a milestone in the formation of the Coalition’s housing development subsidiary and a critical step to increasing our overall sustainability and furthering our mission,” says Sharon Vogel, Board Chairwoman of the Coalition.

This strategic staffing step follows the release of a feasibility study that revealed the Coalition could in fact establish a viable development subsidiary. Once the entity is formally established, Foster will design a menu of services that could include assessments, project planning, community engagement, contract management, project management, or other services to meet client needs. She will also create a pool of talented housing development experts to consult with tribes, tribal departments, tribally-designated housing entities, or nonprofit organizations on housing development projects.

The creation of the Coalition’s housing development subsidiary has been supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Administration for Native Americans, Enterprise Community Partners, and Wells Fargo InvestNative.

Coalition Builds Workforce and Improves Home Construction

Since 2016, the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition’s Physical Issues Committee has been working to increase the number of certified building instructors in the state’s reservation communities. Building inspectors play a critical role in ensuring homes are safe and healthy for new homeowners. As part of these efforts, the Coalition hosts annual inspector certification workshops that provide attendees with code books, professional training, study materials, and the required fees to take the International Code Council (ICC) certification exam. So far, six individuals have passed the challenge and become certified inspectors for new residential construction.

Archie Marshall, a lead inspector for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, attended a workshop and passed the test about a year ago. He heard about the workshop from another Coalition member and thought it would be a good opportunity since he was already doing some inspection work.

“I never knew this type of training existed. I was aware of a lot of the codes already, but I had never seen an ICC book,” says Marshall.

He says that even with 35 years of construction experience, he still learned a lot from the workshop and had to work hard to pass the 60-question certification exam within the designated two hours.

“The instructor was really helpful. We learned how to use our code books as a resource guide,” says Marshall.

Once Marshall passed the test, he received a certificate and an identification card from ICC. His certification will be good for three years. Within that time, he must complete a certain amount of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to stay current on the ever-changing construction industry. Without the CEUs, he’ll have to retake the test.

“I was always told that construction is an evolving industry. Anybody building anything has to have ongoing training,” says Marshall.

Immediately following his certification, he was contracted as the Lead Inspector for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Construction Office. Since then, he has completed over 150 inspections for remodeled roofs, windows, ADA ramps, door replacements, and more. Amid all of this, he has received several employment opportunities, and he knows of a handful of openings for inspectors.

“So yeah, I have job security,” affirms Marshall.

This year, the Coalition will host two inspector certification workshops – one in March and another in September. These events are being facilitated as part of a $5 million grant from the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA’s) Good Jobs Challenge. Through grant activities, the Coalition and our partners will create 100 jobs over three years.

Workshop Attracts Over 100 Attendees in Effort to Increase Housing Stock on Indian Reservations

Workshop Attracts Over 100 Attendees in Effort to Increase Housing Stock on Indian Reservations

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), about 16 percent of households on Indian reservations are overcrowded, and an additional 68,000 housing units are needed to alleviate this burden. Housing in Indian Country is a complex and costly problem, but the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition is making strides in reversing long-standing issues in our state.

“The Coalition is literally taking a ground-up approach to solving the housing crisis that South Dakota’s reservation communities have been enduring for too long. We’ve taken a proactive approach to eliminate barriers to homeownership. Ultimately, it is about increasing the number of homes so that people have safe and affordable places to live,” says Elias Mendoza, Program Director for the Coalition.

As part of these efforts, the Coalition hosts an annual Contractor’s Workshop designed to build the capacity of construction firms that are working or want to work in Native communities. This year’s workshop attracted 109 attendees from four different states (South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska) who learned about safety, bonding, financing, and best business practices. They also discussed the possibility of starting a Native American chapter of the International Code Council and had the opportunity to pitch their businesses to various federal, state, and tribal agencies.

“This has become an annual event that building contractors working in reservation communities have come to look forward to. Our hope is that they walk away with tools that will contribute to their success,” says Ellen White Thunder, Deputy Director of Lakota Funds, who played a key role in organizing this year’s event.

