Genetic Ordinance Protects Yurok Tribe’s Natural Resources

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Food policies have a tremendous impact on how food is produced, processed and distributed in Native communities. Often, these policies are determined at the federal and state levels. Today, more and more tribes are exercising their sovereign rights and establishing tribal food policies to meet the specific needs of their communities.

Tribal food policies empower tribes to protect their food, land and natural resources from federal and state systems that attempt to claim jurisdiction over these assets. These policies are powerful tools that enable tribes to control, manage and regulate their food systems.

Yurok LogoIn 2015, the Yurok Tribe in California, the largest tribe in the state, established the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Ordinance (GEO) as part of its tribal food policy. This first-of-its-kind tribal ordinance prohibits the growth of genetically modified crops and the release of genetically engineered salmon within the tribe’s territory.

The Yurok Tribe serves as an important model to other tribes interested in developing their own food policies, ordinances and practices. This is the tribe’s story:

The Yurok remain one of the few tribes that have maintained its presence in its ancestral homelands in California. This presence is a great feat as California Indian history epitomizes the cruelties of American settlement in Indian territories. The Yurok Reservation is located approximately five hours north of San Francisco along iconic Highway 101. This scenic drive parallels the Klamath River and consists of old-growth redwood trees (some 1,000 to 2,000 or more years old), breathtaking coastal views, and fresh inland waters that are home to both the Yurok people and one of the most iconic fish in the world: the Pacific Salmon.

20160419_161844The Yurok people and the Pacific Salmon model an existence that resembles the fury of the Klamath River itself. Every year, the salmon return to the river, their natural breeding grounds, despite the increasing environmental odds that threaten their demise. Along this river, a new battle was brewing. Over the last few decades, the Yurok have tirelessly fought for the survival of the salmon, advocating for dam removal on the mighty Klamath River to feed other rivers. The tribe’s – and others’ – efforts were successful in advocating dam removal. The dams on the Klamath are slated for removal by 2020. (See http://www.times-stan-dard.com/article/NJ/20160406/NEWS/160409926).

On December 10, 2015, the Yurok Tribe passed tribal legislation banning genetically engineered (GE) salmon and plants, essentially making it the first tribal food and agricultural code in the country. Stephanie Dolan, one of the primary authors of the Yurok Tribe GEO, says: “The main goals in creating this code are to prohibit GE salmon from crossing into Yurok county, prohibit GE crops from being planted, grown or harvested in Yurok Country, create an advisory committee to look at reducing pesticide use on the reservation (which impacts all of the plants, animals and health of the Yurok people) and to encourage other tribal communities to exercise their jurisdiction.” Cheyenne Sanders from the Yurok Tribe Office of Tribal Attorney also assisted in drafting the GEO.

This code has been inspired, in part, by other food policy movements across the country at both the local and state levels. However, it is important to note that tribal communities maintain a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States that recognizes the need and responsibility of tribal nations to govern their own territories, communities and people that lends force to this type of legislation. It is important for tribes to be proactive in defining their jurisdiction over precious resources such as food and land so that they continue to pass these resources down to future generations.

20160419_161838Abby Abinanti, the Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribal Court – and the first Native American woman admitted to the State Bar of California in 1974 – is responsible for enforcing this code in Yurok Territory. Abinanti firmly maintains: “It is only natural that the Yurok Tribal Court can enforce the Yurok ordinance. The Yurok Tribal Court is meant to serve the people, and salmon has always been a part of that.” Abinanti’s courtroom is based on the tenants of traditional Yurok justice and seeks to enforce Yurok community standards. Abinanti and the Yurok have made it clear they will protect the Yurok lifestyle and the traditional salmon that are central to it.

The Yurok are trailblazers for asserting these sovereign powers. They have made history in several important Indian law cases such as U.S. v. Kagama; Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association; Jessie Short vs. U.S.; and the unforgettable fish wars when tribal fisherman occupied the mouth of the Klamath River to assert their right to fish for salmon. In many respects, the passage of the GE salmon ban in Yurok territory is an extension of occupation that occurred in Yurok Territory more than 40 years ago.

