ONABEN’s exciting work in North Dakota!

Hello, friends, colleagues and partners! I hope this email finds each of you enjoying the changing seasons. The weather is brisk in Oklahoma, and before long no green will be left on the trees. I wanted to provide a quick update on ONABEN’s work – I love the ability to share our adventures with you on our website through images, video, and story!

At the latter part of October, Team ONABEN traveled to Belcourt, North Dakota, to provide an entrepreneurial training to our friends on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Reservation. It is always a pleasure to see how the entrepreneurs and small business owners that we have met are growing their businesses and expanding their networks!

Our training topic covered a couple of aspects of marketing. Specifically, our team talked about the positive impact that networking can have on a business, and how devices like cell phones and tablets can aid in a business owner’s ability to market their products and services. ONABEN approaches every training with the idea that our learning platforms are a great way to promote the idea of peer learning. The “floor” is open. Information exchange is encouraged, and it was a great training!

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On our very first trip to Belcourt, our team met Amy, an aspiring entrepreneur with the dream of owning and operating her own restaurant! I create connections with many of the entrepreneurs and business owners that we work with, but Amy and I had a special connection. She is Cherokee and originally from Oklahoma. We hit it off immediately! Amy continues to attend ONABEN’s events in Belcourt. What’s changed in a year? Well, Amy is no longer aspiring…she has realized her business dream. Amy worked with the Turtle Mountain CDFI to obtain a business loan, and now owns and operates a restaurant! Talk about ambition and determination! It is exciting to see Amy busy in the kitchen and waiting on customers. What’s even more exciting….tasting the food!

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Just like Amy, ONABEN has made a few other friends local to the Belcourt area. I was thrilled to see Jamie, a local construction company owner at our last event! Jamie is a great example of the power of small business. He tells his story…the good parts and the bad parts. He shares knowledge….he has a degree in marketing and he understands his audience…so he is a great resource. And, best of all, he gives back to the community. With every business transaction that Jamie completes he gives a percentage back to a youth program, sponsored by one of our local partners, Pathways to Prosperity! I love it….very socially entrepreneurial!

I leave the communities that we serve feeling energized and hopeful. There is so many great examples of innovation and determination across Indian Country. Our team is honored to be a part of such great work! Next week, our team travels back to Molokai’, Hawaii. Another adventure awaits!

Talk Soon, V.

The Latest from ONABEN, including a video highlighting our work in Moloka’i!

Hello, friends! As usual it is a busy time for ONABEN. This week our staff is attending the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Conference in Denver, CO. As a team, this time together is a great way to brainstorm about upcoming projects. And, as an organization in an ever-evolving industry, the time with our peers will be beneficial to the growth and direction of our programs, and a great source of professional development for our staff. We look forward to seeing old friends and making some new connections. In today’s world an accelerator to success is RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS!

The weather is cooling down in most of the parts of the country, but in November our work will take ONABEN and its team back to Moloka’i, Hawaii. On Moloka’i the weather and the community are warm and always inviting. Our time on this island amidst the community members is always rewarding. From innovation in entrepreneurship to burgers and chicken salad from Maka’s Corner, to coordinated efforts between ONABEN and its local partners, to fresh baked bread from a “secret alley way,” to the Saturday marketplace full of local vendors, to the short flight back to Honolulu to head back to the mainland, Moloka’i’s “can do” attitude is the key to a successful project. We cannot wait to see our island friends in mid-November. Mahalo for accepting and embracing our team as a part of your community!

We are moving into year two of our ANA grant and our work continues to progress. We have come a long way on Moloka’i, and I can’t wait to see how far this project will take us. Currently, April from Team ONABEN is working with five island entrepreneurs to create websites for their small business ventures. Distance is overcome by technology! April will work with the entrepreneurs in the weeks leading up to our face-to-face visit by using an online learning platform. ONABEN has discovered that technology is the vehicle that will drive our team to more communities and expand our reach.

In celebration of our work in Hawaii over the last year, ONABEN is excited to share a video highlighting its work and Moloka’i’s entrepreneurial spirit. If I don’t have a lot to say in this post….and, yes, I know that is unusual….it is because I believe the video tells a better story!   Please see the video at the below link and let us know what you think!

https://vimeo.com/108789680

“Talk” Soon, V.

