Training Brings an ‘Ah Ha’ for Sheep Grower

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation with one of her lambs, in Table Mesa, New Mexico

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation with one of her lambs, in Table Mesa, New Mexico

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation lives on the land where her family has raised sheep as part of their traditional life and culture for hundreds of years. Just south of Shiprock, New Mexico, and the Four Corners area, about half an hour away, is Table Mesa. That’s where you’ll find Naataanii tending to her sheep. She takes pride in being able to raise her Navajo churro sheep and use the wool in both traditional and new ways to provide a living for her and her daughter, and to keep up the cultural traditions and obligations of her family.

For the past 13 years she has woven rugs, entered juried art shows, and has sold her weavings from the wool her sheep provide. Her Navajo weaving business and her sheep ranching have become a full-time business.

Naataanii made a good living and managed to weather and survive the recessions of 2008 and 2009, but as she says, her business began to feel a bit “topsy-turvy.” She knew she needed to diversify.

“I do use some wool for my weaving, but I started looking at other ways of bringing in revenue with my sheep by selling wool in its raw form and creating other products such as felt ponchos and scarves, and I hand spin the wool. Over a period of two to three years I’ve seen my business change and grow, and with that growth other responsibilities and opportunities came out.”

Business of Indian Agriculture Training

Bus_Indian_Ag_logo NEWOne opportunity that appeared was the chance to attend The Business of Indian Agriculture (BoIA) training offered by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) as part of its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.

The Business of Indian Agriculture is designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers useful topics like how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, and marketing. It also covers important topics like risk management, personal financial management, and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agricultural businesses and the opportunity to network with other producers.

Naataanii took The Business of Indian Agriculture training in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona, a facility that is owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The training curriculum has five modules that cover business, accounting, financial management, agribusiness economics and marketing, land use and management.

Business of Indian Agriculture CoverJackie Francke (Navajo), First Nations’ Vice President of Programs and Administration, said the benefits of BoIA training are many. “Attendees might already be conducting business, but the training provides resources and strategies to take their business to the next level. It provides producers the opportunity to reflect on their business and identity subtle changes that could increase profit and provide much-needed motivation by networking with other Native ranchers, farmers or producers in attendance.”

John Phillips, Ph.D., First Nations consultant and BoIA training facilitator, provided insight and strategies about developing a business plan, unique considerations in agricultural business, and other tools to improve an agricultural enterprise.

Business Plan Question Hits Home

Phillips asked the participants how many had a business plan. Naataanii had been in business 13 years without a real (or finalized) business plan, and the question brought out some clarity for her.

“I had an ‘ah ha moment.’ I had to understand what was happening in my business. I was struggling to understand where and why I was struggling, what I was struggling at, and it [the training] helped me understand where I needed to make changes,” said Naataanii.

TahNibaa Naataanii's flock of Navajo churro sheep enjoy the New Mexico sunshine

Naataanii’s flock of Navajo churro sheep enjoy the New Mexico sunshine

The training helped her to be a better business owner and take charge of her future. She had between 60 to 83 sheep – too many for her to handle.

“There were many components in the business plan that stood out to me,” she said. “It’s not just about working, being productive at work and happy about your products, but it’s about having a balance with family, too. Listening to the facilitators ask what are your priorities in your business statement, I realized my time is a commodity and my daughter is my priority and she needs my time and understanding. I am glad I took the training as I realized there were leaks in my business bucket.”

In order to repair those leaks, Naataanii learned how to look at how much time she was putting into each project or product she was creating. She learned to think about what her time was worth and to determine pricing strategies. She started keeping track of her time to determine the hourly wage for her work.

Naataanii not only had to consider how to value her time, but how the use of her time with her sheep connects back to her as a Navajo and her cultural values.

Back to a Desk Job?

sheep2Prior to taking the training, Naataanii was considering selling off the sheep and returning to “mainstream society” to take a desk job. It saddened her to think that she had to sell all the sheep and not carry on the tradition.

