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Our Team Continues to Grow!

We are pleased to announce the recent growth of our team here at Akiptan. Please join us in welcoming new staff members helping to make a change in Native Agriculture finance. Gabrielle Knife joins us as the Part time Administrative Assistant and she will assist with all administrative duties. Whitney O’Rourke-Risse joins the team as a Loan Officer and will work with clients on business planning/technical assistance, underwriting and loan follow up. Justine Kougl joins the team as a Program Officer and will work intricately with the programs team on programs and grant activities.

Gabrielle Knife comes from the Mnicoujou band of the Lakota Oyate (people) and is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Gabrielle was born and raised in Eagle Butte, SD where she had established herself in community, Lakota culture and language. Throughout her life, Gabrielle had become a perpetual participant in the Native American powwow community receiving numerous awards for both her fancy shawl and jingle dress dancing, as well as, singing accomplishments. These talents have allowed Gabrielle to travel and network throughout Indian Country, making friends and family nationwide. Her singing abilities have allowed her to participate in prestigious events where she has been called upon to sing the US National Anthem in the Lakota language. She has even accomplished herself as an independent recording artist being nominated for prestigious Native Awards in the Music Industry. Gabrielle continues to travel, sing and dance along with her three children (ages 15, 9 and 4) as a way to remain established in Native American culture and language.

Gabrielle currently resides with her three children in Rapid City, SD where she has completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. While finishing her degree, Gabrielle had worked as Executive Assistant to the Senior VP of Financial Operations at the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board. Prior to that, she has accumulated approximately 10 years of administrative and banking/finance experience. Gabrielle brings her experience, professionalism and technological literacy to the team. As she continues her higher education, striving for her Masters in Business Administration, these abilities will only strengthen where she will contribute as a valuable asset to the Akiptan team.

Whitney O’Rourke-Risse is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She is a 4th generation rancher who grew up on her family ranch near Interior, South Dakota which is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whitney graduated from South Dakota State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Business Economics. Before coming to Akiptan, Whitney worked for Lakota Funds; a Native CDFI located in Kyle, South Dakota. During her time there, she and Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds created the Lakota Federal Credit Union also located in Kyle, SD which launched in 2012 where she became the Branch Manager until 2016. Whitney then went on to work for Thunder Valley as the Chief Financial Officer and the Indian Health Services as a Billing Technician. She enjoys working on her family ranch, spending quality time with her family, and friends.

Justine Kougl has spent many years working within the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in Agriculture, Community Development and at the Farm Service Agency. Her husband and children are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Justine holds a Masters Degree in Economics from South Dakota State University and has career experience in finance, program management, non-profit leadership and agricultural business (both personal and professional).

Ten years ago the Kougl's moved their family ranching operation from the Cheyenne River area to the Pryor Mountain Range on the Crow Reservation in Montana where they continue to manage their cattle and horse herd and promote their packaged beef business. Justine and her family have first hand knowledge of the challenges that Native producers face and they are determined to be a part of the solutions. Justine has a passion to help Native American producers obtain working capital, understand the business aspects of agriculture and to help promote the future generations of Native agriculturists for years to come.

We are looking forward to being able to serve the Native Agriculture Industry even more with our growing team. To learn more about Akiptan’s mission and staff, please visit our website at

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