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Our Staff

As Noquisi Initiative’s Executive Director, Elaine wants to get to know you. You’ll

recognize her around the region when you spy her ready smile. She is excited to live and

work in such a rich cultural corridor, and to share extraordinary stories of people living in

beloved landscapes. 

Elaine started her career as a forester. Each day in the woods, she listened intently and grew to know the songs of nature; soon she was translating those lessons to others in her work as Executive Director of Merck Forest and Farmland Center, the 2 million-acre North Fork John Day Watershed Council, and Portrait Connection — a national healing arts organization. 

Along her journey, Elaine created two new region-wide programs to provide up to 50

underserved teens per season with conservation jobs, and now she serves as an advisor on environmental education to the E.P.A. Her fundraising savvy comes from intensive training in the pursuit of federal funds for rural communities and from dozens of consulting gigs focused on helping small, rural nonprofits create diversified revenues. Elaine has also facilitated forest collaborative groups with disparate voices to help them find connections. Always, her work brings people together and closer to the magic of the land and the beauty of their neighbors.

Moving from a small, solar-powered cabin in the mountains of Oregon, Elaine has been ecstatic to return to the hardwood mountains, where rivers carry the stories of the hills to distant valleys. If you are out and about, you might find her biking in the hills and reciting poetry as she goes. It’s a hobby that she says, “takes her breath away.” 

Elaine Eisenbraun
Executive Director


Although born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Kirstie is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and has been planting roots in the homeland of her ancestors in Western North Carolina for the past 9 years.


Kirstie is a current student at Southwestern Community College working towards her A.A.S. in Human Services Technology. She graduated from the Cherokee language program Dadiwonisi, in September of 2023. That opportunity alone ignited a flame of passion to further pursue her own culture.

Through her steadfast dedication and unwavering resolve, Kirstie hopes to have a significant impact on her community's legacy. Her ultimate goal is not just to preserve the Cherokee culture, but to ensure that it continues to thrive and inspire future generations like her 6 children. By doing so, she seeks to honor her people's heritage, and ensure that their vibrant traditions and deeply ingrained values remain relevant and cherished in the ever-evolving world. 

When she finds free time between kids, work, and school, Kirstie passionately weaves baskets, creating her unique line of Cherokee handbags and fostering a deeper bond with Cherokee culture and heritage.

Kirstie Frady
Project Coordinator


Born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina. Gina has earned an A.A.S. in Human Services Technology from Tri-County Community College, a B.S. in Human Services, and an M.S. in Individual, Family & Community Sciences from East Tennessee State University.


Gina, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, completed a 2-year adult language program called Dadiwonisi in September of 2023. Learning her native language provided Gina with an awakened desire to know more about her culture and Cherokee heritage as well as the added responsibility to continue and share that culture. Gina looks forward to learning more about the history of the surrounding areas and being a part of the Noquisi Initiative mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting Cherokee culture.


In her free time, Gina is a 3rd generation Cherokee Potter, following the footsteps of her grandmother Amanda Swimmer. Gina works along with her mother, Merina Swimmer, in producing traditional Cherokee Pottery. Some of their artwork is already displayed in the Museum of The Cherokee People in Cherokee, NC, be sure to check them out! 

Gina Myers
Project Coordinator


Our Volunteers

Some Very Special Volunteers Have Joined Noquisi Initiative!

Nonprofit leaders dream of that rare and special moment when a super-dedicated, extra-special volunteer comes knocking on the door. Well, Noquisi Initiative must be very fortunate, because out of the blue, not one, but three wonderful new Volunteers have joined our mission and rolled up their sleeves to do some amazing work! Perhaps the ambiance of old Nokwisiyi is settling into our mission, because these participants are extraordinary! Look who's helping out:

Kristi Pfeffer

Kristi is absolutely charmed by the "Mound Culture." From her youth in south Georgia to her present time near Canton, NC, Kristi has felt a deep connection to the long-ago ancient communities. She has studied them and created projects to advance awareness about them. Well, Kristi just happens to be a Graphic Designer and Editor as well! The combination led her to Noquisi Initiative where she is working on a wonderful, surprise project that will be unveiled with the opening of Nokwisiyi Kiosk in October. We can't wait for you to see it. It just might change your plans for this autumn. Kristi is also designing interpretive signs for the new Kiosk area at the Mound in Franklin.


Hey Kristi! From Everyone at Noquisi Initiative, THANK YOU for your AMAZING work!

Melody Little


Melody is an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Member. Born and raised on the Qualla Boundary, she is driven toward a career that benefits her community. Melody is a 2018 High Point University graduate. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations with a minor in Nonprofit. She plans to expand her nonprofit experience with Noquisi and take the knowledge learned to start her own nonprofit! She is interested in many of the intractable issues that beset Native Americans, especially Native Women. In Cherokee tradition, women held great power until the European invasion forced the women into less and less leadership. Melody may just be the person who will one day return the power of women to this amazing community. She is one of those rare young people who you just know is going to have a big impact in her chosen field. Melody is participating in the Noquisi Initiative Strategic Plan process and helping with project implementation.

Sunny Jain


Sunny lives far away in Houston, TX where he is an MBA candidate at the Mays School of Business with a specialty in Finance and Strategy. What nonprofit wouldn't be delighted to have those credentials on board!  Sunny is pulling Noquisi's historic financial data into an easy-to-read dashboard and also putting his brilliant computer skills to work developing a broad social media platform. Please check us out on: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter to see Sunny's artistic flair at work.


Sunny, thank you for finding Noquisi Initiative and adding you enthusiasm, logic, and analytic skills to help build the dream!

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