New Grants Boost First Nations’ Reach and Mission

Over the past few months, we have been extremely fortunate to receive two significant grants that will go far toward addressing critical issues in Indian Country.

“Forward Promise”

We were one of four organizations to receive grants of $415,000 each from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in partnership with Public Interest Projects.  RWJF’s overall effort aims to promote opportunity and health for young men of color in rural communities in the South and Southwest, and it represent the nation’s largest private investment in rural young men of color to date. The program is known as the “Forward Promise” Catalyst Grants.

In First Nations’ case, we’ll use the funding for our “Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men” project. It focuses on Native boys and young men in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. We’ll work with local partners on projects that address one or both of these areas of interest in a culturally relevant manner:

  • Early intervention strategies that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates.
  • Policy and programmatic efforts that elevate the importance of a caring adult to re-engage youth who may be disconnected from work or school.

 

We have already conducted an application period for grants under the program, and we are now evaluating the responses.  We expect to award four to eight grants ranging from $38,000 to $50,000 each.

“Simply put, Native boys and young men face big challenges in their rural and reservation settings, but these challenges – including poverty, lack of male leadership and involvement, rising drug and gang violence, and other risks that make success difficult – are not insurmountable,” noted Michael E. Roberts, First Nations president. “We are excited by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s investment in Native communities. It is exactly this type of investment that will allow these Native youth to move forward successfully with the support they need to become productive adults. By supporting organizations that address these issues with grants and our culturally-appropriate technical assistance and training, we’re positioning them for long-term success.”

“Catalyzing Community Giving”

We were awarded a $306,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, under the foundation’s “Catalyzing Community Giving” effort. First Nations will use the grant to collaborate with smaller local or regional Native American nonprofit organizations to build their internal capacity while engaging new donors – both Native and non-Native – around those organizations’ efforts in building sustainable food systems and strengthening Native culture among youth.

First Nations will work with 10 organizations in its two-year pilot project, called “Nurturing Native Giving,” that is intended to strengthen their fundraising effectiveness, with a primary focus on individual giving. First Nations will create a web portal that profiles the 10 participants, highlights their work, and which allows convenient donations to each organization. Further, First Nations will assist them in publicizing and marketing the portal and all funds raised will be directed back to these communities.

We will also provide significant training and technical assistance to the participating organizations through coaching, webinars and an online learning community to share resources and build the group’s collective knowledge and best practices from their own organizations. We’ll also facilitate a dialogue between project participants and Native grantmaking tribes and other funding entities in hopes that mutually beneficial partnerships can be established. Three convenings and a white paper will summarize the learnings and policy recommendations that can lead to increased giving in Native communities and, ultimately, grow the body of knowledge about Native philanthropy.

“First Nations has long known that developing a strong and healthy nonprofit sector in Native communities is one key to economic diversification and service delivery,” Roberts said. “This program will expand the reach of local Native nonprofits and improve charitable giving to Native causes and communities.”

“Cheese Grater Championship” Highlights Food Issues

 

The winning team shows off its creation. Janie Simms Hipp is second from left, and Kathleen Fluegel is near center in red-rimmed glasses.

It was an event like no other – the first-ever “Cheese Grater Championship” – intended to illustrate the challenges that many low-income Native American families face when preparing healthy meals using “commodity food” packages.

“The event was eye-opening for some, sobering for all,” according to Virginia Clarke, executive director of the sponsoring organization, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF).

Event judges show off the "Cheese Grater Championship" aprons

SAFSF held its annual forum in Denver in June 2014. The group is an international network of grantmakers (foundations and others) who are active in supporting economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible systems of food production, processing, distribution and consumption.  SAFSF hosts its forum in a different state each year and is well-known for site visits that are designed to make tangible, visible and real some of the most critical issues affecting agricultural and food systems.

SAFSF's Virginia Clarke with First Nations President Michael Roberts

As part of the forum, the planning committee wanted to highlight Native American food projects and issues. As an SAFSF member, First Nations Development Institute President Michael Roberts suggested and coordinated the Cheese Grater Championship, a Food Network Chopped-style cookoff like no other, where teams of forum attendees were given a selection of foods found in food-assistance commodity packages that are distributed on Indian reservations (under the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations). The teams then had to prepare a meal that not only would be judged for the contest, but which was lunch for the day.

