Creating & Sharing Knowledge: The Muckleshoot Project

Over the past 34 years, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has funded a number of successful programs and projects geared toward strengthening Native American communities and their economies. Often, we are amazed and inspired by the lessons we learn from our grantees.

At First Nations, we are firmly committed to sharing these lessons and creating knowledge that will empower others to take action in Indian Country. To this end, we created and continually add to the First Nations Knowledge Center, an important online resource that provides tribes and Native organization with easy access to reports, fact sheets, manuals and other publications offering important, tribally-relevant information.

Valerie Segrest

For example, we recently released a new report by Valerie Segrest, a community nutritionist and Native foods expert, who helped develop the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project’s Food-Purchasing Program. Through this program, Valerie helped organize a group of tribal cooks on the Muckleshoot Reservation who banded together to collectively leverage dollars and resources and get better access to prices, goods and services from vendors.

Valerie’s report details the steps she took to help establish this program, the challenges she faced along the way, and the practical advice she has for other tribes and Native organizations interested in developing a similar program in their communities.

Valerie’s full report, The Power of the Tribal Dollar: Highlighting the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project’s Food-Purchasing Program, is free and available for download from First Nations’ Knowledge Center at this link: (Please note: you may have to create a free account in order to download the report if you don’t already have one.)

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

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

Pathways: Dakota/Lakota Youth Camps Keep Tradition Alive

Preserving Dakota Pathways supported traditional Sundance ceremonies (of which photos are not allowed). However, at the Greenwood Powwow, folks were able to witness a wakanijan (sacred little one) learn the “sneak up dance” from adult traditional dancers.

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) awarded the Dakota Indian Foundation (DIF) a $20,000 grant in 2013 through First Nations’ Native Youth and Culture Fund to support DIF’s program called “Preserving Dakota Pathways.”  Over the past 40 years, DIF has funded numerous cultural preservation and social enhancement projects. DIF, a nonprofit organization in Chamberlain, South Dakota, began in 1971.  It supports individuals, groups and organizations dedicated to preserving Dakota culture and language.

Jerome Kills Small, a Hunkpapa elder, is a storyteller at the horse camp sponsored by the Native American Advocacy Program in south-central South Dakota. Kids are able to sleep in tipis, canoe on Ponca Creek, practice archery and crafts and pick medicinal plants.

Last summer, DIF used its First Nations grant to purchase supplies and materials for several different “culture camps” across South Dakota. More than 100 Dakota and Lakota youth participated in the camps, which focused on various cultural practices, traditions and values such as archery, agriculture, equine skills, leadership and a female rite-of-passage ceremony. In many cases, tribal elders and youth interact significantly, which builds strong inter-generational bridges.

John Beheler, DIF Executive Director

“Traditionally, elders were always recognized as the seat of wisdom.  Our ancestors always turned to the headmen of the tiospaye for sage advice or direction for the tribe,” said John Beheler, DIF executive director.  “Unfortunately, our priorities today have shifted and we see too many youth who will forget to shake an elder’s hand.  Our grant allowed us to empower elders who found a voice in the 16-minute video “Preserving Dakota Pathways,” which can be viewed on our website at”

DIF purchased seeds for high school students on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. At camp, these students learned traditional harvesting and planting techniques. The fruits and vegetables harvested were later used to cook traditional meals that were served at the annual Lower Brule Powwow and Fair.

Flossy Drappeau is an Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) elder who preserves the cultural arts through her quilt-making, and shares her knowledge with the youngsters.

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe also received funding through DIF’s grantmaking program to support a summer equine camp. The purpose of this camp was to help youth understand the important role horses play in Lakota culture.  At camp, Lakota youth learned equine life skills and safety.

Further, DIF helped purchase supplies and materials for a summer camp for Dakota girls on the Yankton Indian Reservation. Specifically, these items were used to help revive the Isnati “Coming-of-Age” Ceremony. During the ceremony, female elders imparted traditional teachings to female youth.  (For more on the Isnati, see the National Public Radio article here: )

The 2013 Dakota 38+2 Wokiksuye Ride

In addition to supporting these summer camps for tribal youth, DIF also used a portion of its First Nations grant to fund several powwows, including a special powwow for high school graduates and Sundance ceremonies in Fort Thompson and Martin, South Dakota. Also, a portion of these funds were donated to Dakota 38+2 Wokiksuye Ride to support its annual horseback trek to honor the 38 men hanged in Minnesota in 1862. The horseback ride, which included youth from several different South Dakota tribes, is a reflection of traditional Dakota healing practices.  The group traveled by horseback more than 300 miles from Crow Creek, S.D., to Mankato, Minnesota, in December 2013.