20160419_090659Today, the Yurok Tribe continues to assist other California tribes – including the Karuk Tribe, Tolowa-Dee-ni’ Nation, Hoopa Valley Tribe and Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria – in their efforts to pass similar tribal food policies and ordinances in their communities. These five tribes are a part of the Northern California Tribal Court Coalition (NCTCC), a group of tribal courts that encourage other tribes to take steps to enact similar laws to protect their lands and peoples.

To see more information about NCTCC’s other Rights of Mother Earth initiatives, including the recent Tribal Food Sovereignty Gathering, visit the website at http://www.nctcc.org/.

The Yurok Tribe is advocating for dam removal so that salmon can reach more than 250 miles of historic spawning habitat, among other reasons. Additionally, removing the dams will alleviate major water-quality issues, including unnaturally high water temperatures, massive toxic algal blooms and high populations of deadly fish parasites.

(Note: A designed/printable version of this story can be downloaded for free from the First Nations Knowledge Center at this link: http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center.)

By A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations Associate Director of Research & Policy, Native Agriculture

Edited by Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Consultant

Board Profile: First Nations Chair Thomas Vigil

Chairman Thomas Vigil

Chairman Thomas Vigil

Beyond the grants, past the technical assistance, and before becoming a nonprofit organization, First Nations was formed to be a voice and advocate for Indian people. “It’s why we started, and it’s what we still do,” says B. Thomas Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo), longtime Chairman of the Board and one of the first board members of First Nations Development Institute.

Reflecting on the world he was born into in the 1940s, and the world we live in now, he says the need for this voice continues today.

“The rest of the country has had a 250-yard head start on us, and we have a long way to catch up,” he says.

Indians in a “Desperate State”

Vigil was born on a reservation and raised in a tent behind a shed made from waste lumber.

“This was my life. We were poor. But I wasn’t unique,” he says. “People either grew up and left the reservation, or they stayed, and many died drunk.”

Tom addresses the gathering at First Nations' 35th Anniversary celebration in 2015

Tom addresses the audience at First Nations’ 35th Anniversary celebration in 2015

When state schools were made available, Vigil and many of his classmates were tested and determined to be “illiterate.” Vigil himself didn’t learn to read or write until high school. And because Indians “did not pay taxes” they were not even given the right to serve on the school board.

Vigil called together school leaders, rallied students and parents, and sought a voice for Indian people. By the time he graduated, New Mexico changed the laws, and Indians were on the board and voting for their schools.

From there, Vigil went on to New Mexico Highlands University, where he earned a degree in economics/accounting in 1968. After graduation, he began his first job as a staff accountant for the University of New Mexico. Part of his job was to help tribes set up the accounting processes needed to become community action agencies – an essential component for them to receive federal grants under the War on Poverty.

Again, he saw a world that echoed his experience on the reservation. Indians either had no resources, or they weren’t allowed to manage them, Vigil explains.

“We had no freedom. We were wards of the government,” he says. “We were completely in bondage. Government had all the control.”

A Time for Change

A young Tom Vigil

A young Tom Vigil

A lot would happen over the next decades that would have an impact socially and politically on the life of Indians, and Vigil’s career intersected with these changes at several points.

He left his job at the University of New Mexico to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, thinking that the environment for Indians could be changed by working within a government agency. Yet, there he didn’t see people working to make lives better for Indian people. “They were just sitting around being bureaucrats,” he says.

From there he was recruited to be a contracts officer for the Department of Labor in Los Angeles. At that time, President Nixon introduced revenue sharing, opening up federal funding to the states. Vigil was assigned several California counties and cities of over 400,000 people to help them access and manage the funding, teaching them how to use it and what it could be used for. This experience led to a position as coordinator of strategic planning in the Mayor’s Office for the City of Los Angeles, and concurrently to an official appointment by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Commission. Work in Los Angeles also provided the opportunity to receive a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

The Chairman celebrating his 70th birthday in December 2014 with staff and other Board members

The Chairman celebrating his 70th birthday in December 2014 with staff and other Board members

Around that time, President Nixon also announced his Indian Policy and the concept of self-determination. This would lead to the creation of the Indian Self-Determination Act, which established a government-to-government relationship between Indian people and the United States of America. When the Ford administration carried the act on, Vigil was brought to Washington to help conceptualize and implement the policy through the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services.

While the legislation was a long time coming, he says, many Indians were not ready for it, and some were actually opposed to it. They feared that the Bureau of Indian Affairs would no longer be providing the services Indians had been accustomed to. They were used to just accepting whatever the Bureau of Indian Affairs said as gospel, and they did not know how important self-government was.