The Latest from ONABEN!

Hello, Friends! ONABEN is recovering from a flurry of activities this past week! But, that’s just how we roll….so, it was all good! Isn’t it funny that we often do our very best when we are stretched a little thin? Although, I don’t recommend it! :) 

So, what’s new with ONABEN? Well, for starters our team was awarded a technical assistance grant by CFED. The grant dollars will enable ONABEN to understand and become more involved with policy action. I attended a kick off meeting in DC last week, and WOW! I was so enlightened. Our team has a lot to learn, but we are so grateful to be awarded this opportunity to learn from our peers and leaders in the industry. Many thanks to the Northwest Area Foundation for funding the policy action initiative! 
 
I would also like to send a shout out to ONABENs newest additions to our Board of Directors! Welcome aboard Cherie Gordon, Nathan Segal, and Guthrie Ducheneaux! We appreciate the commitment that you have made to ONABEN and its mission. I know your contributions to the Board will be many!
 
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Last week, we also held a train-the-trainer. And, what a group it was! We were seventeen participants strong, and the organizations in attendance represented a variety of cultures and communities across Indian Country. Our group was dynamic and engaged….just the way we like them! Talk about peer learning at its best — a big WADO to all of those in attendance! 
 
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As summer comes to an end, we are busy planning for the new year. But,ONABEN recently took some time to celebrate our successes as a team. Our time together is always insightful. It is in these moments that I come to truly understand all of the individual members that make up Team ONABEN, and it is in these moments that I realize why we are so successful as a whole. 
 
To our friends in the non-profit world, I encourage you not to forget to celebrate your successes! The world of non-profits is made up of some very passionate folks and we are driven to make a difference. However, there is nothing wrong with taking the time to pat your teammates on the back. Celebrating milestones and goals your organization has achieved is important. Team building is an important component to building a strong, stable and forward moving organization! Look for an upcoming webinar on the importance of team building! We hope to “see” you there! 
 
Talk Soon, V. 

Introducing the Authentically Cherokee video!

Well, here it is!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to share our video marketing the Authentically Cherokee brand and the work that we do in partnership with Sequoyah Fund, a Native American Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Cherokee, North Carolina. I know it may not seem like a big achievement to you, but trust me, it is a giant leap forward for ONABEN and its team!

The best part of making this video? Hmmm, working with the artists in Cherokee, North Carolina, hands down. But, I also have to say that there is something about seeing our work in this VERY multi-media way…a method that tells the “story” of our journey and our work in ways that written word cannot. THIS video is representative of SO many things…the art, the work, the partnership, our dedication to our mission, the expansion of our organization, the enhanced marketing of our organization and ONABEN’s continued progress forward!

What do I feel when I watch the video and see the artists at work? I feel such an array of emotions! I am humbled that these amazing artists have accepted us into their community. And, in return they have stolen the hearts of the ONABEN team! We are dedicated to this project, and I believe this video depicts that dedication.

This vignette is the first of many that will document our work going forward. As you watch the images and hear the words that encompass this recording, my hope is that you will have a greater understanding of our commitment to ALL of those that we serve. My hope is that curiosity is instilled within you, a curiosity that will lead you to want to know MORE about the artists that make up the Authentically Cherokee brand. My hope is that  each of you becomes as captivated with the culture and beauty of a place and of a people that can ONLY be defined as Authentically Cherokee.

“Talk” soon and thank you for viewing!  V.

 

An Update from ONABEN!

Hello, friends! It’s a great day at ONABEN. We are so excited at all that is before us. Let me begin today’s blog by saying how much we appreciate the partnerships we have forged, the entrepreneurs that we encounter, the communities that we visit, and the work that we do. What a rewarding job we have! There is nothing that we like more than advocating for Native-owned businesses and supporting the resources designed to grow private sector enterprises in Native communities throughout Indian Country.

So, what’s new at ONABEN? Well, remember that amazing visit to North Carolina and the talented Cherokee artists that we work with? Yes, that’s right, the event in Asheville that we held back in July in partnership with Sequoyah Fund and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. We have video of our work there! YAY!!!

