WHO WE ARE

Akiptan is proud to bring you the team of people who are helping to make a change in Indian Ag Finance. Below you can meet our team of staff and the professionals from across the country that make up the Staff and Board of Directors. 

AKIPTAN STAFF
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SKYA DUCHENEAUX

Executive Director  

skya@akitpan.org | 605-220-7910

Skya Ducheneaux is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and spent her first 18 years of life on a cattle ranch on the CRST Reservation in South Dakota. She has a MBA in Business Administration. She previously spent her summers interning for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, where she was introduced to the Native CDFI world (Community Development Financial Institution). Skya worked diligently to create the first national Native CDFI dedicated to Indian agriculture, which launched in 2019. Skya remains connected to agriculture, just from the other side of the table.

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GABRIELLE KNIFE

Administrative Assitant

gabrielle@akiptan.org | 605-301-0581

Gabrielle Knife comes from the Mnicoujou band of the Lakota Oyate (people) and 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 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 had 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 Akiptan. 

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MELISSA SWAN

Senior Loan Officer

melissa@akiptan.org | 605-301-0426

Melissa Swan is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She resides in a small native community within the reservation boundaries with her husband Lucas and three children, Zanden, Shayde, and Addisyn. Melissa has been a part of the Akiptan team for three years, she started as a Loan Officer and is now the Senior Loan Officer. Melissa attended college at Saint Paul Community College where she received her Associates Degree in Business in 2020, then went on to graduate from Metropolitan State University with her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management in 2022. Melissa found her true passion working in the financial industry in 2011. With her professional and personal experiences, she understands the integral role that Native Ag. Producers play in the Tribal Nations economies and has seen firsthand the impact that it can have within Native communities.

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Kole Fitzpatrick

Loan Officer
kole@akiptan.org | 605-301-0461

Kole Fitzpatrick is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe and grew up on his family ranch near Browning Montana. Kole attended college at the University of Montana receiving a business degree in 2007. After college Kole worked for the Blackfeet Tribe in the Tribal Employment Rights Office as a compliance officer. Kole then went on to work for Native American Community Development Corporation as an Ag Consultant working on the Native American Credit Outreach Initiative, which was a program to help Montana Native American producers access Farm Service Agency farm loan programs. After the outreach position Kole went on to a position with Intertribal Ag Council as the Montana and Wyoming Regional Technical Assistance Specialist. Kole continues to operate his cow calf operation on the Blackfeet Reservation alongside his family and joins Akiptan Inc. as a Loan Officer for the Montana region.

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Roni Rae Daly

Loan Officer
roni@akiptan.org | 605-301-0466

Roni Rae Daly is Lakota and Chippewa Cree. She is an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and remains on her homelands of the Lower Brule Nation, where she and her husband operate a farm and ranch. She is the mother of 4 children; Kennedy, Hank John, River, and Stetson Dean. She holds an Associates of Applied Science in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. Roni is currently attending Sinte Gleska University and will soon transfer to Northern State University to complete her Bachelor's degree. Roni is new to the financial services field and she is excited to cultivate relationships with Native American Ag producers in an effort to create successful ag operations within Indian country. She joins our lending team as loan officer and will be overseeing a portion of our portfolio as we continue to grow.

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Whitney O'Rourke - Risse

Loan Officer
whitney@akiptan.org | 605-301-0595

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.

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Chelsey Lecompte

Loan Administrator 
chelsey@akiptan.org | 605-301-0515


 

Chelsey Lecompte is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in Eagle Butte, SD. She grew up on her family ranch - the Lecompte Ranch on the Cheyenne River reservation and currently resides there with her son Jackson. Chelsey and Jackson enjoy fixing fences and keeping the ranch going together.  After graduating from high school Chelsey attended the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, ND majoring in Criminal Justice. After college she worked in the Law Enforcement field as a Correctional Officer, with the Indian Health Service as a Security Officer, and as a 911 Dispatcher in Aberdeen, SD where she received her International Emergency Medical Dispatch certification. Chelsey joins the Akiptan team as the Loan Administrator where she will be responsible for day to day operations involving loan making.

