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 who are stationed in Eagle Butte and the professionals from across the country that make up the Board of Directors.
Skya Ducheneaux spent her first 18 years of life on a ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. She is a 2017 graduate of Black Hills State University, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. As of the summer of 2019, she has also completed her Master’s in Business Administration from Capella University.
After high school and again after completing her bachelor’s degree, Skya worked for the Intertribal Agriculture Council; first as an intern for 2 summers and most recently as a Project Coordinator, 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 2018. Skya remains connected to agriculture, just from the other side of the table.
Melissa Swan is an enrolled tribal member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She was raised in a small native community within the reservation boundaries where she is now raising two children of her own. Melissa started her professional career in the financial industry in 2011 working for a private lender and then moving forward to becoming the first in her family to attend college. She is currently attending Saint Paul College and majoring in Business Finance. She has a true passion for working in the financial services field and providing assistance to help Native Communities. Melissa is very enthusiastic about helping Native American’s become successful in agriculture once again!
Sierra Eagleman is a young Lakota woman who lives in a small community with her child on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She has graduated high school and is working to attend college next year. Her vision is to continue to help the farmers/ranchers who are in need across Indian Country with Akiptan.
DAWN E. LEBEAU
Dawn E. “Dawnee” LeBeau is a member of the Oóhenuŋpa Itázipčo Tetoŋwaŋ bands of the Lakota Nation. She resides on the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation in South Dakota with her two wakanyeja (children) Ashten and Anjali.
Dawnee 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; she is a 2019-2020 cohort member with the South Dakota Change Network; and she is a 2020-21cohort member with the Creative Community Leadership Institute. Dawnee also is a mentee with the Seed Seva Mentorship and the Native Food and Culinary Mentorship. She serves as a Master Gardener and Home Horticulture with the SDSU Extension Master Gardener Program.
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.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
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.
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.
Stacy Leeds is an experienced leader in law and higher education with expertise in American Indian Law, tribal governance, property, economic development and Cherokee legal history. She currently serves as Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas. She provides leadership for campus-wide engagement, collaboration, and outreach to citizens, businesses, governmental and nonprofit entities in Arkansas and beyond. She works closely with UA's ten colleges, schools and divisions to amplify the university's economic and social impact.
From 2011-2018, Dean Leeds served as the 12th dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law. She is the only native woman to have served as dean of a law school in the United States. She holds law degrees from the University of Wisconsin (LL.M.) and the University of Tulsa (J.D.). She is also a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (B.A.) and the University of Tennessee (M.B.A). Prior to joining the University of Arkansas, Leeds was a professor and administrator at the University of Kansas and the University of North Dakota. She began her academic career as a William H. Hastie Fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. She is a recipient of the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award and an elected member of the American Law Institute. She is a former Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellow affiliated with the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University and a former Sequoyah Fellow at Northeastern State University.
Leeds is well-known for both national and local public service. She was the first woman to serve as a Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice and she has served many tribal judiciaries at both a trial and appellate judge. Her current board service includes the American Indian Graduate Center, the Law School Admission Council, Arkansas Children's Hospital Northwest, Arvest Bank (Fayetteville), Theatre Squared, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, Kituwah Economic Development Board (Kituwah LLC), Charles Thomas & Mary Alice Pearson Educational Foundation, Akiptan, Inc., the Northwest Arkansas Council and Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
A former athlete and life-long sports enthusiast, she was inducted into the Muskogee Athletic Hall of Fame in her hometown in Oklahoma (2015) and was a two-sport college athlete at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2016, she completed a 950-mile journey as a Cherokee Nation Remember the Removal cyclist.
ANITA L. MATT
Board Vice Chair
Am in enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Flathead) in Northwest Montana. Our Tribe is comprised of 1.3 Million Acres and membership of a little over 8100 members.
I was born and raised on the Flathead graduating from the St, Ignatius High School and received my degree in Environmental Science and AS in Secretarial/Business from the Salish Kootenai College. Attend Kinman Business College in Spokane. I have worked for the CS&KT for 28 years with a break from 1999-2005 working in outreach for the USDA. Prior to this job I worked as a Office Manager, AP Technician, Water Rights Coordinator, Realty Clerk, and Secretary for Natural Resources. I served as the Program Manager for the Tribal Realty Program from 2005-2016. In 2016 I was elected to serve as a Tribal Council Member representing the Dixon District.
I have served as President of the Remount Indian Stockmen’s Association (19 years), Flathead Advisory Committee, FSA State Committee (3 years) , IAC Executive Committee 2005 to present, Akiptan Committee, Lake County FSA Committee, TCI Committee, Farm Bill Coalition, Flathead Conservation District Chairman and Tribal Education Committee.
Currently co-manage a small ranch on the Flathead with husband of 29 years and very excited to have a daughter and son living here on the Flathead. Have 2 grandchildren the youngest turning 10 beginning of April.
James was raised on a ranch and agriculture has ran through his veins ever since. Working with cattle and smalls grains in his early years on his family ranch helped to fuel the fire of working in agriculture. James went to college and then back to ranching to keep his family tradition going. Mr. McCuen began working for the Colville tribe in 1974 at the Natural Resource Department for more than 40 years before retiring. He was a Fire Commissioner for over thirty years as well. James now spends his time working with his logging and construction company. While keeping busy with that, he also serves on the R-CALF-USA Board of Directors, Intertribal Agriculture Council Board of Directors and Akiptan, Inc Board of Directors.
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.
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.