For someone who comes from a background in Communications, I can’t tell you what this video means to me. ONABEN has come such a long way in a short amount of time in regard to marketing and communications. And, this video is just another avenue for us to tell the story of our incredible journey. Special thanks to the Administration for Native Americans for funding our work in Cherokee.

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I am so proud of the motivation of our group of artists in Cherokee! They are on a roll and are serious about expanding their audience. In fact, there is a Cherokee Women Artist display at Whole Foods in Asheville! And, a few of our artists have been invited to participate in the Cool Craft Holiday Market, on December 12-14, an event sponsored by Handmade in America! Great work!

All of us at ONABEN are busy working on our individual projects, and as always, working together to build a stronger team. I hope all of you are as content in your jobs as I am in mine. Everyday is an adventure, no two days are alike. I am inspired to be better and try harder, and have learned that every effort, when motivated by the right reasons, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Where will our travels take us next? Well, it looks Lynn, our Contracts and Services Manager, will be conducting a training with the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma with our friends at RedWind Consulting in the coming weeks. I will be attending a grant kick-off meeting in DC…I am preparing for this event, knowing that I will leave inspired. The chances are high that I will run into a couple of old friends and meet some amazing new ones! Then, I’m off to Portland for ONABEN’s annual board retreat and some team building! Nothing like celebrating our successes over the past year!

Talk Soon, V. PS Congrats to all of our friends who received funding from NACA! Way to Go!

ONABEN provides Entrepreneurial Training in Moloka’i, Hawaii!

Aloha from the beautiful but rainy Moloka’i, Hawaii! Our work took us on quite an adventure this week! It has certainly been one of those weeks in which I can say, there is NEVER a dull moment! But, in true ONABEN fashion, our team made some rather delicious lemonade out of what could have just been lemons!  

We love our work here on this island! The islanders are so embracing and the place itself is nothing less than charming….so similar to many of the Native communities that we work in and every bit as beautiful. As we arrived at the small, local airport, I said out loud, “Home sweet home.” My seven year-old, daughter, who accompanied me on this trip, explained, “This isn’t our home, silly.” But, in many ways it HAS become a home away from home….at least for me. There is something about the way in which we are greeted and accepted by the locals that can only be defined as comforting. 

On this trip, we experienced a whole new level of acceptance. Since the moment we arrived, the islands have been preparing for Hurricane Iselle. When our trip began, I had no idea that we were flying in the midst of such weather, but alas we are committed to the communities that we serve….And, I learned that this community is just as committed to us. We received at least four invitations to stay with those Native to this land, whom can only be defined as our  “island family.” It was heart warming, and confirmed the place that we have as extended members of this community.    

We condensed what would have been a two-day event into one day to ensure that everyone could be home with their families, safe from the storms. It was a flurry of activity and we really didn’t know what to expect. However, our lunch and learn presentation brought in six, brave souls dedicated to the expansion of their businesses! Sue Ann, a lovely lady who has attended EVERY training that we have provided, said the sweetest and most encouraging thing. As our presentation ended and we thanked them for their participation, she said, “I want to thank you all for coming. These workshops are the best entrepreneurial trainings I have ever attended. They are relevant and make sense to our needs on the island.” That may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it was! With every training that we plan in each of our three ANA funded sites, we work hard to ensure that the information provided is unique to that community and its entrepreneurs. And, let me tell you, it’s not always easy! Providing the best products and services possible to the people that we serve is a task that our entire ONABEN team takes very seriously and very personally. That simple statement was the pat on the back that we needed to weather the storm that would come later in the evening…literally.  

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As much as I loved our training event and our team’s ability to adapt with the necessary changes, my favorite part of the trip was seeing the progress that one of the local entrepreneurs has made toward his dream of opening his own business! Thursday morning, before our training began, I visited with Gene, a local chef that first attended our training last year. When I first met Gene, he had only an idea. And, now just one year later, he owns a food truck! Best part? Jennifer Hawkins, our local partner, and I were his first customers! I literally got chill bumps when we pulled into his driveway and saw his truck with a surfboard propped up beside it, advertising his “special” for the day! How rewarding it is to see the dreams of an aspiring entrepreneur come to fruition! That’s what this work is all about!  