“Sheep are very special to the Navajo people. In our creation stories sheep came with us,” she said. “It’s a traditional agribusiness with my sheep. You have to love your business to be motivated, and all I can say is my sheep – they are my family, too. I had to look at the land, too, and the land can’t produce enough grass for 100 sheep. So I had to do the right thing – for the sheep – and they realized it, too.”

However, after attending the BoIA training in March 2016, Naataanii did not have to return to a desk job. But what she did do was reduce the flock or number of sheep gradually. Now she has a total of 16 sheep, and five baby lambs.

Naataanii said she works at her business plan on a regular basis. “I always revisit the big plan because things change. I understand that now and I am excited about that.”

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Participants in First Nations’ “The Business of Indian Agriculture” training held in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona

Participants in First Nations’ “The Business of Indian Agriculture” training held in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona

Largest $pending Frenzy Ever Held Is at Omak High School

In April 2015, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) in partnership with the Colville Tribes Enrollment Program and Omak High School in Omak, Washington, offered the largest $pending Frenzy financial simulation to date. Over the course of two days and six events, the entire student body of 517 students at Omak High School, situated adjacent to the Colville Reservation, participated in the financial reality fair.

The original concept for the $pending Frenzy reality fair was created by First Nations Development Institute and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer youth with large impending minor’s trust payments an opportunity to practice handling a substantial lump sum of money and spending it wisely. In the simulation, high school students are given $40,000 in fake money and are asked to make spending decisions to purchase a car, a house, groceries and other items. Students can practice visiting a bank to cash their check and deposit a share of their money into savings, and are also given the opportunity to learn about investing a portion of their money. The $pending Frenzy at Omak High School even featured a legal booth run with assistance from Colville Tribes Attorney Jamie Edmonds.

Since the first pilot of the $pending Frenzy with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians youth in 2010, the financial simulation has been offered about two dozen times in 10 different states and 13 unique communities across the country. In total, more than 1,200 Native youth have participated in the event and learned to better manage their money. The program has caught fire in 2015, with seven $pending Frenzy events already in the books, including three in the month of April.

First Nations is grateful for the support of Raylene Swan and Margie Hutchinson of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians in helping the $pending Frenzy reach a growing number of tribal communities and Native youth across the nation. To meet the increasing demand to offer the financial reality fair, First Nations is in the process of developing a $pending Frenzy workshop kit. The full workshop kit will be available for sale and will contain everything a facilitator needs to organize and run a $pending Frenzy event – including instructions, booth materials, play money, budgeting cards, and $pending Frenzy merchandise. Stay tuned for news on the release of the $pending Frenzy kit!

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

Rebuilding Community & Food Systems on Pine Ridge

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, collaboration, partnerships, alliances – call it what you will – but it’s working, and the community is reaping the benefits of its efforts “to saturate Pine Ridge with healthy vegetables,” which is a goal of Steve Hernandez, who manages the Lakota Ranch Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program in Kyle, South Dakota. (First Nations has supported the program with grants.)

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Incorporated in 2011, the Lakota Ranch Beginning Farmer/Rancher (BFR) Program has been facilitating and coordinating collaboration among local community groups in Pine Ridge with the intent of strengthening local food systems, reviving the economy and increasing access to fresh foods. Through local collaborations it has provided classes and workshops to local community members on horticulture, food preparation, irrigation and business planning, which has re-engaged the community in growing its own food, teaching kids where their food comes from, and increasing access to fresh foods.

Steve Hernandez, while being videotaped at First Nations' 2014 L.E.A.D. Conference

Over the last few years, the Lakota Ranch BFR Program, in partnership with other local groups, has been instrumental in organizing and implementing a local community garden that has led to the development of a farmers’ market located at Oyate Teca Youth Center in Kyle, in addition to a mobile farmers’ market. With the garden and market located at the youth center, students are able to participate in the garden, learn how to prepare the produce, and have immediate access to fresh vegetables and healthy foods. For the community, the farmers’ market and garden provide a place where community members can purchase raw vegetables as well as value-added products. (First Nations has also supported Oyate Teca.)