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Cartlon Underwood 

Finance and Administration Officer 
carlton@akiptan.org | 605-301-0433

Carlton Underwood grew up in Ethete, Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation and he is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Carlton graduated from Wyoming Indian High School in 1994 and then attended Central Wyoming College where he earned his associates degree in accounting in 1997. He then completed his bachelors degree in accounting from the University of Wyoming in 1999. Carlton holds an MBA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which he earned in 2010, and a Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California (USC). Previous to joining Akiptan, Carlton has worked within the Northern Arapaho Tribe for the past 21 years in various capacities that included; Controller, CFO, Executive Director of Social Services, Tribal Health Director, Healthcare Compliance Officer, and Chief Executive Officer. Carlton currently lives in Ethete with his family.

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DAWN E. LEBEAU

Program Officer

dawn@akiptan.org | 605-301-0438

Dawn E. “Dawnee” LeBeau is a member of the Oóhenuŋpa Itázipačola Tetoŋwaŋ bands of the Lakota Nation. She resides on the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation in South Dakota with her two wakanyeja (children) and family. She has been with the Akiptan team as the Program Officer since June of 2021. Her role is to lead the development of Akiptan’s programs, while working intricately with the Executive Director to manage and expand the services and programs that Akiptan offers.

 

Dawn is passionate about visual storytelling (photography), gardening, and plant relatives; and her work supports the amplification of indigenous Lakota wellness, Lakota language, and Lakota cultural values. Dawnee holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Social Science. She has served as a fellow with the First Peoples Fund for the Artist in Business Leadership and Cultural Capital Fellowships; the 2019-2020 South Dakota Change Network; the 2020-21Creative Community Leadership Institute; and as a fellow with Native Arts and Culture Foundation. Dawn has also served as a mentee with the Seed Seva Mentorship and the Native Food and Culinary Mentorship. She is currently a Master Gardener and Home Horticulture member with the SDSU Extension Master Gardener Program.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
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HARLAN BEAULIEU

Board Member

Harlan is a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.  Mr. Beaulieu is currently the President of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, he has served in this capacity from 2000 to the present.  Prior to that time, he served as a board member and vice president starting in 1990.  Mr. Beaulieu’s service with the IAC provided him with a platform to educate politicians associated with agriculture at the Tribal, County, State and National levels.  He has testified before the U.S. Congress and lobbied for American Indian inclusion in the Farm Bill. Mr. Beaulieu advocated for recognition of Native people as America's first farmers.  Over the years the IAC has made significant advancement in recognition of the agriculture issues of our Tribes and individual members. Mr. Beaulieu is a former Tribal council representative for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and has served in this role for 8 years.  He is currently the Realty Officer for his Tribe and has had this position for the past 32 years. Mr. Beaulieu served 8 years as the Minority Advisor on the Minnesota Farm Service Agency, USDA. Mr. Beaulieu is a graduate of Assumption Abbey Preparatory School in 1967. He is a veteran of the United States Army serving 1969 - 1972 with an honorable discharge.  Mr. Beaulieu graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree Industrial Technology/Business Administration from Bemidji State University. He obtained a Farm Management Certificate from Bemidji Technical College. Mr. Beaulieu is a farmer & rancher. He is a proud father and grandfather.

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CHRIS BEYERHELM

Board Member

Chris Beyerhelm is the Vice President of Enterprise Portfolio Management at the Universal Services Administration Company (USAC) which works with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help provide broadband and internet services to America particularly in rural areas.  Prior to working at USAC, Mr. Beyerhelm served as the Associate Administrator for Operations and Management with the Farm Service Agency (FSA, part of United States Department of Agriculture. In this position, Mr. Beyerhelm was responsible for overseeing the Farm Service Agency's budget, finance, administrative, management and internal control functions. Mr. Beyerhelm previously served as Deputy Administrator for Farm Loans Programs where he oversaw a $20 billion loan portfolio and managed the direct and guaranteed lending programs at FSA. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Beyerhelm began working with FSA where he served in various capacities for 38 years.

Before coming to Washington, DC, he served as Farm Loan Chief for the Iowa Farm Service Agency from 1991 to 2006.

Beyerhelm grew up in Iowa and now resides in Virginia with his wife Barb. They have two adult children and nine grandchildren.