As I am sure you have come to know, every community is special to us, and every entrepreneur is important. Our work is often tiring, but ALWAYS rewarding. Stay tuned for ALL that is to come and for more updates on our work in Moloka’i, and all of the other communities we work with across Indian Country! Wado and “talk” soon, V.

ONABEN’s work in North Dakota with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Veronica Hix Photo

Greetings from me to you! This week’s post details our training experience on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Reservation in Belcourt, ND. The ONABEN team provided entrepreneurial services to this community as a result of a grant from the Administration for Native Americans. This community is small, but embraces the entrepreneurial spirit!

As in every community that ONABEN finds its team in, I was overcome with excitement as each of our participants engaged in our training, sharing the intimate details of their business ideas, and their struggles.

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This was my first trip to Belcourt in a time of the year in which there wasn’t snow on the ground! The drive from Minot to Belcourt was beautiful….so was the drive from Bismarck to Minot….but, that is another “story.” Let’s just say that the airline we used to fly to North Dakota has a few issues…and, the ONABEN team was re-routed! But, back to Belcourt….our team was mesmerized by fields of yellow flowers. It was picturesque really and provided a sense of nature that I needed after the ordeal with the airlines. Seriously, if you haven’t visited North Dakota in the summer, you should consider it. It was truly lovely.

Our training consisted of a two-day “Indianpreneurship: Journey into Business Planning” event. We spent some time discussing planning, marketing, financial management and basic information relative to understanding credit. The workshop attendees invested in one another through a peer learning activity! Such activities are lots of fun to watch unfold in the classroom, and a valuable learning tool.

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The attendees? Well, they were really interesting folks! We had an array of business owners and business ideas in our midst in Belcourt! One business in particular stood out to me.  Jamie Azure, of J. Azure Construction, employs a social entrepreneurship element to every business transaction that he secures.  His method of giving back to the community resonated with me to the point that the ONABEN team will write a feature story on Jamie’s business in the coming weeks. I think Jamie’s model is a great example of how a business can give back to the community and support a social need at the same time. Look for more information to come about Jamie!

Hmmm, what else….awe, yes, have I mentioned that the ONABEN team supports local, small business owners beyond the classroom? That’s right, there is nothing we like more than shopping with our attendees! As our first day of information sharing came to an end, our team found ourselves at the retail storefront of one of our attendees. Did we buy? Of course….it’s not as much fun to just look!

With every visit ONABEN makes to the communities in which we work, our dedication goes beyond our project. We find ourselves committed to the entrepreneurs fully, and overcome with a sense of commitment to the places that are represented by the people that we come to love.

Thank you North Dakota for welcoming us into your community, you have found a place in our hearts.

Look forward to “speaking” to you again soon, V.

Authentically Cherokee Marketplace in Asheville, NC

Veronica Hix Photo

Greetings ONABEN Friends! I am excited to report that our event in Asheville, North Carolina, was a huge success. I leave this place feeling excited and looking forward to the work ahead of Team ONABEN. I find today’s event almost indescribable. I tend to be a very positive person when I consider the work that we do, but I think today’s event surpassed even my own expectations!!! We even had a local TV news station cover the marketplace, and if you want to get a feel for the day’s atmosphere you can view their segment on our website:

http://www.onaben.org/resources/videos/

The Asheville Chamber of Commerce is the most amazing group of people, and in just a short amount of time working together, has become an invaluable partner and friend to ONABEN. When we first began planning this event, I wasn’t sure we would get more than five artists to participate. Well, I am thrilled to report that we filled every table made available to us by the Chamber. In fact, we had so much demand that some of those tables had to house the work of two artists! A big WADO to Heidi Reiber of the Chamber for working so hard to accommodate all of our artists and for anticipating every possible need that we might encounter.

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And, the artists….well, I am so proud to work with and for so many talented individuals. From beaded earrings, to unique pieces of pottery, to cornhusk dolls, to miniature baskets, to paintings, to handmade soaps and lotions, our Authentically Cherokee artists offered a variety of artistic creations!  Today’s marketplace showcased a lot of very talented people and everyone made sales! The traffic never stopped, but instead flowed steadily throughout the day. Most importantly, through our work with Sequoyah Fund, and made possible by funding dollars provided by ANA, ONABEN helped to unlock a world of possibilities to the Native American artists in attendance today.