While the garden provides learning for the kids, the Lakota Ranch BFR Program also works to coordinate with other organizations like Oglala Lakota College and Oyate Teca in providing adult courses in financial literacy, business planning, food preparation, and horticulture.

In three years of operation, the Lakota Ranch BFR Program and its partners have achieved a great deal, but they insist they have only begun as they look forward to the goals of a mobile commercial kitchen, supplying local produce to Pine Ridge schools, increasing the number of farmers in the community, selling value-added products, and reviving the local economy.

The strategy to collaborate with others, centralize efforts and utilize resources efficiently is proving that Native communities are capable and innovative, they just need a little help in planting the seed.

By Jackie Francke, First Nations Director of Programs & Administration

Tradition & Technology: San Carlos Apache Tribe’s Food Database

Fluent Apache speaker Twila Cassadore helped conduct, record and analyze well over 100 interviews with Apache elders.

Can tradition and technology co-exist? The San Carlos Apache Tribe, located in southeastern Arizona, has developed a first-of-its-kind traditional food database system that seems to suggest the answer is yes.

The database allows tribal healthcare leaders to preserve traditional Apache recipes so that nutritionists can analyze the nutritional content of these foods to replicate the traditional Western Apache diet. This project will allow the tribe to design a healthy, pre-reservation menu that will help reverse the growing trend of diet-related illnesses on the reservation.

In 2013, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) awarded the San Carlos Apache Tribe $37,500 through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) to launch the database. With this grant, the tribe hired a fluent Apache speaker, Twila Cassadore, to conduct 100 interviews with tribal elders. Those elders helped identify more than 200 traditional Apache edible plants and nearly as many traditional Apache recipes.

The traditional food database led to new partnerships that aimed to involve the youth in Native food systems work.

A nutritionist has analyzed more than half of these recipes and modernized them so that they are more accessible to home cooks. For example, some recipes call for wild plants that are not typically sold in the grocery store or sown in the garden. The nutritionist, by finding a modern equivalent to these traditional ingredients, will help tribal members revive their pre-reservation diet.

“This database allows us to approach traditional cultural knowledge as a science,” says botanist Seth Pilsk. “To respect it in a traditional manner, but not shy away from studying and analyzing it. We are using traditional knowledge as a means to solving contemporary problems.”

Traditionally, the tribe incorporated food and food production into every aspect of their lives, from sacred rituals and ceremonies to their social and political structures. This project seeks to re-establish the tribe’s healthy relationship with food and, in the process, alleviate some of their current social and economic ills, including substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence, diabetes, obesity, poverty and unemployment.

Apache elders firmly believe that a return to a healthy, pre-reservation diet will help reverse these negative trends and enhance the lives of their tribal members – culturally, physically, socially and politically. Indeed, the information gleaned from this database has already started to have a positive impact on the community.

Tribal healthcare leaders have partnered with the Diabetes Prevention Program, the Wellness Program, The Department of Forest Resources, and the Language Preservation Office to develop a model program based on traditional – mostly food-related – activities. Most recently, they have held a series of meetings with the tribe’s Elders Cultural Advisory Council to identify the major principles needed to inform a Tribal Food Policy Committee. This committee will recommend policies for the tribal leadership to support traditionally-based food systems, health and economic development.

This project has allowed the tribe to successfully merge tradition and technology to improve the physical and social health of their people. The success of this traditional food database system reiterates that tribes have the knowledge and power to strengthen their own communities.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

A-dae Romero: A Happy Success Story for Native Agriculture

A-dae at home in Lanai, Hawaii

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is always happy and proud when our grantees and the various projects we have supported achieve good success and begin to make positive ripples in Indian Country. We’re happy and proud a lot because we have many of these stories, but one of the recent ones is about our good friend A-dae Romero.

A-dae first flew onto First Nations’ radar in 2011 when we provided her with a USDA Community Food Projects travel scholarship to attend our L.E.A.D. Conference. At the time, A-dae was thinking of starting a nonprofit organization related to food.