“One of my jobs was to go around the country and talk to Indians,” he says. “Over time, we won them over.”

The Start of First Nations

Original FNDI LogoVigil could see that more had to be done to align tribes and help them fully understand what sovereignty and self-determination meant. In 1978, Vigil worked with Rebecca Adamson and David Lester to conceptualize an organization that would continue the battle. That organization ultimately became First Nations Development Institute.

Early on, First Nations also gave birth to the notion of a specialized arm to address the lack of capital and financial infrastructure holding back economic development in Native communities. This notion became First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary that supports economic growth in Native American communities through the creation, development and capitalization of Native Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs.

First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts says Vigil’s background was essential to First Nations back then and going forward. “It is Tom’s perspective having come from and being part of his community – along with his broader perspective of Indian Country history and self-determination – that has provided much of the grounding First Nations enjoys today.”

Indeed, Vigil says an essential tenet of First Nations is that it would be funded by private donors and not the government. “That’s why other organizations failed. We had to be sure we were not run by something that had controlled us, or could try to control us in the future.”

FNDI Stacked Logo.pngA second tenet is that the organization would not take a political position. This neutrality would keep First Nations focused on helping Indians and ensure the organization was not swayed by any political parties or agendas. Finally, a third tenet is that the organization would not become public relations focused. Instead it would let its work speak for itself, with the accomplishments of Indians being its key message.

In the early 1980s, First Nations was formally organized and Vigil became chairman in 1982.

“We’re one of the longest existing Indian organizations. But you can’t think about First Nations without thinking about the history of Native American people in this country,” he says. “It’s not about what we’ve done or what we’re doing. It’s about who we are as Indian people, where we came from, and who we are today. That’s what First Nations is really about.”

Roberts agrees. “Whenever we get a little too big-headed around here, it is Tom’s counsel that keeps coming back – we don’t do things in Indian Country, we invest in the genius of Indian people and Indian communities. Our job is to provide a little capital, a little technical assistance, and a heaping scoop of peer networking – and then get the heck out of the way so the real work can happen.”

Returning to His Roots

Since his work in Washington, Vigil has returned to Dulce, New Mexico, where he launched a successful career in hospitality and in the Indian gaming business. And here he continues serving on multiple boards, including the Board of First Nations.

He reflects on his childhood and a time he escorted a high-level political figure on a trip to a nearby reservation. The visitor pointed out with wonder at the makeshift structures on a distant hillside. “You think they’re shacks,” Vigil told the visitor. “But people live there. Those are homes.”

Vigil explains that this is where his people came from and what they were up against. And while Indians have come a long way in catching up on the 250-yard head start the rest of the country has had, what will always be needed is the voice for Indian people.

“It will take some time to grow out of that,” he says. “But we will. We will keep speaking out.”

By Amy Jakober

Updated “Building Native Communities” Curriculum Released

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In honor of National Financial Literacy Month during April 2016, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta) released the 5th edition of the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum. The revised curriculum includes an updated Participant Workbook and Instructor Guide.

First Nations partnered with Oweesta to convene an advisory committee to revise the Building Native Communities Participant Workbook. Funded by the Rose Foundation and the AMB Foundation, the workbook has new content that incorporates feedback from the field and addresses changing technology. There are new sections that cover topics like online banking, consumer savvy (recognizing persuasion tactics), and constructing a record-keeping system. The revision team also removed outdated material and greatly enhanced the math content of the workbook. New “Money Math” activities throughout the workbook help students apply what they have learned. In addition, the revised workbook includes new illustrations, photos, infographics and charts. The resulting workbook has a more modern and visual feel.

FNOC2clogo.1Oweesta and First Nations also updated the Instructor Guide that accompanies the Building Native Communities curriculum. New chapters address training techniques, learning styles for various demographics, financial education program design, and best practices for financial education classes.

Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families is a culturally-appropriate guide to financial education in Native communities that helps individuals make informed financial decisions for themselves, their family, and their community. Since the release of the first edition of the curriculum in 2000, Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families has become the leading financial education curriculum in Indian Country. To date, First Nations and Oweesta have distributed over 18,000 copies of the Financial Skills for Families workbook and over 1,400 leaders from 28 states have become certified trainers through nearly 60 Oweesta/First Nations train-the-trainer events.

