Finding a Voice and Making it Heard: Defending Native Rights on the Border

New construction at Three Rivers is considered the hub for the Jupiter Oil Pipeline running to Brownsville, Texas.

New construction at Three Rivers is considered the hub for the Jupiter Oil Pipeline running to Brownsville, Texas.











For the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas — on the border and in the pathway of “the wall” — the future is precarious. Not federally recognized as a tribe and threatened daily by the impact of the Texas Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal and associated pipelines, the Carrizo/Comecrudo is in a race to identify its villages, gain proper recognition, and form a voice to protect its rights and land. It is an uphill fight, but with a new project funded in part by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), progress is being made.

The Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe works to protect the Garcia Pasture, a sacred site in the Rio Grande Valley that contains remains of ancestors and cultural artifacts from various nomadic tribes, including the Carrizo/Comecrudo. The need for protection abounds: The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are huge environmental implications. And moreover, the members and sacred aspects of the original pre-Columbian villages surrounding Garcia Pasture have been not only ignored, but not even identified. And although the Carrizo/Comecrudo is not the official holder of the site, they are taking a stand.

“We, as Native people, have a right to speak out for what has been happening,” says Tribal Chairman, historian, storyteller, and Keeper of the Lifeways Juan Mancias.

Mancias explains that it’s something their people have to do because the threats are so pervasive. Before and beyond battling the LNG terminals, the Tribe has fought for a stronghold in Texas. The Tribe has endured centuries of historical trauma and oppression. It is not federally recognized, so there is no federal funding. Its people have scattered, and some were forced into Mexico when the border was established. Pollutants from the sale of substandard coal to Mexico have jeopardized their natural resources and the quality of the air and water. Ancestors are buried on the land they can’t defend. And the health of the Rio Grande, the home of Carrizo/Comecrudo for generations, is at risk.

Now, with the help of a First Nations Broad Reach Grant, which supports Native American-led community efforts toward environmental justice, the Tribe is addressing one of the biggest challenges through the “Build a Village, Save the Earth: Project Stop Texas LNG.”

Juan Mancias stands before Mariposa Village, one of the three camps in South Texas. Funds for Project Stop Texas LNG will go toward replenishing these camps with supplies, food, water, gas, and video and monitoring equipment.

Juan Mancias stands before Mariposa Village, one of the three camps in South Texas. Funds for Project Stop Texas LNG will go toward replenishing these camps with supplies, food, water, gas, and video and monitoring equipment.

Mancias explains that “liquefied natural gas” is natural gas that is cooled to a liquid state to make it easier to transport, as it becomes 1/600th of its original volume. He says Texas LNG aims to create an export facility on 625 acres at the Port of Brownsville near the Gulf of Mexico – a site chosen because it is close to the Permian Basin, where natural gas is extracted, and near existing pipelines. With the new facility will come more pipelines, from a supplier that has not been identified, and more fracking practices, which are already having an impact. Mancias says the region has already experienced over a million small earthquakes, and there are significant concerns that natural springs and the underground aquifer is being polluted by wastewater that is being reinjected into the ground. And all of it is happening directly on the Garcia Pasture site.

“Everything is being connected,” adds Mancias. “It affects us as a Tribe, our people living along this river, and all the way up. We’re concerned about the desecration of our burial sites, but also for our clean water. Everything is coming where we maintained an existence.”

By Amy Jakober

The ocean Derricks that are brought into Port of Brownsville for repair will add to the panorama if the three LNGs and Jupiter Refinery become part of the Bahia Grande area.

The ocean Derricks that are brought into Port of Brownsville for repair will add to the panorama if the three LNGs and Jupiter Refinery become part of the Bahia Grande area.

22 Native Youth Programs Get a Boost

NYCF 2017

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) recently announced the selection of 22 American Indian organizations and tribes to receive grants through its Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) for the 2017-18 funding cycle. The grants total $410,000.

First Nations launched the NYCF in 2002 with generous support from Kalliopeia Foundation and other foundations and tribal, corporate and individual supporters. The NYCF is designed to enhance culture and language awareness, and promote youth empowerment, leadership and community building. To date under this fund, First Nations has awarded 351 grants to Native youth programs throughout the U.S., totaling $5.96 million.