The Coalition’s holistic approach to increasing housing stock in reservation communities, which has been underway for nearly six years, also includes a construction internship program, an inspector certification program, and an effort to increase the number of appraisers serving Native communities.

Getting to Know Four Bands

Four Bands Community Fund

Four Bands Community Fund, a Kola Member of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, is located in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.


A Growing Organization

When Four Bands first began their work as a Native community development financial institution (CDFI) in 2000, less than 1% of businesses on the Cheyenne River Reservation were Native American-owned. To date, they have deployed over $20 million in business loans, resulting in the start-up or expansion of hundreds of new businesses and the creation or retention of over 1,000 jobs. While still deeply committed to private sector business development at home on the Reservation, Four Bands expanded its geographic service area to include the entire state of South Dakota about 10 years ago. The organization has also greatly expanded its suite of programs to meet community needs – one of the most pressing being housing.

In 2018, Four Bands piloted a mortgage product, deploying one loan valuing $7,600. By the time of the official launch in 2019, they had already built a pipeline of mortgage borrowers through a partnership with Cheyenne River Housing Authority, in which they had helped deliver homeownership training to hundreds of families. Within three years they deployed a total of 44 mortgage loans valuing nearly $4 million. Four Bands dedicates an average of 25 hours of customized technical assistance and coaching to help each client become mortgage-ready and guides them step-by-step through the entire process, from pre-application to post-loan servicing. At any given time, they are working with about 30 clients in varying stages of their homeownership journeys.


An Advocate for Access to Capital

After Four Bands launched their homeownership program, they quickly experienced a demand that outpaced available capital for home financing. As an active member in the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, Four Bands joined the advocacy efforts to increase access to mortgage capital. They became a key partner in the USDA Rural Development 502 Direct CDFI Relending Pilot where they deployed $1 million in 502 Direct Loans. In late 2022, USDA announced an expansion of the pilot that will enable Four Bands to deploy an additional $3 million. They are continuing advocacy efforts with the Coalition to make the pilot permanent.

Four Bands has two staff members that assist clients with 502 Direct Loans as well as their other mortgage products, April Anderson and Tori Chasing Hawk.

April explains, “The [502 Direct CDFI Relending] Pilot helps us get the right capital into the right project. It’s a huge benefit by helping housing stay affordable, which means we are able to service more clients.”

Both April and Tori come from a banking background and enjoy the client-centered, flexible approach at Four Bands. They let the client take the lead, but if they need help, April and Tori help them problem solve.

“They don’t have to fit into a box,” says Tori, who helps clients with anything from savings and credit to insurance and property taxes.

“It’s really nice. We get to be on the journey with our clients. We ride it with them no matter how they need our support, watching them grow and learn,” says April.

They say the best part is when homeowners share their story and inspire the next group of people to start their journey.

Let's welcome our newest team member!

Welcome Cheryce Not Afraid!

Please join us in welcoming the newest member of our growing team, Cheryce Not Afraid (Oglala Sioux)! Cheryce came on board this month as our new Operations Manager, and will be supporting the Coalition as we transition to an independent 501c(3) by helping to establish policies and procedures as well as key financial functions within the organization.

“It will be exciting to see what we will accomplish. There are so many things being worked on, and one thing connects to the next,” she says.

Prior to her position as Operations Manager, Cheryce worked for Oglala Lakota College and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She brings over a decade in financial and grants management to the Coalition. Cheryce holds several degrees, including an Associate’s Degree in Entrepreneurship, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and a Master’s Degree in Indigenous People’s Law. Cheryce, her husband, and four children enjoy participating in and watching sports and traveling to powwows. With such a busy schedule, she says her favorite times are those spent at home.

“I love just being at home – having that stability. In this position, I get to help people have that feeling as well,” Cheryce states.

Getting to Know Sharon Vogel

Sharon Vogel, Chairwoman

Sharon Vogel (third from left) was seated on the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition’s inaugural Board of Directors in June 2022. She serves as the Chairwoman and is the Executive Director of Cheyenne River Housing Authority.