That thought soon became reality with a new organization called Cochiti Youth Experience, Inc. at Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. (A-dae was born and raised in Cochiti Pueblo. She is Cochiti and Kiowa.) She co-founded this nonprofit so it could create positive opportunities for Cochiti’s young people, and it has a special focus on strengthening Pueblo agriculture as an economic, political and social anchor for the community. First Nations provided a grant to assist Cochiti Youth Experience in 2012 under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, then another grant in 2013 under our Native Youth and Culture Fund.

Since then, A-dae has continued to accomplish good things, both personally and professionally. She recently received important honors and achieved major milestones that recognize her growing impact, especially in Native American agriculture.

A-Dae (front and center in gray suit) at The White House for the "Champions of Change" honors.

In July 2014, The White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored A-dae as one of 15 local “Champions of Change” leaders from across the country “who are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching. These champions are leading in their industries and communities, inspiring others who want to find careers and a life on the land, and providing food, fiber, fuel, and flora around the world.”

Then, she was recently named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, a very prestigious academic accomplishment. She will use it to study the Maori people of New Zealand. Then Agri-Pulse, a national agricultural news source, included her as one of the most influential rural agricultural advocates in its “50 Under 50” report.

Further, A-dae recently completed her LL.M. (master of law) degree in agricultural and food law through the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law. A-dae was the initiative’s first student to complete this multi-disciplinary research, service and educational opportunity, and the initiative itself is the first of its kind nationally. This advanced law degree comes on top of her J.D. (juris doctorate) degree from Arizona State University’s College of Law, and her degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (her focus was on public policy and economic policy).

A-dae now acts as a consultant with First Nations Development Institute on several of our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative efforts, plus she walks in two worlds by farming with her family in New Mexico – raising blue corn and varieties of Pueblo corn – and farming with her husband’s family in Hawaii, growing taro. She also serves on the board of Native American Farmers and Ranchers through New Mexico Community Capital, and on the board of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA). And, she was just named a legal researcher for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), for the new Global Network on Legal Preparedness for Achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

After earning her LL.M. degree, First Nations honored A-dae at our offices in Colorado. Left to right are Jackie Francke and Marsha Whiting of First Nations, A-dae, and Sarah Hernandez and Raymond Foxworth of First Nations.

It’s no wonder A-dae is becoming a leader in Native agriculture. According to the Agri-Pulse article, her grandfather was a leader among his people. When construction of the Cochiti Dam flooded agricultural land used by their tribe, A-dae was just a child. Yet she remembers playing nearby as her grandfather and other leaders discussed the loss of the land for farming, which was vital to the pueblo’s livelihood.

A-dae said it was “very intimate and powerful time” in her life, as the community, dependent on agriculture, struggled with the question of who they would be without farming. As she began to develop an interest in a profession that could help her to be a voice of her culture, she found a mentor who encouraged her to pursue her dreams of law school. Since then she has found a fertile and fruitful field of endeavor at the intersection of law and agriculture.

“After all,” she said in the Agri-Pulse interview, “farming is about getting our hands dirty, and there is a simple kind of happiness in that.”

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

Supporting Tribe’s Quest for Youth Degrees & Jobs

At the Spokane reservation in November are, L to R, Scott Hansen (Mille Lacs), Katie Eaton (Spokane), Andrew Boyd (Mille Lacs), Brian Crossley (Spokane), Warren Seyler (Spokane) and Brent Nichols (Spokane).

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has given a grant to support the strengthening of tribal and Native institutions through peer learning and model development, which will, in turn, improve control and management of assets for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The Native Asset-Building Partnership Project has paired up the natural resources departments of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The Mille Lacs Band’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been partnered with a mentor, the Spokane Indian Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The Mille Lacs DNR wants to implement a summer internship and mentorship program for tribal youth.  There is a low graduation rate from college and little knowledge of the many tribal departments that offer employment.  The ultimate goal is for tribal youth to gain interest in the environmental, scientific and natural resources fields, to attend college and to study those fields.  The final and ultimate goal is for the tribal youth to return to the Mille Lacs DNR for employment.