These are the 2017-2018 projects:

  1. California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, Santa Rosa California, $20,000 – The project serves Native youth in the center’s tri-county, rural service area of Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties. The youth, ages 11-18, are members of or descended from five tribes in the region, with the primary affiliations being Pomo and Coast Miwok. They work with Native elders and adults to produce K-12 curriculum videos for a program that serves all Native youth in the region.
  2. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Odanah, Wisconsin, $18,200 – “Weshki Niigaaniijig – Young Leaders” serves tribal youth, ages 13-18, in developing leadership and role-modeling skills through projects focused on traditional Anishinaabe harvesting activities. The youth will teach cultural harvesting practices to other youth in four communities, thereby encouraging development of positive cultural role models.
  3. Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, Hollister North Carolina, $20,000 – This project focuses on reclaiming traditional coming-of-age ceremonies for boys and girls ages 13-18 by connecting youth and elders, culturally and spiritually, to their history. By engaging the elders to share their wisdom and cultural knowledge, the youth participate in workshops that teach them fundamental lessons and help document disappearing cultural traditions. These youth will then teach the next generation.
  4. Hoopa Valley Tribe, Hoopa, California, $20,000 – The xo’ji kya’ project provides an opportunity for young Native women to work closely with female cultural experts/elders/regalia-makers to make ceremonial dresses and document the process to share with the community via videos and manuals. Each young woman is expected to pass on the knowledge to other young women.
  5. Iḷisaġvik College, Barrow, Alaska, $20,000 – During the summer, the college implemented three cultural camps for Alaska Native youth ages 13-25 on Iñupiaq Land Use, Values, and Resources; Iñupiaq Arts and Culture; and an Iñupiaq Immersion camp. The camps are focused on traditional hunting/camping/gathering skills; Iñupiaq language, grammar and linguistic development; and exploring art, history, culture and expression through an Iñupiat worldview.
  6. Lakota Cultural Center, Eagle Butte, South Dakota, $20,000 – This project passes on cultural arts and knowledge from the elder generation to the next on the Cheyenne River Reservation. A series of cultural arts courses will be held in order to begin building the next generation of culture bearers within the Lakota community.
  7. Lakota Language Consortium, Bloomington, Indiana, $3,300 – This project identifies young members of the Lakota Nation and trains them simultaneously as language learners and teachers. The Lakota Summer Institute is a four-week boot camp at Sitting Bull College, where youth learn Lakota language, phonology and teaching methods and, empowered with these skills, return to their communities where they will host and teach their own language workshops.
  8. Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Cass Lake, Minnesota, $20,000 – Our “Heritage, Culture and Traditions – Uniting Youth and Elders” pilot project will bring youth ages 14 to 24 and tribal elders together to plan, implement and evaluate a cultural (aanji-bimaadizi – change life) learning center program for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. This initiative will establish the foundation, tools and community investment required to develop a sustainable program and permanent site for future generations.
  9. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Harbor Springs, Michigan, $18,300 – Because of a history of assimilation through education, youth are struggling emotionally and spiritually without purpose or place. Regenerating rites-of-passage ceremonies to connect youth to themselves and their purpose is critical. Because many families are disconnected from traditions, there is unfamiliarity with and lack of access to ceremony. This project addresses this, and will increase the number of youth ages 10-19 who demonstrate positive identity development and increased cultural knowledge.
  10. Medicine Lodge Confederacy, Garrison, North Dakota, $20,000 – The Arikara Tribe has historically had young men societies where they were mentored by older men. The confederacy is striving to revive these ways of teaching. The Star Boy Camp will recruit young men ages 12 to 15 and teach them the skills of leadership, communication, confidence and self-discipline. Those who excel will become peer counselors during the next year.
  11. Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, Eagle Butte, South Dakota, $20,000 – Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains has 24 members on reservations throughout the Northern Plains. There are 10 shelters for women and their children. The Empowering Children in Shelter project will focus on three of the shelters of the Santee Sioux Tribe, Oglala Nation and Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The project will enhance the environment for these children with cultural activities and ceremonies during their healing from trauma.
