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Indigenous Power Is Ascendant | Kate R. Finn

Author
Agnes Portalewska

Cultural Survival welcomes the newest member of our Board of Directors, Kate R. Finn (Osage). Finn is the Executive Director of First Peoples Worldwide, whose mission is to work from a foundation of Indigenous values to achieve a sustainable future for all. Finn leads the University of Colorado-based organization to build corporate accountability to the rights of Indigenous Peoples at the intersection of law, finance, and business.


Finn grew up in Colorado. “I really love the outdoors. It is where I find my energy,” she says, adding that she spent time in Oklahoma where her dad has land as a member of the Osage Nation. From a young age, Finn recognized that “Native women run the world, that Native women are caretakers and thinkers and movers in our communities.” She credits the many Indigenous women mentors inside and outside of her field with “shining a light on [my] journey and proving that Indigenous women move things forward.”
 

Finn holds a J.D. and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado, and a B.A. from Princeton University. Her areas of expertise include Indigenous Peoples law and policy, federal Indian law, preventing violence against women, sustainable finance, and business and human rights. “I got hooked during law school on all topics related to federal Indian law,” she says. “What really got me was that the case law around federal Indian law really is so nascent, even though we are original inhabitants of the land. There’s so much room to design new and better frameworks for Indigenous Peoples within the law. When we work with Tribes and Indigenous communities, we get to pull from their vast knowledge based on whatever we’re trying to address; we get to look at where the cultural, linguistic, environmental, and spiritual intersections are. Bringing all of that to the discussion brings our humanity with us into that solution. I believe that is how we can move the needle forward for future generations.”


“Native political power is on the rise,” she continues. “It was truly moving to watch Secretary Haaland be sworn into her role with my daughters, and to tell them that there are Native women in Congress and in so many seats of power at the state and Tribal level. A lot of times Indigenous Peoples are sidelined in global issues, and that is an issue that we need to solve since Indigenous Peoples are keepers of Traditional Knowledge and biodiversity that will help all of us to solve climate chaos. At First Peoples Worldwide and at Cultural Survival, elevating Indigenous leaders in mainstream topics and creating a platform for Indigenous leaders to participate at the highest levels of decision shows that Indigenous issues are not sideline issues, but rather Indigenous Peoples are the decision-makers that will lead us towards a more sustainable future.”


Finn’s recent work focuses on articulating the impacts of development in Indigenous communities. “I am so proud of the work that we’ve been able to do to mobilize Indigenous leadership. I’m also proud of our work to bring values-aligned investors together on Indigenous priorities globally. One of our priorities will be to walk into partnership with Cultural Survival and a number of others to address the impacts of transition minerals on Indigenous communities. Another area of work follows up from our paper on private equity in Indian Country. We’re doing a lot of on-the-ground research both on Native food economies and support that Native food enterprises can use post-pandemic. We’re also looking forward to doing some big work around catalytic capital and defining what is catalytic for Native entrepreneurs.”


Finn was the inaugural American Indian Law Program Fellow at the University of Colorado Law, where she worked directly with Tribes and Native communities. She serves on the boards of First Nations Community Financial, Unified Solutions Tribal Community Development Group, Cultural Survival, and on the Stewardship Circle of Adasina Social Capital. On her new role as a Cultural Survival Board Member, Finn says, “I’m thrilled to be able to bring perspectives both from the market-based advocacy side and the policy advocacy side to the table, but also to do what I can to create partnership and collaboration for the organization and through the organization to support its goals.”