The Spokane Tribe’s DNR has a summer youth mentorship and internship program in place.  The program has been in operation for more than a decade.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR incorporates culture and traditions into their summer internship and summer learning camps in order to teach their youth how their ancestors used science to fish, hunt, build housing and achieve other goals.  They have been developing their program through the years and are very willing to share that knowledge with the Mille Lacs Band.

The first in-person meeting was hosted by the Mille Lacs Band at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, Minnesota, in August 2013.  The Spokane Tribe presented on their summer internship and mentorship program.  Specifically, they brought a summer intern with them to present.  She described how the summer internship program is run, how many weeks each student dedicates to each program, and the outreach the tribes conducts to recruit interns.  She also presented on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) summer programs for the younger kids, 4th to 6th grade.  This presentation was part of her internship requirement of learning to speak in public.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR also shared information on the history of the tribe to familiarize the Mille Lacs Band with the culture and tradition of the Spokane Tribe.  The Mille Lacs Band’s DNR staff was able to ask in-depth questions about the internship program as well as learn about their mentor’s cultures, traditions and history.

At the beginning of November 2013, the second in-person meeting was hosted by the Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR brought in their partner, the University of Idaho, to present on the Summer Learning Camp and the STEM Curriculum Development.  The university has partnered with the tribe to help develop the curriculum. The tribe provides the culture, tradition and historical knowledge that they want incorporated into the curriculum.  Further presentations included staff members from each DNR program discussing the impacts of the internship program and sharing best practices from their unique and individual points of view.   During this meeting, the Mille Lacs Band shared information on their history, culture and traditions.

The face-to-face meetings are a critical way to build trust between the two tribes, to share tribal culture and tradition, and a way to learn the critical knowledge that is needed to help the mentee tribe reach their goal.  Helping tribal youth see the value of college and learn about employment opportunities with their own tribe is a great way to lower the tribal unemployment rate, to build the knowledge base of tribal youth, provide opportunities for the youth, and to build up tribal sovereignty and independence.

The First Nations Native Asset-Building Partnership Project is supported by the Otto Bremer Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

NAFSI Food for Thought

Our Work Provides Much Food for Thought

First Nations Development Institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) was launched because we believe that food systems and food security are keystones to tribal economic development. Our goal is to assist rural or reservation-based Native American communities in ensuring adequate food supplies – with a particular focus on locally grown, healthy foods – and in developing or expanding a locally controlled and locally based food system that not only provides those healthy foods to community members, but which supports local food producers and the local economy.

Food is key to Native cultures. It is a multi-faceted part of life in Native American communities – where its availability (or lack thereof) influences the health of Native families, the local economy, and the perpetuation of Native cultures. On many reservations, the underdeveloped local economy has created a dependence on imported foods that are processed, canned or preserved, or fast foods high in fat or sugar. Native Americans – once completely self-sufficient and healthy – are suffering from epidemic
rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol.

Thankfully, we are not alone. Our effort has been generously supported by grants from numerous entities over the years including, among others, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AARP Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Christensen Fund, and the Walmart Foundation. We also have been supported by visionary and generous individual donors throughout the United States. In turn, we support tribes and Native communities as they strengthen food systems in their communities, improve health and nutrition and build food security.

Earlier this year, we awarded numerous grants to many food-system projects around the U.S. What follows is a summary of those various projects:

Courtesy of the Walmart Foundation, we awarded grants ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 each to 10 worthy organizations. The recipients were:

$22,355 to the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova, Alaska, to develop an environmentally friendly food-processing and cold-storage plant to support and preserve sustainable and independent food harvesting in rural Alaska.

$32,129 to Bay Mills Community College Land Grant Department in Brimley, Michigan, to
develop the capacity to produce, process, and make available naturally raised poultry for the Bay Mills Indian Community.

$32,200 to White Earth Land Recovery Project in Callaway, Minnesota, to assist local growers with independent food production, recovery of local food system production, restoration of Native varieties of foods and to expand the farm-to-school pilot project.