“We are excited to revise this workbook and honored by the input of our advisory committee,” shared Sarah Dewees, Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs at First Nations. “The 5th edition is a great workbook and we are happy to announce its completion.” Krystal Langholz, Chief Operating Officer of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, stated, “We look forward to rolling out this new edition with revised train-the-trainer workshops and several webinars to introduce people to the new content.”

To pre-order copies of the 5th edition curriculum, contact Chris Hansen at chris@oweesta.org or (303) 774-8838. To download a PDF copy, visit the First Nations Knowledge Center.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

New Web Resource for Native Financial Educators

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In April, First Nations Development Institute and First Nations Oweesta Corporation announced the launch of a new financial education web portal at www.BNCweb.org. It serves as a resource center for Native financial education practitioners and educators.

The site contains our suite of financial education curricula, downloadable instructor guides, trainer tools, research and publications, and additional materials. The website also contains links to the My Green campaign, the investnativeonline.org website, and videos and materials that can assist financial educators.

All resources will be in a centralized location and will address topics such as Minor’s Trust Accounts (training resources, research, etc.), an online curriculum about investing for Native youth, and supplemental training resources. These efforts were funded by the Rose Foundation and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Cultural Movement of Change Underway at Thunder Valley

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Nick Tilsen

On a recent visit to Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Porcupine, South Dakota, something extraordinary was evident. A spark had been ignited and a cultural movement of change was happening at Thunder Valley CDC, which has become a powerful catalyst of innovative change for the Oglala Lakota people of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and all across Indian Country.

As an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation in Rosebud, South Dakota (neighbors to Pine Ridge), and being part Oglala Lakota myself with family still living in Pine Ridge, it struck me how Thunder Valley has been able to create considerable change in the area. What once used to be barren prairie land, a pathway out of poverty has been created with a master-planned community being built at the Thunder Valley Community Development center site.

Thunder Valley Logo smallFirst Nations Development Institute (First Nations) saw this cultural movement of change first-hand while attending a planning design meeting for phase II of the Thunder Valley community development project on February 8-9, 2016. Three members of First Nations’ staff – Senior Program Officer Catherine Bryan, Grants & Program Officer Kendall Tallmadge, and myself (Program Officer Tawny Wilson) – were able to attend this important meeting with Thunder Valley Executive Director Nick Tilsen, Deputy Director Sharice Davids, Director of Advancement Liz Welch, and Director of Design Kaziah Haviland. Other attendees included BNIM Project Manager Christina Hoxie, BNIM Associate Principals Vincent Gauthier, Laura Pastine and Adam Weichman, KLJ Engineering’s Dana Foreman, and Art Space’s Senior Vice President of Asset Management Greg Handber, as well as Allen Orechwa, Chief Financial Officer of Clearing House CDFI (community development financial institution). Rural & Native American Initiative Director Russell Kaney and National Renewable Energy Lab’s Engineer Chuck Kurnik were also an integral part of the phase II planning meeting.

mapThe plan involves building a sustainable community powered by wind energy and solar panels with strategically designed dwellings aimed at reducing energy costs and improving efficiency. In phase one of the community development plan, a community center and single-family homes will be built at a cost of $9.5 million, and is projected to take three years for completion. Within 10 years, when phase II is fully completed, the community will house approximately 1,000 people. The community development efforts of the people at the meeting and their partners across the country have contributed to this innovative and unprecedented community development project’s growth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The Thunder Valley CDC project is the development of a 34-acre planned community with single- and multi-family housing, emergency youth shelter, food-growing operations, grocery store, powwow grounds, youth recreational areas, community and educational facilities, as well as retail spaces for local businesses. As Thunder Valley notes: “It’s not just about building homes. It’s about building up a people and, in the process, creating a national model to alleviate poverty and build sustainable communities.”

TV buildingNormally hope and inspiration are not easily found in one of the most economically challenged places in the country, but what is happening on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is not considered normal by most standards. Thunder Valley began as a movement and cultivation of being empowered spiritually and taking responsibility for the future by creating a movement to build a healthy and sustainable community. Instead of just talking about creating change, the team members at Thunder Valley have rolled up their sleeves and are making it happen by doing.