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STACY LEEDS

Board Chair

Stacy Leeds is an experienced leader in law, higher education, governance, economic development and conflict resolution. She serves as Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University. Leeds is Dean Emeritus, University of Arkansas School of Law and the first Indigenous woman to lead a law school. She served as the inaugural Vice Chancellor for Economic Development at University of Arkansas from 2017-2020.

An educator and scholar of Indigenous law and policy, Leeds previously directed the Tribal Law & Government Center at the University of Kansas and Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota. She began her career in legal education as a William H. Hastie Fellow at University of Wisconsin School of Law.  She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, an American Bar Foundation Fellow and a recipient of the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award.

 

Leeds has law degrees from University of Wisconsin (LL.M.) and University of Tulsa (J.D.). She received her M.B.A. in the executive program for strategic leadership at University of Tennessee. Her undergraduate degree (B.A.) in history is from Washington University (St. Louis).

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PADGLEY GONZALES

Board Memeber

Padgley (Akimel O’Otham and Pii Paash) is a member of the Gila River Indian Community from Sacaton, AZ. Currently, she is the Western Region Technical Assistance Specialist for the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). In this role, she serves the Tribes, Tribal producers, and youth in Arizona and Utah. Gonzales graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Agribusiness Economics and Management. Throughout her college career, she interned with the IAC and within her Tribes ag development program and Tribal farm. Those experiences offered valuable insight into land development and commercial agribusiness practices. 

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Zachary Ilbery 

Board Member

Zachary Ilbery is the Agricultural Education Instructor and FFA Advisor at Elmore City-Pernell Public Schools in Oklahoma within the Chickasaw Nation. Ilbery previously served as the National Leadership Development Specialist for the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Ilbery grew up on a cow-calf operation in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Checotah, Oklahoma where he is an enrolled tribal member. Ilbery currently owns a cow-calf operation and partners in his grandfather’s operation as well. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University in Agricultural Education and holds a teaching certificate in the agricultural education area. While at Oklahoma State he developed a curriculum in regards to Native Agriculture within Oklahoma. Ilbery serves on the Board of Directors for the Intertribal Agriculture Council as well as currently serving as the Eastern Oklahoma Board of Director for the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance. Ilbery was a founder of the Seminole State College Agricultural Degree Program in Seminole, Oklahoma and a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honoree for beginning farmers and ranchers. Ilbery was actively involved in the FFA as a high school student, and continues to do so still. Ilbery has won several awards in the FFA, including earning his America FFA Degree. Ilbery’s passions include advocating for youth involvement in agriculture and the promotion of agricultural literacy on a national scale. 

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Tomie Peterson

Board Member

Tomie grew up, and currently resides on, a cattle ranch near Parade, SD. Tomie is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She is a graduate of Black Hills State University and joined the Intertribal Agriculture Council from Dacotah Bank in Mobridge, where she was an Agriculture Banker. In this setting, she developed a trained eye for Ag Lending and Finance. She served as Intertribal Agriculture Council's Great Plains Region Technical Assistant advocating on behalf of Tribal producers for fair and equitable financing, functional access to USDA programming, and innovative business structures. She has moved positions to the Assistant Director of IAC's American Indian Foods Program. In her new capacity she works with American Indian and Alaskan Native owned businesses to provide export education and technical assistance in order to facilitate access into domestic and international markets. Tomie enjoys working in the Ag industry helping producers succeed and looks forward to assisting producers across Indian Country.

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Lakota Vogel 

Board Member 

Lakota Vogel is the Executive Director at Four Bands. In this role, Lakota provides leadership for Four Bands, establishes new and fosters existing partnerships, and leads and manages efforts to reach organizational goals. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Lakota served as the Assistant Director at Four Bands for five years. Lakota is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology. Upon graduation, she joined Teach for America and taught on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation at Todd County High School. Lakota obtained her Masters in Social Work Degree from Washington University in St. Louis with the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies. Lakota individualized her course of study to concentrate in economic security and social development through the life course of American Indians.

In addition to her educational experience, Lakota has completed a summer fellowship with National Congress of American Indians. She has served on the Native American Alumni Board of Directors at the University of Notre Dame. Lakota initiated program evaluations at the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and Washington Internships for Native Students to develop program components for American Indian participants. Lakota is excited to be back home on Cheyenne River and to be able to spend time with all of her family, especially her nieces and nephews.