Video Explores Changing Landscape of Native Food Sources

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) recently posted a new video on its YouTube Channel titled “Traditional Food Systems: The Changing Landscape of Native American Food Sources” at this link as part of our Native American food security effort that was underwritten by AARP Foundation.

The video features insights from elders and others involved in food-systems work at three pueblos in New Mexico: Cochiti, Nambé and Santo Domingo. In particular, it asks elders to describe what the food systems were like in the pueblos back when they were younger and how they have changed. Today, the goal is to reclaim control of local food systems for better health, nutrition, security and well-being.

The video was photographed and edited for First Nations by students and faculty in the Cinematic Arts & Technology Department at the Institute of American Indian Arts [IAIA] in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A second video from the project is completed and is now being finalized by IAIA.

Statistics indicate that approximately 12 percent of all Native Americans living in poverty are age 55 or older. Additionally, Native American seniors often suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. Through First Nations, AARP Foundation has contributed significant funding toward improving the health and nutrition of Native American seniors.

AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is a charitable affiliate of AARP.

To watch this video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q3zrLdFbLE.  You’ll also find numerous other videos related to our work on our YouTube Channel.

Cochiti’s Return to Native Foods Brings Better Health & Economy

In Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, young people are returning to farming and reigniting a passion for their Pueblo ancestry. Thanks to the Cochiti Youth Experience, they are embracing quality food and what it means to their culture, sustainability and future.

A-dae Romero-Briones

“We take a big-picture approach to health,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, co-founder of the Pueblo de Cochiti-based nonprofit organization. “In our equation, food equals health, but food encompasses community, economics, land and spirituality. If you improve food, you improve all those things.”

It is a belief that immediately resonated with First Nations Development Institute (First Nations).

“First Nations believed in us,” she said. “We were a small group, concerned about supporting our community. We wanted to start a program that focused on culture and on potential. We came up with ideas to get people focused on what we were eating – foods that our grandparents ate – and the importance of food to our ancestors.”

First Nations provided initial funding in 2012, then an additional grant in 2013, to support the Cochiti Youth Experience and promote the power of farming in core Pueblo values and healthy living. Immediate objectives were to create a localized food system – supporting existing farmers, teaching Cochiti youth traditional farming techniques, and reinvigorating the tradition of farming to strengthen the social institutions of the Cochiti people.

Starting with a few cooking classes, the Cochiti Youth Experience grew every year, creating opportunities for youth to establish food networks, such as farm-to-table programs, and programs that provide food to tribal elders and the local school district. The group also established the Cochiti Farmers Mentorship Program that develops mentoring partnerships between youth and older farmers in order to pass traditional Cochiti agricultural knowledge to the next generation.

Ken Romero

“We continually evolved our program to help as many people as possible,” said Executive Director Ken Romero. “That’s how everything needs to be done – from the bottom up. It’s not about how big we can get, it’s about how can we help: What’s the best way for us to minimize concerns or health problems and do the most good?”

In creating this food system, the Cochiti Youth Experience has stayed focused on investing in today’s youth, learning from and respecting elders, and creating a sustainable economy in Pueblo de Cochiti.

Youth Focused

First and foremost, the Cochiti Youth Experience starts with youth, said Romero. The organization reaches children and teens at an age when they may be at risk for truancy or alcohol use, and reconnects them back to the land and their legacy. “We are here to enable all youth to make better lifestyle choices – nutrition, exercise, diet – and empower them to make good decisions for their future.”

Elder Inspired

The Cochiti Youth Experience also prioritizes the role of farming for the Cochiti people. “You can hear about our language, traditions and ceremony, but what’s essential is that we are farmers. If we overlook that, what’s next?” asked Romero. To embrace the farming tradition, the organization focuses on the input of elders in the community, and helps young people learn directly from grandparents working in the field.

“Long ago, food and agriculture was both a community and individual choice,” Romero-Briones added. “But the food industry now is national, and the food we eat is all manufactured. With food tied into both economics and land access, it’s important to get back to our heritage, and advocate for tribal communities to define, maintain and perpetuate our customs – through the food we grow and value.”