$31,920 to Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Poplar, Montana, to purchase and install two large walk-in freezers, a walk-in refrigerator and shelving for the Wolf Point Food Bank. The food bank serves nearly 300 emergency food baskets each month to residents of the Fort Peck Reservation and five counties: Roosevelt, Valley, Daniels, Sheridan and McCone. The new food cold-storage system will double the freezer space and triple the refrigeration space.

$30,117 to Hays Community Economic Development Corporation in Hays, Montana, to establish a food co-op, develop a community garden, and provide classes on preparing wholesome meals,menu planning, and budgeting.

$32,179 to Cochiti Youth Experience at Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico to create a localized food system by supporting existing farmers, instruct Cochiti youth on traditional farming techniques, and recreate the tradition of farming to strengthen the Cochiti community.

$27,200 to Hasbidito in Cuba, New Mexico, to increase Navajo-controlled food production
infrastructure in three chapters on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation – Counselor,
Ojo Encino and Torreon – by increasing certified food-production sales, developing food
entrepreneurs, providing healthy cooking classes and holding social events centered on healthy food.

$30,000 to Wind Hollow Foundation, Inc., in Anadarko, Oklahoma, to provide for the completion of its business incubator for agribusiness, and to support a seasonal farmers market, a local farmer co-op and a greenhouse program.

$30,700 to the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin in Oneida, Wisconsin, to
support “Tsyunhehkwa,” a project to improve food-preservation processes of white corn to
mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to support a symposium for the other 10 tribes in Wisconsin that are working with traditional foods.

$31,200 to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in Hayward, Wisconsin, to support the continued development and expansion of canning and preserving classes, provide community members access to local foods throughout the year, and promote community farming and gardening.

Courtesy of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we awarded grants totaling $450,000 to 11 organizations. The grantees, award amounts and projects were:

$44,403 to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland, Oregon. The four treaty tribes (Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warms Springs and Yakama) have long used the river as an integral part of tribal culture, diet and economy. However, tribal fishermen have been at the bottom of the fish-marketing chain and have not shared in its full economic value. This project will improve that by developing an entrepreneurial program to teach proper food handling and harvest safety practices along with business and marketing strategies.

$44,959 to Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. The project will address the lack of access to
healthy, affordable and traditional foods in the region directly around the college and revitalize traditional food systems by establishing a regional food policy and a farmers market, and conducting public education about Navajo food-system issues and agriculture.

$13,080 to the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes in Poplar, Montana to further fund their effort to purchase and install walk-in freezers, a walk-in fridge and antibacterial shelving at the Wolf Point Food Bank. Freezer space will be rented to families for a nominal fee, which will be held in an account for them as a match for purchasing a home freezer.

$45,000 to Hunkpati Investments, Inc. in Fort Thompson, South Dakota. The initiative will
provide fresh vegetables, gardening and entrepreneurial education, and youth employment
on the Crow Creek Reservation. A planned community garden will have 10 personal plots for community members, leaving the rest for communal gardening. The project will facilitate community-wide farmers markets, provide nutrition and gardening education via the Boys and Girls Club, and will provide work for teens by hiring them to care for the garden and run the farmers markets.

$44,660 to the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope in Barrow, Alaska, to provide locally grown vegetables, herbs and edible flowers by using innovative technology to grow organic produce hydroponically with Tower Gardens® and LED lights, thus eliminating the need for soil and, during the winter, sunlight. The produce will allow Arctic Slope natives to improve their diets and long-term health. Currently available plant-based foods are prohibitively expensive. The project also will allow the school system to take advantage of a farm-to-school program.

$43,703 to Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington. The Swinomish Indian
Tribal Community is committed to strengthening its food systems to improve the health of
members through increased access to fresh produce. The recently established Swinomish Food Sovereignty Committee is developing a long-term food system plan. This project will complete a community garden space; provide education on gardening, food harvesting and preparation; and offer support and materials for home container gardens.

$45,000 to the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority in Kyle, South Dakota. This project makes a traditional food source, buffalo, readily available to Oglala Lakota tribal members who otherwise would not have access to the meat. There is no outlet to purchase it on the Pine Ridge Reservation unless a tribal member purchases a bison hunt, which is limited and expensive for low-income families. The opportunity to buy processed buffalo meat allows tribal members to purchase just what they need instead of paying the cost of a hunt and the processing of hundreds of pounds of meat at a time. It will be available at tribal farmers market sites and transported in a mobile freezer truck to rural areas.