A New Era of Indian Housing

The Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which was enacted by Congress in 1996, transformed housing in Indian Country by giving tribes greater control over their allocations of federal dollars. It was shortly after this game-changing legislation that Sharon Vogel, with encouragement from her mentor, returned home to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to enter into the homeownership field. Taking on a totally new initiative that had no established road maps, Sharon helped launch the Cheyenne River Housing Authority’s One Stop Mortgage Center. The center was part of a national strategy to build local capacity and promote homeownership in Native American communities.

“We realized it wasn’t going to be a cookie cutter program,” says Sharon, reflecting on the novelty of mortgages on the Reservation over 20 years ago. “That first year we closed maybe three loans, and each of them was a process. You had never done it before, and they had never done it before.”

Those were some of the first Housing and Urban Development Section 184 (HUD 184) mortgages deployed on Cheyenne River, but there were more “firsts” to come. Realizing they needed capital from a community-based mortgage lender, Sharon was an integral part of creating Community 1st Credit Union in 2007 under the sponsorship of the Cheyenne River Housing Authority. Although it has become part of Black Hills Federal Credit Union, the facility continues to provide essential banking services to Cheyenne River residents.

Setting the Foundation with Education

Just having more ready access to mortgage capital ushered in a new era of progress, however, Cheyenne River Housing Authority’s 12-week homebuyer education program has also brought about transformational change. Although the class itself has changed and grown over the years, Sharon believes it is still the best thing they can do.

She explains, “The classes have been great for introducing the mortgage loan process and they also incorporate consumer education. It has been really impactful and has practical applications to all aspects of life. The feedback is always positive, and that’s how we know we’re on the right path.”

Sharon says the participants that have completed the class and gone through the mortgage process have been some of the best advertisers of homeownership. Cheyenne River’s local Native community development financial institution (CDFI), Four Bands Community Fund, has also been a major contributor to increasing the number of homeowners on the Reservation. Potential homebuyers now have multiple lender options for financing their new home.

“Mortgage lending is now really understood [in the community],” says Sharon.

Another major milestone achieved under Sharon’s leadership has been the successful financing of seven housing development projects for Badger Park, a 160-acre development that will eventually house up to 1,500 people. With 38 planned homeownership lots, the development will also feature apartments, rentals, elderly housing, and outdoor recreational areas.

“One of our biggest accomplishments is to be able to provide the mortgage borrower with a tribal lot assignment that has fully-built infrastructure,” says Sharon. This approach eliminates prohibitive infrastructure costs that many families would have otherwise faced building in a rural area.

Implementing Collective Action Strategies

Sharon has been involved with the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition from the start and was immediately drawn to the Policy Committee, which she has co-chaired for the past six years. She saw that many of the barriers to homeownership would require coordinated advocacy as part of the solutions, so that is where she has applied much of her energy.

“It is so satisfying to see more things happening, especially since the Coalition started. We’ve seen homeownership rates increasing on all of the reservations,” delights Sharon.

The Coalition’s Policy Committee has raised awareness of Native American homeownership by engaging policy makers and helped spread replicable models throughout the country by leveraging partnerships. They have also celebrated several policy victories, especially with the Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program and the USDA 502 Direct Loan program. Although these are some big wins, Sharon points out that the Coalition’s advocacy work really took hold as more partners joined in the earlier years. It was a collective effort that effected change.

She adds, “You can’t underestimate the value of small change. I think about some of the small steps leading up to where we were able influence the development of important work. There is so much work that has been impactful, yet there is so much more work that needs to be done. We are very fortunate to have multiple successes in multiple arenas, and that is the result of very hard work.”

A House is More Than a Home

Outside of work, Sharon enjoys spending time with her kids and grandkids. A big part of her enjoyment is being supportive and encouraging them in their activities. She also appreciates being able to go home and unwind with leisurely projects.

“Your home is your sanctuary and your retreat,” she comments.

Centered on that belief, it is no coincidence that Sharon continuously works to create a similar reality for so many other Native families in her community, across the state, and throughout the nation.

“You see what families can do when they are stabilized. It changes the family in a good way. It changes their children and grandchildren, and it changes the whole community. It’s important for people to know they have a safe place,” affirms Sharon.