Future Ready

Finally, the Cochiti Youth Experience has built an economy, a place where youth can begin careers in education, administration, conservancy, public service and a host of other industries. The organization aims to show young people that they can return to Pueblo de Cochiti to make a difference, and that they don’t have to move away to create a life elsewhere.

Another aspect of building that economy and fostering the Cochiti food system is making farming and agriculture a viable career option. To that end, the Cochiti Youth Experience makes a conscious decision to pay its farmers. “Young people need to know that farming is a valued profession. This instills pride and confidence, as we recognize that their knowledge and time is worth money,” said Romero-Briones.

Ongoing Impact

Today, the Cochiti Youth Experience recognizes that it can’t sit back and be happy with the status quo – they have to keep working to make things better, said Romero. The organization continually seeks new opportunities for producing quality food. “There is so much of the Pueblo life that’s involved throughout the whole circle – planting, harvest, storage and preparation. We want what’s best to empower everyone, everywhere.”

Since 2012, the Cochiti Youth Experience has served more than 2,311 meals to the community. The number of farm mentors has almost doubled, and the number of youth participating in the food programs has grown from 6 to 26.

But Romero underscores the ripple effect of these numbers. “If we reach 25 teens, we’re also reaching 50 parents, and their grandparents, and their brothers and sisters. It increases exponentially. These programs benefit the whole community,” he said.

Another benefit is that the Cochiti Youth Experience model is fully replicable, and Romero welcomes organizations throughout Indian Country to implement it in full or in part. “We want to share this with everybody. Come visit, take the time, try it out. It can make a huge difference,” he said.

Romero-Briones again thanks First Nations for believing in the Cochiti Youth Experience. “It’s allowed programming like ours to happen,” she said. “When you feel supported in communities that historically are least supported, it allows this renaissance to happen. First Nations focuses on potential.”

Learn more about the Cochiti Youth Experience and watch a First Nations Development Institute video about “The Changing Landscape of Native American Food Sources” featuring Ken Romero and the Cochiti Youth Experience, along with the pueblos of Nambé and Santo Domingo.

By Amy Jakober

Southwest Tour, L.E.A.D. & Food Summit: Don’t Miss These Events!

 

Here at First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), we have three events coming up in September and October that you don’t want to miss.

First is our 35th Anniversary Southwest Tour, Sept. 13-18, which will be based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Local experts and community leaders will personally escort you on a special journey to experience the spirit of Indian Country as they share their work related to sustainable farming initiatives, leadership development, and language and cultural revitalization efforts. You’ll learn about the innovative solutions created at the grassroots level to address the health, economic and other challenges tribal communities are facing that result in real and lasting change. The tour includes visits to the American Indian Pueblos of Cochiti, Nambé, and Pojoaque plus many other innovative projects.

During this event, you’ll meet the people who are working to inspire, educate and continue the rich cultures and traditions of the Indigenous people of the Southwest. You’ll see first-hand how First Nations is supporting homegrown solutions to community needs. Find full information here: www.firstnations.org/2015tour

Second, our 20th Annual L.E.A.D. Institute Conference is Sept. 22-24, also in Santa Fe. This event can give a real boost to your career in Native nonprofit or tribal work. This year it’s at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino. This is a great conference for Native American nonprofit professionals, Native Americans interested in launching or expanding nonprofit and/or philanthropic organizations, tribal leaders and those who work in tribal organizations, tribal economic development professionals, and anyone interested in Native American food sovereignty, Native nonprofits and/or philanthropy. Attendance at this annual event is required for many of First Nations’ grantees, but each year we open up a limited number of seats to the general public.

Find full information here: www.FirstNations.org/2015LEAD

Third is the Native Food Sovereignty Summit Oct. 26-29 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. First Nations and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin again are co-hosting this third annual summit at the Radisson Green Bay Hotel and Conference Center. This national event is where Native American communities come together to learn from one another in order to promote Native health, wellness and food sovereignty.