Livia Marqués of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation dishes it up

The event took place at the Denver Indian Center, where the SAFSF group also heard about the center’s many programs, including its Indigenous permaculture garden project, the work of the Denver Indian Family Resource Center, an update from regional USDA officials, and insights from Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M., founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville and who previously was senior advisor for tribal relations to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

One team closely studies ingredients and preparation instructions

The cookoff took place in the center’s gymnasium – competing with summer youth campers for space. Teams assessed the basic food staples they were given – blocks of “government cheese,” vegetable oil, canned beef (“with juices”), instant potato flakes, powdered eggs, dry nonfat milk – debated possible recipes, assigned responsibilities and got to work!  Teams were also able to select additional items from a general “pantry” that included canned vegetables, beans or fruit, canned sauces or soups, Hamburger Helper, enriched flour, noodles or rice, peanut butter, mac and cheese mix and a few other choices. Basic cooking stations were equipped with limited kitchen utensils, pots and pans, a cheese grater (of course!), a hotplate and microwave oven.

Ever heard the expression “too many cooks in the kitchen”?  This event was that – and much more. But every team did its best to work together to create a meal worth judging – and eating – under the 30-minute time limit and limited circumstances.

The completed meals were, well, edible even if not so tasty, nutritious or well-balanced.  No people were harmed in the making of these commodity meals, but who would have thought that a package of taco seasoning could be so valuable?

While designed to be fun and engaging, the not-so-hidden intention of the event was to bring awareness to what having limited or no access to fresh, healthy food means – literally – on one’s plate.  USDA food packages have improved over the years, but still have a ways to go.  Issues like obesity, diabetes  and heart disease – all of which are evident in too-high numbers in many Native communities – and all of which are greatly affected by nutrition and diet, were forefront in participants’ minds as they cooked, chopped, stirred and ate their meals.

“Diabetes and obesity in Indian Country will be eradicated only with more attention paid to accessing healthy foods and to the more complex need to use our lands and resources to produce those healthy, culturally appropriate foods,” Janie Simms Hipp noted.  “Until then, we‘ll work with USDA and others to make sure the food-assistance programs are continually improved and culturally relevant, especially since many of our poorest and most remote citizens absolutely rely on them.”

A team works diligently on its meal

One of the funders at the event, Kathleen Fluegel, executive director of the HRK Foundation in St. Paul, Minn., had this to say in an email to Michael Roberts a few days after the cook-off: “I want to thank you for having the vision to do the exercise we did … and participate and learn for ourselves what it means to cook with limited and inadequate ingredients and, beyond that, to eat that meal and understand in a visceral and very different way what that feels like. I feel as though the layers of that experience are still revealing themselves, and I have had a hard time not sharing the experience with everyone I know… Can’t thank you enough for making the first annual cheese grater cooking competition a reality.”

First Nations’ Roberts summarized his thoughts on the event: “There is an obesity and diabetes epidemic going on in Indian Country, and our intent by putting on this event was to show that this is happening because of the situation Indian folks have been placed in for the past couple of hundred years – isolated in poverty and being fed poor-quality food by a government that would just as soon see them go away. And through the commodity food-distribution program, they just might be effecting that very outcome.”

Participants sample the completed meals

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

First Nations Welcomes New Board Member Susan Jenkins, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Jenkins (Choctaw) has been elected to the Board of Directors of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) for a one-year term.

Jenkins lives in rural western North Carolina, where she moved to help the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians start the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.  For over 10 years, she served as executive director of the foundation. Currently, she serves on the Native Arts and Culture Foundation Board of Trustees, Community Foundation of Western North Carolina Board of Directors, Western Carolina University’s Foundation Board of Directors, Lake Junaluska Assembly Board of Trustees, WCU College of Business Advisory Council and several other local nonprofit boards and committees.