Preserving Dakota Pathways is an innovative program that allows DIF to reach a number of different Lakota and Dakota tribes across South Dakota. This grantmaking program is unique because it allows each tribe to tailor their summer camp to the specific needs of their youth and their 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

Field to Fork: Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley

The Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley is located on the Big Pine Indian Reservation in California, at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The tribe’s early ancestors utilized the land and water to create irrigated areas that produced the tribe’s main food source. However, at the turn of the twentieth century, the city of Los Angeles purchased most of the land and water rights in the Owens Valley and transferred them to the Los Angeles basin, thus severing the tribe’s connection with the land and water and interfering with its ability to feed its own people.

Today, the Big Pine Reservation is considered a “food desert” because of the lack of access to healthy and affordable food. In 2010, the tribe established the Sustainable Food System Development Project to transform its food desert into a more robust, sustainable food system by establishing a permaculture garden.

In 2013, First Nations awarded the Big Pine Paiute Tribe $37,500 through the Native Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Initiative (NAFSI) to expand the permaculture garden to include a demonstration site, a fruit orchard, a seed bank, and a weekly farmers’ market. This grant, underwritten by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has allowed the tribe to develop an innovative field-to-fork model that will sustain the community for generations to come.

This grant allowed the tribe to expand their small permaculture garden into a larger educational community garden that teaches tribal members how to plant, grow and harvest healthy, organic heirloom fruits and vegetables as well as Native plants and medicine. The tribe used the expanded permaculture garden as a demonstration site to conduct several classes and workshops, including a three-day intensive permaculture course, food policy/sovereignty classes, youth mentoring sessions, and numerous gardening workshops.

The gardening workshops, in particular, have been very popular among tribal members. At these workshops, tribal members learn about composting, caring for plants and respecting ecosystems. Many workshop participants used these lessons to create their own personal home gardens. These workshops encouraged tribal members to start their own gardens while simultaneously attending to the community garden. As a result of these hands-on workshops, tribal members helped plant, grow and harvest more than 100 pounds of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and bell peppers that were eventually donated to the tribal grocery store.

Many tribal members also volunteered at the expanded permaculture garden site outside of these workshops. For example, several volunteers helped plant 50 perennial fruit trees. The trees did not yield any fruit this season. However, once these trees mature, they have the potential to yield hundreds of pounds of fruit. These trees will produce healthy, fresh fruit for generations. The tribe speculates that eventually they will need to hire more workers to maintain the fruit orchard and the ever-expanding permaculture garden.

The tribe determined which fruits and vegetables to plant in the permaculture garden by conducting a community survey. This survey also helped the tribe determine which seeds to collect and store for the seed bank. The purpose of the seed bank is to gather the seeds of plants originally grown in the region and preserve them for future generations. The seed bank is a continuing process that will grow as the tribe becomes more and more aware of its needs and learns proper seed-saving techniques.

A portion of this grant was also used to host weekly farmers’ markets that helped farmers and workshop participants sell their fruits and vegetables. These farmers markets are intended to help growers earn extra money and provide tribal members with a healthy alternative to processed foods.

The Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley developed the Sustainable Food System Development Project to improve the physical health and well-being of their people and to preserve their tribal community for generations to come. The success of this innovative field-to-fork model reiterates that tribes have the potential to strengthen and improve their own communities.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

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

Revitalizing the Threatened Euchee (Yuchi) Language


Euchee youth participate in the children's gardening project


Today, only four speakers of the Euchee language remain. The Euchee language is an isolate and is not related to any other language in the world. The Euchee community, based in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, is in a race against time to preserve and revive their language.

Students learn the names of traditional plants

In an attempt to revitalize the Yuchi language, tribal leaders established the Euchee (Yuchi) Language Project, Inc. (ELP).  The ELP is a community, grassroots organization that has operated for 15 years with the mission of keeping alive the rich heritage of the Euchee people. The goal of the ELP is to create new fluent speakers through immersion teaching between fluent elders, adults and children.

In 2012, First Nations awarded $20,000 to the ELP to support the Euchee language-immersion after-school program. The purpose of this program is to teach Euchee youth – especially those who are considered “high-risk”– the importance and value of their unique language with the goal of building their confidence and self-esteem.

Currently, 40 Euchee youth participate in an after-school program two hours a day, four days a week.  Tribal elders lead traditional learning sessions that focus on language, storytelling and leadership. They teach students functional verbs and phrases so that they can carry on short conversations in the Yuchi language. Tribal elders also teach students traditional and contemporary Yuchi songs. Over the summer, students performed these songs and spoken language at the Tulsa State Fair and Yuchi Heritage Festival.

Euchee elder Mary Watashe demonstrates preparing and cooking pumpkin

Additionally, this afterschool program also seeks to teach students about agriculture and entrepreneurship. Tribal elders train students in traditional food systems, Yuchi agricultural knowledge and growing heritage crops. The ground-preparation and planting process is guided by the knowledge and wisdom of tribal elders. For example, students learn how to enrich the soil using traditional techniques such as using ashes and charcoal. Boys till the soil and prepare the ground for planting, while girls physically plant the seeds. This year, students planted various corns, beans, squashes and pumpkins.