Coalition Seeks a Housing Development Subsidiary Executive Director

The South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (SDNHOC) is a diverse group of over 75 tribal, state, federal, nonprofit, and private sector stakeholders working to identify barriers, share innovative solutions, and leverage resources to create a clear path to homeownership for Native people in South Dakota. We are governed by a representative Board of Directors, and Lakota Funds, a Native community development financial institution, serves as our fiscal agent. After working as an informal coalition for nearly ten years, we are now working towards becoming an independent, 501(c)3 organization. We are currently developing statewide homeownership and workforce development programs and envision a staff of seven employees by early 2023.

To contribute to the organization’s sustainability, we are also creating a new Housing Development Subsidiary (HDS) which will serve as the development arm of the SDNHOC. The HDS will primarily focus on providing housing development services to Coalition member organizations who wish to increase or improve housing opportunities for Native families in South Dakota. Examples of services might include serving as the developer for housing construction projects, conducting housing needs assessments and market studies, obtaining preliminary architectural and engineer reports, conducting site analysis, obtaining construction financing, developing infrastructure, preparing design and construction documents, or providing property management services.

We are seeking to hire a Housing Development Subsidiary Executive Director who will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of the new subsidiary.

Primary responsibilities:

  • Help to design and manage a new entity that provides housing development services to potential clients;
  • Create and maintain a high-quality development team comprised of staff members, independent contractors, and volunteers;
  • Conduct contract and project management;
  • Oversee housing development projects to ensure successful outcomes and capacity building opportunities for clients and impacted communities;
  • Maintain relationships with community, government, and private sector stakeholders;
  • Work closely with the SDNHOC Board of Directors to set priorities and strategic directions;
  • Manage organizational activities to ensure the long-term financial sustainability for both HDS and SDNHOC;
  • Hire and manage staff and consultants;
  • Oversee the development and implementation of HDS policies and procedures;
  • Take the lead on HDS resource development and fundraising efforts; and
  • Ensure compliance with all funding sources.

Download Full Job Description

To Apply

Please send a cover letter and resume to:

Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director
Lakota Funds
PO Box 340
Kyle, SD  57752


South Dakota Housing Awards Tawney Brunsch with the Friend of Housing Award

South Dakota Housing presented its “Friend of Housing” Award to Tawney Brunsch at the annual statewide housing conference. South Dakota Housing presents the award annually to an individual who has made a commitment to affordable housing in South Dakota through their contributions, achievements and vision.

As a community leader, Brunsch serves as the Executive Director of Lakota Funds, the first Native Community Development Financial Institution, serving the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations with access to savings accounts, consumer loans and mortgage loans. She also led Lakota Funds to be the first Native financial institution to become a USDA FSA guaranteed lender. Under her leadership, as of December 2020, Lakota Funds had loaned more than $16.3 million through 1,225 loans, aiding 823 businesses and creating over 2,000 jobs.

On the state level, Brunsch is a vital member of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition since its creation in 2013, a group dedicated to increasing homeownership opportunities for Native families to build strong and healthy communities. She currently serves as the fiscal agent, on the Executive/Steering Committee, leads the Physical Issues Committee, and is active on the Policy and Veteran’s Committees.

At the national level, Brunsch was a founding board member for the Native CDFI Network, a national group that works to strengthen Native CDFIs. She is the Chair of the Credit Committee for the Council for Native American Farmers and Ranchers and just completed her term on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines’ Advisory Council. And this year, she ascends to chair the Consumer Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

When Tawney is not working tirelessly for her native community, she dedicates her spare time to her passions that include her grandbabies, children, and her beloved Green Bay Packers.

“Every community needs a champion and the Native community is lucky to be the recipient of Tawney’s work” said executive director Lorraine Polak. “Tawney uses her passion to lead the way for the betterment of her community.”

The Friend of Housing Award was started 23 years ago to recognize individuals and/or companies who are instrumental in providing affordable housing in South Dakota. Annually, South Dakota Housing accepts nominations for the award and announces the recipient at their annual housing conference.