Reports Detail Tribal Food Policy Efforts & Tribal College Impact

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First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) recently released two new reports that should prove valuable for tribes and Native organizations.

Roots of Change: Food Policy in Native Communities

Roots of Change: Food Policy in Native Communities looks at recent developments in tribal communities aimed at taking control of their local food systems.

“Far too often, tribal communities asserting control over their food systems feel alone. But they are not alone and can garner lessons from other tribal communities working on revitalizing their food systems,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations Associate Director of Research and Policy for Native Agriculture, and report co-author. “This report reviews recent and lesser-known food-reclaiming strategies and food system work.”

The strategies vary from reservation to reservation, with some tribes getting involved in food policy and legislation, land management, food gathering, traditional food access, and the business development of food retailers.

“Native communities are looking at different ways to exert food sovereignty to improve nutrition, health, economies and governance over local food systems,” said Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Vice President of Grantmaking, Development and Communications. “Moreover, different sectors within Native communities are involved, including grassroots and nonprofit organizations, businesses and tribal departments. This report highlights what Native nations can do at the policy and legislative levels to improve local food sovereignty.”

Some of the tribes featured in the report include Cheyenne River Sioux (South Dakota), Confederated Siletz Tribe (Oregon), Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (Michigan), Lummi Nation (Washington), Muscogee (Creek ) Nation (Oklahoma), Navajo Nation (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado), Salt River Pima Maricopa (Arizona), Sault St. Marie Tribe (Michigan), and the Yurok Tribe (California).

Roots of Change: Food Policy in Native Communities was funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and was created under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, or NAFSI. The full report can be downloaded free from the First Nations’ Knowledge Center at http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/foods-health. (Note: In the Knowledge Center, if you don’t have one already, you will need to create a free online account in order to download the report. Your account will also give you access to numerous other free resources in the Knowledge Center.)

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Research Note: The Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in the Northwest Area Foundation Region

The second report highlights the economic impact of tribal colleges in the eight-state region served by Northwest Area Foundation. It finds that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) contribute significantly to both short- and long-term economic development in reservation-based Native communities.

The report – The Economic Impact of Tribal Colleges in the Northwest Area Foundation Region — is the first in a new series of short publications called Research Notes that will keep the field updated with timely research about Indian Country. This inaugural report in the series was authored by Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer.

The report illustrates that the 19 TCUs in the eight-state region of the Northwest Area Foundation serve as immediate economic drivers in reservation-based communities. These 19 TCUs accounted for an average of more than $217 million in revenue between 2010 and 2011, and more than $285 million in net assets. Furthermore, the 19 TCUs employ more than 4,200 individuals.

TCUs also contribute to long-term, sustainable economic development by providing a more skilled workforce, encouraging entrepreneurship and small business development through a range of programs and services, and even offering asset-building programs to all community members through financial education classes and financial coaching.

The new Research Note series serves to deliver short, periodic research updates when First Nations has important findings to present that may not require a full-length publication or requires further analysis for a larger publication. The reports will generally be less than 10 pages and feature an analysis of new or existing data. Findings presented in the Research Notes may lead to more extensive studies in the future.

“We’re excited to offer these to anyone interested in new research about exciting developments in Native communities and issues that concern Indian Country,” said First Nations President & CEO Michael E. Roberts. “First Nations has been a leader in producing publications about Native economic development and other efforts, and we wanted to provide even more timely updates whenever we discover significant information that is not suited for a longer report.”

Future Research Notes will include topics dealing with asset-building, Native food systems, giving to Native communities, issues with American Indian/Alaska Native Census data, and more. The Research Notes will be available from the Knowledge Center on the First Nations website at www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center, where they will be individually categorized under the appropriate First Nations program area. (Note: In the Knowledge Center, if you don’t have one already, you will need to create a free online account in order to download the report. Your account will also give you access to numerous other free resources in the Knowledge Center.)

Cocopah Tribe Engages & Empowers Boys & Young Men

Young Cocopah student during CPR training. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

For more than a decade, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has had a positive and lasting impact on Native youth. In 2002, First Nations launched the Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) to enhance culture and language awareness, and promote youth empowerment, leadership and community building.

Recently, First Nations unveiled a new grant initiative that reflects our growing commitment to Native youth and youth development: Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men (Positive Paths). Positive Paths, created in partnership with NEO Philanthropy and and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seeks to reduce social and economic disparities for Native American males.

Studies suggest that Native American males are more likely to be absent from school, suspended, expelled or repeat a grade. However, a growing body of research indicates that suspensions and expulsions are not always the most effective means of reaching and disciplining these students.

Often, these punitive measures deprive students of the opportunity to develop the skills and strategies they need to succeed. Positive Paths supports innovative programs that emphasize alternative approaches to punitive measures that have a negative impact on academic achievement and graduation rates.

For years, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona relied upon the public school system for enforcing truancy laws for its students. This approach yielded little to no results, especially among male students. Educators decided to take a new approach that emphasized engaging and empowering Native American boys and men.

In 2014, First Nations awarded the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona $50,000 through the Positive Path grant initiative to restructure its truancy program. The tribe’s new program has reduced truancy rates among Native American males by nearly 75 percent. As a result, student grades and graduation rates have increased significantly, as much as 25 to 50 percent.

The Credit Recovery and Career Exploration (CRACE) program links at-risk male youth to the people and resources they need to recover academic credits, to pursue future career opportunities and develop leadership skills. Students enroll in online classes and work with tutors to successfully complete their courses and graduate.

