Elaine Eisenbraun

Executive Director

As Nikwasi Initiative’s new 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 is 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 jogging in the hills and reciting poetry as she goes. It’s a hobby that she says, “takes her breath away.”

Our Staff


The Nikwasi Initiative, a collaboration of the EBCI and neighboring communities, is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the sense of place of the Nikwasi Mound and expanding the understanding of the mound and the surrounding region through improved access, interpretation and educational activities.  

Using engaged partnerships, it focuses on developing cultural interpretation resources for the nationally significant Cultural Corridor from Cherokee to Franklin and to the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River, and encouraging sustainable economic growth of the entire corridor area.

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