$34,861 to The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin in Oneida, Wisconsin. The project will improve traditional food security through enhanced food-preservation processes of organic heirloom white corn (a culturally important tribal food), which will prevent crop loss due to mold, pests and insects. This project will address improvements in white corn harvesting, storage, shelling and the processing of products.

$44,334 to the Painted Desert Demonstration Project (doing business as The STAR School) in Flagstaff, Arizona. The k-8 STAR School adjacent to the Navajo Nation will partner with the Navajo community of Sandsprings Farm on recently partitioned Hopi lands to pilot the first farm-to-school project in northern Arizona as a model for Navajo and Hopi schools and farms. They will collaborate to research and document state and federal requirements, certify the farm to supply public school meals, strengthen school gardens, prepare and disseminate a farm-to-school procedure manual, and mentor additional Navajo and Hopi initiatives.

$45,000 to the Taos County Economic Development Corporation in Taos, New Mexico. The corporation will be the lead coordinator of a new Native American Food Security and Food Systems Alliance. The purpose of the alliance will be to build a national Native movement and voice on Native food security and food system control. This will include developing a collaborative group of Native leaders who are concerned with Native food security, hunger and nutrition issues.

$45,000 to the Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders’ Association, Inc. in Kamuela, Hawaii.
The “Farming for the Working Class” program enables Native Hawaiian homesteaders to actively begin farming fallow land. It consists of hands-on training, classroom learning and business training. Wow Farm, a successful farming enterprise, developed a highly productive greenhouse.

That system will be taught to participants, allowing them to grow healthy crops that provide
additional income along with fresh produce.

Courtesy of AARP Foundation, we provided grants to four projects that are food related, but which also focus heavily on food security for elder Native community members. They were:

$25,000 to Sipaulovi Development Corporation at Second Mesa, Arizona. Sipaulovi will work to ensure elder food security by reclaiming locally controlled food systems based on traditional knowledge, contemporary practices, and coming together for the common good. Activities will focus on restoring seed and water sources, reviving community farming and gardening, and growing, processing and sharing food in the traditional manner. The gardens will be a reliable source of healthy food for elders. Sipaulovi is a self-governing Hopi village founded in the early 1700s on Second Mesa, Arizona. Of the 900 village residents, 28% are elders over 55, while 40% are youth up to age 18.

$25,000 to Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico. Santo Domingo Pueblo will implement a
traditional farming program to engage seniors, farmers and youth in the community. Through the purchase and development of a greenhouse, the seniors will plant and cultivate traditional crops. The seniors will work directly with youth on a weekly basis to provide traditional education around the interrelationship of agriculture and various cultural practices, including songs, dances and prayers. The seedlings cultivated in the greenhouse will be sold to community members and transplanted by elders and youth in a community field, where programming will continue throughout the summer and fall. At harvest time, elders and youth will work together to harvest crops for sale at local farmers markets and convenience stores.

$25,000 to the Pueblo of Nambe in New Mexico. The Pueblo of Nambe’s Community Farm
Project will use its local resources of land, water and sun to revitalize traditional agricultural knowledge while aiming to end food insecurity among seniors in the community. The Pueblo of Nambe’s project has four main components: the construction of a hoop-house, management of a program called “Inventory of Surplus,” establishment of a Senior Food Distribution Service, and the formation and operation of a food database. They hope that their efforts will not only help eliminate food insecurity among the Native senior population but also foster community involvement in food production and distribution.

$25,000 to the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. The Ponca Tribe will raise natural pork and provide it to tribal elders by way of its local food-distribution program and senior citizen center. The tribe will provide land for the venture, and the pork will be raised so as to ensure no hormones or other growth aids are used. (See separate article on the Ponca Pork Project.)

You can help First Nations in its work and mission of strengthening Native American economies by giving generously online or by mail.