Students participate in mock trial. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

Additionally, the program introduces student to careers that have the potential to strengthen and empower their tribal community. Since starting the CRACE program, participating Cocopah students have undergone CPR training, participated in mock trial exercises, and explored career opportunities in medicine and law enforcement.

Students participate in regular meetings with staff and instructors to provide feedback and discuss future plans. During the first meeting, education department staff members noted that many students seemed unsure about their future plans and goals. Over the past year, many students have narrowed down their focus, applying to college or preparing to enter the workforce.

Additionally, staff members have noted that this program helps instill students with a sense of pride in themselves and their community. One education department staff noted, “This program has helped make our students, their families and the community stronger. The program has already shown we can make a real positive difference in our students’ lives. This year we have had a dozen participating students make a 180-degree turnaround in regard to their grades, school attendance and personal attitudes.”

CRACE has received support from the tribe and the tribal community. According to the education department, tribal council members often act as mentors to at-risk youth. They also note that the tribe has recently passed a resolution that makes it mandatory for every tribal member to receive a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for benefits. This resolution sends a strong message to students: education is the key to strengthening and empowering their communities.

The Cocopah Tribe of Arizona’s CRACE program demonstrates the success of alternative techniques in inspiring students to achieve their education and take personal responsibility for their journey. CRACE brochures send the message loud and clear to students who utilize the service: “Your dreams are within reach. You just have to graduate high school to realize them.”

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Protecting Native Money: How to Avoid Financial Fraud

Financial fraud is far too common in Native American communities, and is a growing problem with the recent increase in tribal lawsuit settlements with the federal government. First Nations Development Institute has partnered with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to produce a pamphlet that can help people protect themselves from common financial fraud techniques.

Over the past five years more than $1 billion in tribal trust settlements have been reached, including the Keepseagle and Cobell class-action legal settlements. Many of these settlements have resulted in payments to individual tribal members, which makes them targets for fraudsters who follow a simple strategy: They go where the money is. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is collaborating with First Nations to help reach the recipients of these trust fund settlements, as well as other tribal members who may be targeted for their wealth.

The pamphlet, titled “Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Investors,” is designed to appeal to individuals, members of tribal investment committees, and retirees. It lists some common fraud tactics, such as the “Social Consensus” tactic that lead you to believe that your savvy friends and neighbors may have already invested in a product. With the “Source Credibility” tactic, a fraudster may falsely suggest they have worked with other tribal investment committees or helped people manage lump sum payouts from tribal lawsuits to try to gain trust. The pamphlet also teaches several techniques to avoid being taken advantage of and how to report suspicious behavior.

“We are honored to be able to collaborate with several national partners, including the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, to provide financial education for tribal members,” said First Nations President Michael Roberts.

First Nations representatives Sarah Dewees and Shawn Spruce spoke at an October 29, 2014, Federal Trade Commission event titled “Fraud Affects All Communities.” The purpose of this meeting was to highlight the range of consumer, financial and investor fraud techniques that affect diverse communities.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that financial fraud is a big problem on many Indian reservations,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs. “I am happy we have been able to continue our work with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee to help community members protect themselves against financial fraud.”

A copy of the pamphlet can be viewed in First Nations’ online Knowledge Center at http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/predatory-lending/research.  To order printed copies, you can email info@firstnations.org.

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs

Collaboration & Partnerships Expand in Urban Indian Program

Jay Grimm, executive director of the Denver Indian Center, talks about the project

The Denver Indian Center, Inc. and the Denver Indian Family Resource Center are partners in the “Building Strong American Indian/Alaska Native Communities” effort, which is a three-year project that is funded by The Kresge Foundation.

As grant recipients in First Nations’ 2013-2014 Urban Indian Organization program, their project strategy is to improve and expand collaborative opportunities for the two organizations, as well as other partner organizations in metropolitan Denver.  They plan to increase participation in new and existing programs, build resources, explore new ways of working together, and enrich communication that creates the most impact.  Proposed activities involve resource development, case management, outreach, marketing, information exchange, database management, and developing best practices.

The National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) and First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) are also strategic partners in this project.  The main objective of their partnership is the amplification of services to the grantees to aid in sustainability and growth.  It is the right business match.  We are committed to the design and co-management of the program with open access to information, networks, resources and skills.  Our tasks are to deliver technical assistance and training along with assessments, site visits, media development, and information-sharing forums.

Partnerships and collaboration are motivating philosophies at First Nations.  Collaboration builds the Native American nonprofit sector.  It is a process that prompts individuals with diverse interests to share their knowledge and resources to improve outcomes, innovate and enhance decisions.  When we share our expertise we become deeply involved in the design and delivery of outreach, programs, and services.  As partners we solve problems, meet objectives, build support, and utilize our strengths more effectively for greater success.

Under the Kresge project, First Nations and NUIFC also selected two other organizations to receive grants. They are the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, Oregon, and the Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each of the three projects is receiving a $40,000 grant.

First Nations’ and NUIFC’s overall effort aims to help organizations that work with some of the estimated 78 percent ofAmerican Indians and Alaska Natives who live off reservations or away from tribal villages, and who reflect some of the most disproportionately low social and economic standards in the urban areas in which they reside. Urban Indian organizations are an important support to Native families and individuals, providing cultural linkages as well as a hub for accessing essential services.

To learn more about these organizations and the project, please see the First Nations/NUIFC press release at this link: http://www.firstnations.org/node/645.

By Montoya A. Whiteman, First Nations Senior Program Officer