First Nations has been an ongoing supporter of Thunder Valley since 2005 and has awarded the organization with various grants and technical assistance through our Native Youth and Culture Fund, Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, and Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative. In addition to providing funding, First Nations administers technical assistance to Thunder Valley CDC.

Thunder Valley has proven that a little bit of funding and a whole lot of hope, belief and sheer determination go a long way.

By Tawny Wilson, First Nations Program Officer

First Nations’ Michael Roberts is “Asset Builder Champion”

Mike Roberts accepting the ABC Award

Mike Roberts accepting the ABC Award


Michael E. Roberts, President and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, was honored in Washington, D.C. on April 20 with an “Asset Builder Champion” (ABC) award from the Center for Global Policy Solutions. The award ceremony was part of the 2016 Color of Wealth Summit, which is an effort under the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative.

Besides Roberts, the other ABC award recipients were U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, Pitzer College President-Elect Melvin Oliver, and Highlander Research and Education Center Board Member Meizhu Lui. They were honored for their significant contributions to addressing racial wealth disparities nationwide.

“While I am flattered to receive this award, it is far from an individual accomplishment,” Roberts noted. “In fact, the recognition for this work goes beyond First Nations itself. The real heroes in this effort are the communities we partner with and whose ideas and solutions we are lucky enough to get to invest in, as equal partners with these communities.”

ABC Award Flyer ImageRoberts, who is Tlingit, was appointed president of First Nations in 2005 after returning to the organization in 2003. He served previously as First Nations’ chief operating officer until 1997. In the interim, he worked in private equity, providing services for angel investors, a telecommunications fund, and a venture capital firm. He also worked at Alaska Native corporations and for local IRA councils. He taught a graduate course on venture capital at the University of Missouri (Kansas City) Bloch School of Business and an undergraduate entrepreneurship course at Haskell Indian Nations University. He serves on the board of First Nations and is chairman of the board of First Nations Oweesta Corporation. He is a steering committee member of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Network and on the investment committee for the Three Affiliated Tribes. Roberts has held other advisory positions including as a board member for Native Americans in Philanthropy.

The Center for Global Policy Solutions is a 501(c)(3) think tank and action organization that labors in pursuit of a vibrant, diverse and inclusive world in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive in safe and sustainable environments. Its mission is to make policy work for people and their environments by advancing economic security, health, education and civic success for vulnerable populations. Its target groups include people of color, women, children and youth, older adults and low-income populations.

Investing in Native Communities is Easy!

native-giving

Did you know that only three-tenths of one percent of foundation funding goes to Native causes? Yet Native Americans represent over two percent of the population. Through NativeGiving.org First Nations Development Institute hopes to address this disparity by raising aNative Giving photowareness of and direct support for grassroots organizations in Native communities doing remarkable work. These organizations are developing solutions to ensure the health and well-being of our most valuable resource – our children.

We encourage you to visit NativeGiving.org to learn more about the featured organizations and then please make a generous donation. Fully 100 percent of your gift will go to the designated nonprofit of your choosing and more organizations are being added in the coming months. Making a difference is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

Simply:

1. Choose a Cause – or Causes (http://www.nativegiving.org/partners)
2. Make a Gift
3. Know You’re Making A Difference
4. Repeat the Good Deed and Feel Even Better

Kids and baby goatSitting Bull once said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

We hope you will help us do just that by making a gift today to one of these causes and help ensure the future of Native communities.

NativeGiving.org is a project of First Nations and is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation under the foundation’s “Catalyzing Community Giving” initiative.

L.E.A.D. is Coming! Register Now!

LEAD 2016 Square Graphic

First Nations Development Institute will hold its 21st Annual First Nations L.E.A.D. Institute Conference at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, OK on September 27 – 29, 2016.

LEAD collage 2For more than 30 years, First Nations has worked with Native nations and organizations to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. As an extension of this mission, the L.E.A.D. conference is designed to help emerging and existing leaders in Indian Country network, grow professionally, share ideas and learn new skills related to asset-building.

Training Tracks Offered

Track 1: Nourishing Native Foods & Health
Track 2: Investing in Native Youth
Track 3: Strengthening Tribal & Community Institutions

Attendees have the option of attending sessions in just one track, or they may customize their experience by selecting from any of the sessions that interest them.

Who Should Attend?