  12. Navajo Studies Conference, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico, $20,000 – The organization will work with youth and elders during the school year. The teams will form Diné Alliances and will be responsible for development of a cultural project that responds to a social issue. These partnerships will have a lasting impact for the next generation and will be recorded. The Diné Alliances will post their cultural projects online.
  13. Ogallala Commons, Inc., Nazareth, Texas, $14,000 – Since 2013, First Nations has funded 13 Native internships through the Ogallala Commons Community Internship Program. This grant will fund additional internships, one each on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, and one in North Dakota, as well as intern travel to attend the orientation retreat in Texas and the convening of two youth-engagement days for high school students at Sinte Gleska University and Oglala Lakota College.
  14. Osage Nation, Pawhuska Oklahoma, $19,800 – Trunks of culturally and spiritually significant items will be transported countywide by the Osage Nation Cultural Center staff (accompanied by tribal elders and youth to assist as curriculum guides and with interactive presentations) to schools and youth events. This will increase youth access to hands-on, multi-generational interactions that serve to preserve, strengthen and renew Osage traditions and beliefs.
  15. Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Nixon, Nevada, $20,000 – The Summer Cultural Day Camp and activities planned throughout the year will teach children their Northern Paiute culture and heritage through language immersion, traditional dances, oral history and the making of traditional Paiute beadwork. Elders and community members will share their knowledge in both hands-on and classroom settings.
  16. Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Tama, Iowa, $16,600 – The grant will serve the cultural needs of youth through the creation of Iowa hand drums, one large drum, two-piece dresses, the learning of traditional Meskwaki songs and the learning of traditional Meskwaki dances. The grant will serve youth ages 10-18.
  17. Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, New Mexico, $20,000 – The Leadership Institute will implement the 2017 Pueblo Convocation. The first Pueblo Convocation was held in 2012 and brought together more than 600 Pueblo people to learn about Pueblo priority areas. This project will add a youth track, where youth will be involved in organizing, planning, research and presentations.
  18. Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation, Suquamish, Washington, $19,800 – The Suquamish Tribe, in collaboration with tribal employees, community members and elders, will provide two one-week trainings to introduce tribal youth to traditions and practices regarding local subsistence foods. This programs will focus on how science and sovereignty support traditional tribal values as well as provide an opportunity for tribal youth to explore career paths within the tribe and develop their mentoring skills.
  19. TC Roughriders 4-H Club, Walthill, Nebraska, $20,000 – Children and young adults will learn to identify traditional foods and ceremonial plants that are important to the Omaha Nation. Tribal elders and other experts will conduct educational activities outdoors and in the kitchen. Participants will learn Omaha language words for the plants and food products. The youth will meet the elders and learn their stories of using these foods and of growing up Omaha. These activities will provide alternatives to unhealthful choices for at-risk children.
  20. White Mountain Apache Tribe – Water Resources, Ndee Bikiyaa, The People’s Farm, Fort Apache, Arizona, $20,000 – The summer farm camp is a learning opportunity for local tribal students ranging from grades 5 to 8. This serves as a bridge between youth and elders by providing hands-on cultural crafts, traditional farming techniques, Apache language, wild foods gathering, food preservation, and education on food sovereignty. All major communities on the reservation will be included.
  21. Woodland Boys & Girls Club, Neopit, Wisconsin, $20,000 – The project aims to “Build Brighter Futures through Language & Culture” by incorporating the use of the language in programs, teaching traditional songs and dances, and teaching hunting, fishing and gathering. This will help youth develop mind, body and spirit as Native people who understand the balance in their lives. The teaching of language and culture also helps with youth self-esteem and identity issues, and builds resiliency to negative behaviors.
  22. World Indigenous Nations University, Hula, Hawaii, $20,000 – The OPIO Leadership Academy will provide training by elders/cultural Hawaii Pasifika (WINU HP) mentors/master practitioners to 20 aspiring Native youth in Hawaii, in the traditional practices of Hawaiian healing arts. Training will incorporate traditional protocols, practices, performance and proficiencies specific to each healing art. Youth participants will demonstrate their understanding, knowledge and application of these principles and practices in family, school and community settings through a community-wide Hoike or public performance.

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.)

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