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In one of my earliest visits to the one and only Cherokee, North Carolina, the artists that attended our training were not sure about expanding their customer base by traveling outside of their local community. But, I feel confident that our event today helped to ease any anxiety they may have had early on in our work together. It was exhilarating to see the artists excited and networking and thinking beyond the Qualla Boundary that they call home. Connections were made that will ultimately lead to other events, thus growing these artists as entrepreneurs, and perhaps even more importantly, helping them to expand their roles as culture carriers of the Cherokee community.

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What’s next? Well, we successfully took Cherokee to Asheville. Now we need to get Asheville to Cherokee! Our first event will not be our last. And, as successful as it was, I can say with certainty that it will not be our best. Look for our artist events in North Carolina to get better and better, and occurring on a more regular basis as our program expands!

As always, thank you for reading, and “talk” soon, V.

ONABEN’s Exciting Work with Cherokee Artists in North Carolina!

Veronica Hix Photo

Wow, where to start! Yesterday was a flurry of activity for the ONABEN Team! We spent the day capturing video and images of the artists and partner organization that we work with in Cherokee, North Carolina. One word to describe the day? Hmmm, so hard, probably…INSPRING! I mentioned in our previous blog that time spent in Cherokee is comparable to time spent at home. What I didn’t mention is that the time spent working here in this community is almost impossible to describe. I find myself encouraged, uplifted in a way, motivated to the extreme and literally in complete awe of the talented artists that our work has led us to. This experience has been one of the most rewarding of my career. There’s just something about this place and this particular group of artists that just leaves me with a sense of accomplishment….and yet our work has really just started!

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So, what exactly did yesterday’s work entail that left me feeling so warm and fuzzy? Well, the morning started with a trip to Betty Maney’s home and studio. As the road winded around the river, I could feel the excitement burning in my heart. Betty’s place is nestled in the woods, the sound of the nearby stream played constantly, lulling us to a mental place that can only be described as inner peace. It was beautiful, kind of magical in the most unassuming kind of way. And, Betty, what a treat! She is as sweet as she is talented. She taught us the intricate details that go into EVERY basket that she creates, from the process of harvesting the trees from the nearby woods, to processing them with her very own hands to create the most perfect, strips of wood for weaving the baskets. Talk about organic! Even the dyes that Betty uses for coloring her baskets are taken from roots and walnuts, and other natural resources found in the woods behind her home. I have had the pleasure of being around Native artists my whole life, and I don’t think I had any idea how much work was involved in one basket! I had an idea, but really didn’t consider the blood, sweat, tears and even manpower that went into this process. It was certainly an eye opening experience, and I must say that I was crazy impressed at the physical aspects that go into creating a basket! I mean this little lady literally hauls trees down from a rather large mountainside! WOW! The cool thing about Betty and the other artists that we work with here in North Carolina is the idea that tradition is never far from their heart….tying them to the past, yet their works embody the contemporary…embracing tomorrow.

As hard as it was to leave Betty, we had other artists to visit! So, it was off to see Lisa and Missy! Our time with Missy and Lisa was nothing short of wonderful…and, a little surreal. Here we are in Missy’s shop building, which is literally an incubator for artists to grow together and to support one another in their works. Lisa makes soaps and lotions, made from traditional ingredients that are referred to by local elders as medicinal. And, wow do they ever smell good! It’s hard not to want all of them…Nathan from the ONABEN team can attest to that! LOL.

Missy makes cornhusk dolls and shared a personal journey with us. I think what made this visit so special is the way that these two ladies made us feel a part of their lives, and shared their own, unique stories with our team. As it turns out, Missy and I shared similar journeys of physical healing and both agree that what some would consider to be the worst thing that could happen, we believe carried us to a better state of being…all together. It’s funny how in the face of adversity, ones’ spirit can really come to life.