This year’s event will feature three tracks: Applied Agriculture, Community Outreach, and Products to Market. Native farmers, ranchers, gardeners, businesses, policymakers and other practitioners from around the U.S. will share information, program models and tools to meet growing and marketing challenges, as well as provide inspiration, mentoring and networking opportunities. This conference sold out the last two years, so be sure to guarantee your attendance by registering now.

Find full information here: www.firstnations.org/summit

Cochiti Parents Follow Children’s Footsteps in Speaking Keres

Children prepare to practice the Buffalo Dance

The Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC) is a nonprofit educational organization that supports children and families of the Pueblo de Cochiti reservation in New Mexico in maintaining, strengthening and revitalizing their heritage language of Keres.  KCLC provides a culturally and linguistically rich learning environment for children ages three to six. The center uses the Cochiti Keres language for daily instruction across all areas of learning.

One of the parents' language sessions

In 2012, First Nations Development Institute awarded $14,875 to KCLC to launch a two-year language program for parents. KCLC strongly believes that parents and families play a critical role in Keres language acquisition and retention. This new program is intended to help support language acquisition at home as well as school through genuine interaction.

Mililani with her mother and grandfather

Over the past 40 years, the Keres language has diminished significantly among the citizens of Cochiti Pueblo. According to one parent, she enrolled in the parent program because she stopped speaking Keres at age seven when she began speaking English. This weekly program has helped strengthen and improve her speaking skills so that she and her seven-year-old can now speak the Keres language on a daily basis.

Essentially, parents learn the same weekly language lessons that their children learn at school. They also learn practical language skills needed for daily routines such as playing, dressing, making tortillas, etc.  The goal of this program is to encourage parents and children to use the Keres language in a natural setting.

Alice and Owa, wearing his buffalo hood

Parents and children also learn language skills and proper etiquette that will allow them to participate in traditional Cochiti celebrations and ceremonies such as Cochiti Feast Day and All Souls Day. Parents and children practice these skills in an informal setting with KCLC teachers and mentors before attending actual events.
For example, parents and children recently prepared for the buffalo dance. They learned songs, prayers and dances in class before participating in the actual dance where boys dress as buffalos and girls dress as maidens.  These activities are intended to instill a sense of pride and self-knowledge that can be passed from generation to generation.

This grant has also been used to make CD recordings of traditional stories such as “Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun,” so that families can listen and practice these stories at home.  Additionally, these funds have been used to host picnics, hikes and other field trips.  Most recently, parents and children have started to plant a community garden to learn words associated with food and agriculture.

Many Native American languages are rapidly becoming extinct. This innovative project demonstrates that both parent and youth language-immersion programs have the potential to reverse this trend by revitalizing these languages and increasing cultural pride.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

23 Groups Receive Native Youth & Culture Fund Grants

In October, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) announced the selection of 23 American Indian and Alaska Native organizations to receive grants totaling $400,000 through First Nations’ Native Youth and Culture Fund, which is underwritten by the Kalliopeia Foundation with contributions from other foundations and tribal, corporate and individual supporters.

The Native Youth and Culture Fund is part of First Nations’ effort to strengthen Native American nonprofit organizations, with the intent to preserve, strengthen and/or renew American Indian culture and tradition among tribal youth. The grants support the projects and provide capacity-building and training to the organizations’ staff members. All of the funded projects demonstrate creative and innovative approaches, whether through traditional knowledge, art, language or a program or business enterprise.

The complete list of grantees and their project descriptions can be found here: http://www.firstnations.org/node/630. The projects cover a variety of areas, including youth-elder intergenerational programs, cultivating responsibility and leadership, language programs, traditional foods and farming, wellness, history and cultural documentation.

Tribal entities represented in this year’s awards include the Northern Cheyenne, Cochiti, Dakotah/Dakota, Lakota, Euchee, Mohawk, Grand Ronde, Lumbee, Lummi, Menominee, Diné/Navajo, Nez Perce, Santa Ana, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Quinault, Santo Domingo, Haida and Zuni.