  • Native American nonprofit professionals
  • Native Americans interested in launching or expanding nonprofit and/or philanthropic organizations
  • Tribal leaders or those who work in tribal organizations
  • Anyone interested in Native American nonprofits and philanthropy
  • Anyone interested in Native American food sovereignty
  • Tribal economic development professionals

 

REGISTER NOW!

Impact! Cultivating Food & Culture at Nambé Pueblo

All food grown by the Nambé Community Gardens is given freely to the tribal community, including to after-school programs, instilling an appreciation for the sacredness of food and improving the health of the entire Pueblo.

All food grown by the Nambé Community Gardens is given freely to the tribal community, including to after-school programs, instilling an appreciation for the sacredness of food and improving the health of the entire Pueblo.

“If we didn’t have our culture, we wouldn’t be a pueblo. We would just be another town.” This is why the Pueblo of Nambé in New Mexico is ingraining its rich heritage in every crop, and growing pride with every harvest.

“It’s an investment in not only food sovereignty, but in the future of our people,” said Nambé Farm Manager George Toya.

It’s all happening thanks to the Nambé Community Gardens, which began in 2012 with initial funding from First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). In just four years, the gardens have grown from one acre to six, and have infused life into family farms and public lands that were “drying up” along with the opportunities for young people to learn about their culture and heritage.

Returning to farming, returning to roots

90LbsTomatoes“There was no one left to do the farming, and little for young people to come home to,” Toya said.

Recognizing the need to not only grow food but also reconnect with their culture, the Pueblo of Nambé sought funding for the Community Farm Project. With a $25,000 grant from First Nations, the pueblo was able to clear and harvest land and begin providing locally-grown food to the whole tribal community. They were also able to construct a hoop house to grow food year-round, create a plan for surplus and distribution, and develop a food database.

They did it by involving the community, and by seeking — in the Pueblo way — the input of their elders. “There is a sacredness to food and water. It’s the most important thing in your life. It affects everything you do. The elders knew that, and now we’re just relearning it,” Toya said.

CucumbersSquashIn learning about Native agriculture practices, Nambé youth also discover their identity. “People who don’t have the pleasure of saying ‘This is who I am, this is where I am from’ are kind of lost,” Toya said, “And when that happens, they tend to be vulnerable.”

Through the Nambé Community Gardens, young people learn the practices and customs of their people. This lets them know they have a history, and instills in them a sense of pride.

In addition, the agriculture experience provides another tool in what Toya refers to as a “toolbox” of life skills. “It gives them more things to learn and be exposed to. And if they have an interest in what they learn, they now have a community to stay with and build from, so they don’t have to seek a life elsewhere,” he said.

Growing for the future

Where there’s a need, the crew of Nambé Community Gardens responds. Every year they bring together people to clear and cultivate the lands and restore farming in the Pueblo.

Where there’s a need, the crew of Nambé Community Gardens responds. Every year they bring together people to clear and cultivate the lands and restore farming in the Pueblo.

As part of the Pueblo way, the Pueblo of Nambé does the most with what it has, said Toya. And every year since 2012, it’s been able to do more and more.

Since the initial grant, the Pueblo of Nambé has received additional funding through First Nations to build on the success of the Community Farm Project and to launch additional efforts toward food sovereignty and cultural enrichment. The organization has been granted a total of $162,250 through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, its Native Youth and Culture Fund, and its partnership in the Seeds of Native Health campaign.

“This whole project would have never been started without the support of First Nations,” Toya said. “They saw that there was a need here, and we’ve been very fortunate. The entire community is thankful.”

HoopHouseCropToday, the Community Gardens cover six acres and include a small herd of bison and a cross-trained staff of three farm technicians, who also act as cultural mentors. The Pueblo of Nambé has developed a new drip-irrigation system and cultivated a 1,000-vine vineyard. In addition, the pueblo is leading a five-year food and health assessment, which will establish a baseline of the community’s health knowledge and provide hoop houses to select assessment participants. It is hoped that at the end of the five-year assessment, the community will have 20 new hoop houses in operation, and a growing number of people will be more focused on health, exercise, nutrition and risk factors.

“Our future is bright and we keep moving forward. We keep doing what we can do, and as much as we can do,” Toya said.

To learn more about the Pueblo of Nambé, visit http://nambepueblo.org/.

By Amy Jakober