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Right before that conversation, I had admired Missy’s dolls, one in particular spoke to me. Pointing at it, I told Nathan, “I really like this. I think she is beautiful.” It’s amazing, how sharing personal stories of triumph and victory creates a bond between people. As Missy and I embraced and shared a celebratory high five, our eyes met. Mine were obviously wet with tears. The hardest times of my life are not hard to talk about, but are emotional to remember. She pulled away from me and walked toward the shelf of dolls displayed. Missy picked up the doll that I had admired….not knowing that I had picked it out earlier to buy at our event in Asheville, and said, “I want you to have this.” My mind said there was no way that I could accept it…after all, I intended to buy it, but, my heart knows that it is offensive not to accept a gift. So, with tears in my eyes and a chill up my spine, I took it from Missy and will hold it close to me for all the rest of my days. I will love it not just because it is beautiful, but because it is a piece of Missy, and it is symbolic of the journey that we shared, the work that brought us together and the bond that will tie us to one another from here forward. Wado, Missy, for just being you!

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We visited the storefront that Lisa sells her soaps in and, all I can say is if I love seeing them in production mode, well I love watching them in action, selling their works even more! LOL.

We finished out the day visiting with Kristi Long. Kristi does some very cool work with wood, and she is always lots of fun to talk with. She utilized technology to share traditional designs in a very contemporary way…on earrings, notebooks, wallets, wine racks, syllabary blocks, and more!

As we captured video of these strong and talented and amazing artists and women, each of them included a little something personal about their feelings on ONABEN and me as a person….as a friend, as an extended member of their community.  I can only say that their feelings are more than reciprocated. I love these women and their art as much as I love this place. Many thanks to the Administration for Native Americans for funding this project and supporting Native peoples! Check in for an update on our event in Asheville!

“Talk” soon, V.

From the desk of ONABEN’s Executive Director, Veronica Hix

Veronica Hix Photo

Greetings from Tulsa, Oklahoma! This is the first of a series of ongoing blog posts I will be making to our community. My hope is that this blog will bring our readers closer to ONABEN, and also begin a dialogue about how we can partner together to best positively impact economic development in Native America. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions!

This week our work brought us to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, the heart of the Mvskoke Creek Nation. ONABEN provided our signature two-day entrepreneurial training in partnership with the tribe’s emerging CDFI. With each of these trainings, I find myself encouraged by the growing interest in entrepreneurship throughout Indian Country.

Just as inspiring are the kinds of business ideas that are presented by our participants. So many of the ideas shared embody the definition of social entrepreneurship. The desire to give back to and the desire to fill needs in our Native communities is a dominant trait in every community that I have had the pleasure of working with in Indian Country. Just this week in the Creek Nation, I heard a business idea that presented ways to reintroduce people in recovery into the workforce. Another business idea grappled with ways to encourage youth entrepreneurship in the community. I was just in heaven! How amazing to work in this industry, to be introduced to so many different Native cultures, and to be welcomed by Native peoples representing so many unique Native American tribes. Also, how gratifying to see Native people striving to become the change they wish to see in their communities. Good times…Amazing experiences.

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Next week, our team will be traveling to North Carolina to work with a group of Eastern Band Cherokee artists from what is referred to as the Qualla Boundary. I love working in this community. Our partner, Sequoyah Fund, is a local, Native CDFI and a real gem! Going to Cherokee is like going home….comfortable, easy, and always inviting. You may be wondering what role ONABEN and Sequoyah Fund play with these artists? This particular project, which is funded by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), allows us to work with this community for three years total. We are working to assist a group of contemporary, Native artists to expand their audiences and to create an awareness of their individual, unique expressions of art. If you happen to be in North Carolina next week, please do attend our first event to market these artists, which will take place on Tuesday, July 15, at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce….yet, another partnership we have forged to further our initiative. Without partners, our work would be so much more difficult and probably a lot less enjoyable. How fortunate ONABEN is to have so many friends to help us further our mission!

I simply cannot wait to update you on our event next week! No worries if you are unable to make it as we will be sharing pictures and video. I can’t even express how excited I am about our work in North Carolina, which has come together so well! Please view the Facebook page entitled “Authentically Cherokee” that April, from the ONABEN team, created to help market the artists and our work there – the page is new, but is beginning to take shape!

As always, I welcome your ideas and comments. I look forward to having a dialogue about how ONABEN can be helpful to your business, organization, or community. I can be reached via e-mail at veronica@onaben.org and also via phone at 503-968-1500. I look forward to hearing from you!

“Talk” soon! V.