At the end of harvesting season, students organized the first annual Fall Indian Market, a farmers’ market they hosted at the Yuchi House. Students marketed the event with flyers and posters. Their marketing slogan read: “Yuchi Foods Make My Body Healthy.” This activity helped students learn about advertising, customer service and fund management. Students raised more than $100 to help support the Euchee language-immersion after-school program.

Euchee girls learn a dance along with turtle-shell shaking

Many Native American languages are rapidly becoming extinct. This innovative project demonstrates that 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

Ponca Pork Project is Innovative Solution for Elder Hunger

Amos tends to one of the pigs in the Ponca project

Accessing healthy food is still a challenge for many Native American children, families and communities. The most vulnerable – and perhaps most neglected – members of these communities are often Native American seniors.

In 2012, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) awarded the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma $25,000 to establish the Healthy Pork Project, which produced more than 2,000 pounds of healthy, chemically-free pork that was distributed to approximately 1,200 Ponca elders and their families. This grant project, which was underwritten by AARP Foundation, is part of a larger initiative to find sustainable solutions to senior hunger in rural and reservation-based Native communities.

A study conducted by the Ponca tribe several years ago suggested that more than half of their elderly population lives in poverty with an annual income of less than $10,000. Furthermore, many members of this population are grandparents who raise one or more grandchild. The Food Research and Action Center suggests that food insecurity more than doubles among grandparents who raise their grandchildren.

The Healthy Pork Project is the brainchild of tribal member Amos Hinton, who recognized that many Ponca elders were struggling to feed themselves and their families. This realization compelled Amos to research a sustainable solution. Eventually his research led him to the idea of a natural animal farm, which is a healthy alternative to an industrial pig farm. Industrial pig farms often use growth hormones and other potentially dangerous supplements or chemicals to breed and process pigs.

The tribe donated the small tract of land needed to establish the pig farm and Amos borrowed an old computer and sat down to write his very first grant proposal. Within a month, he received word from First Nations that his grant proposal had been approved. He immediately began purchasing the animals and equipment needed to launch the Healthy Pork Project. Once the pigs had been processed, he began distributing healthy, chemically-free pork to Ponca elders at the local senior center.

The tremendous success of this first project has encouraged Amos to expand his efforts to commercial agriculture. He will continue to donate half of the pork he produces to Ponca elders.  However, he has also started to sell this lean, healthy meat to local stores and restaurants.

The Healthy Pork Project demonstrates that small, community-driven efforts are powerful and capable of effecting great change. Amos’ advice to other tribes and Native organizations interested in developing a sustainable solution to senior hunger is simple: “Start. Don’t wait for others to find these solutions for you. We need to know where our food is coming from and we need to know that it is healthy for our communities.”

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator


Nambe Pueblo Honors Elders by Addressing Senior Hunger & Sustainability

The experience, knowledge and wisdom of tribal elders have the potential to improve the health and well-being of tribal communities.

In 2012, the Pueblo of Nambe launched an innovative project to demonstrate its respect and appreciation for tribal elders’ lifelong contributions to the tribe. It established a community farm that has helped revitalize traditional farming methods and produced more than 4,000 pounds of food to help eliminate senior hunger on the reservation.

First Nations supported this innovative project with two grants through its broad Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI). The first $25,000 grant was awarded in 2012 and was underwritten by AARP Foundation as part of the Native American Food Security project.  It was intended to find a sustainable solution to hunger for seniors. The tremendous success of this first project encouraged the tribe to apply for a second grant in 2013 to build capacity and increase healthy food access for Native American children and families as well as seniors. The second grant for $37,500 was underwritten by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  It will be used to expand this small community project into a much larger business venture that addresses senior hunger as well as food insecurity and economic instability.

Funding by AARP Foundation motivated the pueblo to conduct a food assessment to examine the needs of their tribal community. This assessment revealed a gap in healthy food access for seniors. The pueblo addressed this gap by launching a community farm and food-distribution program that ensured that tribal elders had easy access to traditional and healthy local foods both at home and at the senior center. Additionally, in the fall, the tribe hosted a harvest party to honor their elders with a traditional feast that included fresh bison and fruits and vegetables from the community garden. Much of the produce was grown and harvested by tribal youth under the guidance and supervision of their elders, who used that opportunity to pass their cultural knowledge and wisdom along to the next generation.

The success of this community-wide initiative inspired the Pueblo of Nambe to apply for a second grant in 2013 to lease additional land and hire more hands to cultivate the community garden. The hope is that the pueblo can use the second grant to tackle food insecurity on the reservation, sell surplus fruits and vegetables to stores and restaurants off the reservation, and stimulate tribal economic growth and development by hiring tribal youth to assist in these efforts.

The Pueblo of Nambe Community Farm demonstrates how a small and seemingly fragile community project can have far and long-lasting generational effects in Indian Country, especially when these projects are nurtured through stable and consistent funding and support. This innovative project would not have been possible without the generous support of both AARP Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, whose commitment and dedication to Native people is helping build strong, sustainable tribal communities – culturally, nutritionally and economically – for generations to come.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator