First Nations’ Dr. Raymond Foxworth & Others Collect Honors

Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D.

In October 2015, our own Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D., vice president of grantmaking, development and communications, was selected as one of 12 outstanding leaders from Independent Sector’s member organizations for the 2015 American Express NGen Fellows Program. In its seventh year, this selective fellowship program continues to build the next generation of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders as part of Independent Sector’s NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now initiative.

The American Express NGen Fellows program builds the leadership skills of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders ages 40 and under to tackle society’s toughest challenges. Over the course of a year, Fellows participate in a range of activities that deepen their individual capabilities, expand their collective knowledge, and grow their professional networks. Learn more here.

Also in October, Raymond was named to the 2015 class of “Native American 40 Under 40” award recipients by The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. This prestigious award is bestowed upon individuals under the age of 40, nominated by members of their communities, who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication and made significant contributions in business and their community. You can read more here.

Our hearty congratulations to Raymond!

Further, several of our top people were selected to participate in the American Express Leadership Academy/Center for Creative Leadership training in New York City. They are Raymond; Sarah Dewees, Ph.D., our senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs; Jackie Francke, who is vice president of programs and administration; and Marsha Whiting, one of our senior program officers.

The academy focuses on building the personal, business and leadership skills needed to run a successful nonprofit organization. It is tailored to fit cultural nuances and different nonprofit niche needs, and it includes the following core elements:

  • A focus on high-potential, emerging leaders through a competitive nomination and selection process that seeks to build a diverse cohort of nonprofit managers who represent a range of experiences, backgrounds and industries.
  • A curriculum blending personal leadership skills with business skills. 
  • An assessment-based approach, including one-on-one coaching and formal follow-up activities


The program serves only 48 participants per year at the American Express headquarters in New York.

Our hearty congratulations to Sarah, Jackie and Marsha, too!

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

New Food Regulations Should Not Proceed Without Tribal Consultation

First Nations Senior Program Officer Raymond Foxworth recently wrote an opinion article for Indian Country Today Media Network about the need to involve tribes in any regulations stemming from the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.  It is reprinted here:

There is a thriving movement in Indian country focused on food sovereignty and increased control of local food systems. Like other assets in Indian country, Native food systems have been colonized, altered and, in some cases, destroyed. Today, many Native communities have taken an active role in reclaiming control of their local food system, taking a deeper examination of where food in their community comes from, looking at dollars that leave the reservation on food products, attempting to increase access to fresh and healthy foods, increase agricultural economic development activities for communities and individuals, and develop tribal policies that promote Native food sovereignty. Despite this thriving movement, however, a new federal law may potentially stall the progress of food systems work occurring in Indian country.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in January 2011 and is the most sweeping reform in U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years. The act will shift federal regulation from simply responding to food contamination to a more concentrated effort at prevention of food contamination in the U.S. food chain. No doubt this well-intentioned law is aimed at limiting instances of food-borne illnesses and disease and also is connected to domestic national security concerns.

For more than two years, the FDA has delayed implementation of this act, extending public comment on numerous occasions, with the most recent extension until September 16, 2013. While they have extended public comment, they have yet to engage or consult Native nations or communities.

The proposed federal regulations should raise concerns for Native nations that have developed agricultural enterprises and supportive infrastructure to support tribal individuals engaged in agricultural activities. The developing regulations of the law, albeit still vague and murky, signal increasing importance on labeling, traceability and food-handling standards, and also increased emphasis on potentially costly licensing and inspection. Language of the law also signals funding to increase the capacity of state regulatory agencies, but does not include capacity development language for tribes. Moreover, the law also calls for increased monitoring, inspection and regulation from state agencies, potentially infringing on tribal sovereignty for those Native nations engaged in agriculture production and distribution.

While the FDA has heard from some small scale farmers and producers, Indian country has been virtually ignored in the development of these regulations. There is no doubt that food safety is an issue of concern for all Americans, including First Americans. But the creation of such sweeping federal legislation while bypassing normal channels of tribal consultation and input raises numerous concerns for tribes, organizations and individuals doing important work related to food sovereignty and food system control in Indian Country.

It is important that Native communities begin to examine the FSMA and analyze the potential implications and costs for Native communities, businesses and producers. Moreover, tribes should also begin to provide public comment on the Act and also demand tribal consultation.

To learn more about the FMSA and potential implications for Native communities and producers, you can access a recorded webinar hosted by First Nations Development Institute at To learn more about the FSMA, you can visit this link.

Raymond Foxworth, Navajo, is Senior Program Officer at First Nations Development Institute. Raymond oversees the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), a program that works with Native nations and organizations on issues related to increasing Native food system control.

You can read the original article on Indian Country Today at this link:

Website a Resource for Native Food & Agriculture Efforts

A new website was launched on April 15 that aims to become a valuable online resource for Native American tribes, organizations and individuals who are involved in food systems and agricultural efforts, and/or who are aiming for better health and nutrition for their families and communities.

The site is  It was created by First Nations, with funding provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more than 32 years, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native Homepage screenshotAmerican communities. Part of this effort centers on food, through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food System Initiative, or NAFSI.

Under NAFSI, First Nations also provides grants to numerous food and agricultural efforts by tribes and nonprofit organizations, and recently announced the awarding of 10 such grants totaling $375,000. First Nations, in partnership with the Taos County Economic Development Corporation in Taos, New Mexico, is also working to create the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is intended to become a sustainable and organized movement that is Native American driven and controlled, nationally active and dedicated to addressing food security, hunger and nutrition in Native American communities at the national, tribal and local levels.

“We believe that our work in the food sector has many benefits, all of which are critically important,” noted Michael E. Roberts, president of First Nations.  “These include improved Native health and nutrition, of course, but also a reconnection with traditional foods and a reinforcement of our cultural practices and customs.  Further, regaining control of food systems can provide a huge and much-needed boost to the development of Native economies.”

The new website features a diverse variety of resources and information, ranging from tribal gardens, farms and markets, to youth programs and farm-to-school efforts, to seed saving, to traditional plants and medicine, to food marketing and handling, to home gardening, canning and healthy family eating. The site was designed and built by First Nations Project Officer Ruben Hernandez, and research and content was provided by Andrea Cournoyer of Plain Depth Consulting.

By Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Senior Program Officer

Native Food Sovereignty Summit is a Hit

More than 250 people from all over the U.S. – representing tribes, Native organizations and businesses, food producers and others – packed the Food Sovereignty Summit held in mid-April in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Registration for the conference had to be discontinued well ahead of the event because attendee capacity had been reached.

The summit was sponsored by First Nations, the Oneida Nation, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. It was held April 15-18, 2013, at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center.

Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and White Earth Land Recovery Project

“We were extremely happy with the turnout – which was actually beyond capacity limits – because it showed very strongly that Native food sovereignty is a significant and rapidly growing issue in Indian Country,” said Raymond Foxworth, First Nations senior program officer and the leader of First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.  “It was an impressive coming together of some of the top minds, visionaries and operators in Native food systems work.”

The professional tracks at the conference included Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Community Outreach and Development, and Business Management, Finance and Marketing. Attendees had the option of attending sessions in just one track, or customizing their experience by selecting from any of the sessions. Attendees and presenters shared experiences about food security, food policy, best practices, resources, farm-to-school programs, organic farming, permaculture, entrepreneurship, biofuels, equipment, animal diseases and other issues.  Besides the general and breakout sessions, the event featured networking events, educational films, and tours of the Oneida Nation integrated

Michael E. Roberts, president First Nations Development Institute

food system’s cannery, orchard, bison herd, farm, warehouse and retail store.

Food sovereignty is an important issue because Native communities are struggling to fight food-related disease and regain health and good nutrition through traditional diets, regain or retain cultural and agricultural traditions and practices, and stimulate economic development by developing and controlling food systems in their tribes and communities.

“We are pleased to have been involved in the monumental event with our co-organizers,” Raymond added. “The summit allowed attendees to hear and learn from some of the top food-system programs in Indian Country. In the coming months, First Nations will be hosting a number of technical assistance webinars on various topics of interest identified by summit attendees. We hope the webinars, combined with the information provided at the summit, will allow the attendees to use all this information in their communities and continue to develop strong programs to reclaim control of local Native food systems.”

Article and photos by Jackie Francke, First Nations Senior Program Officer

White Earth Project Creates Farm-School Guide

One of First Nations Development Institute’s grantees, White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, recently completed a great new guide for establishing farm-to-school programs in Native communities. The publication is titled Indigenous Farm-to-School Programs: A Guide for Creating a Farm-to-School Program in an Indigenous Community.

The guide was made possible with a grant provided by First Nations Development Institute through support from the Walmart FoundationThe guide can be found at this link.

Founded in 1989, WELRP is a nonprofit, multi-issue Native American organization. It has long recognized the overwhelmingly critical food state on the White Earth Reservation. After efforts to improve the lives of its youth with various gardening and cultural projects, it decided to implement the farm-to-school program. It was introduced at a time when 35% of the adult population of the White Earth community was suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The children also were facing unprecedented health risks, with Indian Health Services recording a 70% increase in childhood diabetes and obesity.

The focus of the proposed farm-to-school program was the Pine Point Elementary School, where 89% of the students qualified for free meals through the federal school breakfast and lunch program, and another 8.5 % qualified for reduced-price meals. Since the program launched, two other schools have been added – the Nay Tah Waush Charter School and the Circle of Life Academy.

WELRP worked with more than 50 growers from its own community and others close by, and has served more than 60 foods (naturally or organically grown, with no known use of pesticides).  These include bison, wild rice in various forms, fresh berries and squash, which are just some of the foods that came from the traditional diet of the Anishinaabe people. WELRP’s goals in the project were to improve the health of youngsters while helping revitalize White Earth’s local economy and reintroduce Anishinaabe food traditions and practices.

Our congratulations to WELRP for completing this important project!

By Raymond Foxworth, Senior Program Officer