Jenkins has worked in communities of color in the State of Georgia, the Southeast and in the West Africa countries of Mali and Burkino Faso. After 20 years of community work, she served as program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where she oversaw a multi-million-dollar portfolio focused on rural development, and served as senior program officer at the Hitachi Foundation before finishing her career as founding executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Jenkins holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Georgia.

“We are delighted to have Susan join us on the board, and we know that her contribution of expertise, experience and guidance will be highly valued as First Nations continues to grow and expand its mission of helping build and revitalize Native American economies and communities,” said First Nations Board Chairman B. Thomas Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo).

A full list of First Nations’ Board members can be found here: http://firstnations.org/about/board.

New Free Publications & Webinars Announced

We’ve been busy during the first quarter of 2014.  We published three new resources for Native American communities, plus we announced the 2014 calendar of our highly popular “First Nations Knowledge” webinar series.

The Business of Indian Agriculture

After months of research, writing, editing and designing the publication, we just published “The Business of Indian Agriculture,” a comprehensive curriculum for Native American farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers that can be downloaded for free from the First Nations website. It is designed to be used by tribal college instructors, extension agents or workshop instructors. It includes both a 562-page Instructor Guide and a 323-page Participant Workbook.

The curriculum is designed to help farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers useful topics like how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, and marketing. It also covers important topics like risk management, personal financial management, and using credit wisely.

The project was supported by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the CHS Foundation. Development of the curriculum was made possible through a partnership between First Nations and the First Americans Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON), which is a nonprofit professional association of administrators, faculty and staff of land-grant tribal colleges and universities.  FALCON is sanctioned by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). John Phillips, who is executive director of FALCON, was the primary author. Phillips is also the land-grant program director for AIHEC.

The curriculum has five main modules:

  • Module 1: Business
  • Module 2: Accounting
  • Module 3: Financial Management
  • Module 4: Agribusiness Economics and Marketing
  • Module 5: Land Use and Management

The curriculum is offered free to anyone.  It can be viewed as an online “flipbook” or it can be downloaded as PDFs. Interested parties can also request a Word version of the materials to use and/or adapt for their own classes or other uses. To access the materials, please go to this link: www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/foods-health/biz_of_indian_ag.

Health & Food Fact Sheets

We also published a new series of 12 fact sheets concerning Native American health and food issues.  You can read them or download them (as PDFs) from our website. They are absolutely free, but you may have to create a free account in our Knowledge Center (our online resource center) in order to access them.  If you already have a free account in our Knowledge Center, you can get right to them after you sign in.

Here’s the link: http://firstnations.org/KnowledgeCenter/NativeAmericanFoodsAndHealth/Resources/FactSheets

The list of topics covered:

  • Native Food Sovereignty
  • History of Native Food Systems
  • Food Systems and Implications for Economic Development
  • Type 1 Diabetes In Native Communities
  • Type 2 Diabetes In Native Communities
  • Heart Disease in Native Communities
  • Obesity in Native Communities
  • Food Deserts, Food Insecurity and Poverty in Native Communities
  • Commodity Foods and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Traditional Native Foods and Health
  • Reclaiming Native Food Systems and Promoting Cultural Practices
  • Eating Healthy in Native Communities

These Fact Sheets were created as part of our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), and were generously underwritten by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

American Indian Leadership

We also published a 78-page report titled “American Indian Leadership: Strengthening Native Communities and Organizations.” It is available for free on our Knowledge Center at this link: http://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/strengthening-nonprofits.

The report gives an historical perspective of Native American leadership styles, including what led to the development of tribal governments and Indian-led organizations today, and it looks at the state of existing Native leadership programs across the U.S. The publication was underwritten by Northwest Area Foundation.

Here’s an excerpt from the Executive Summary: “Despite attempts to diminish, belittle and totally transform Native concepts, belief systems and values of leadership, strong leadership remains one of the most important assets in Native communities. American Indian leaders have held steadfast to tribal belief systems and values and fought for the preservation and perpetuation of Native identity, land and sovereignty. Leaders of Native nations today are still committed to these values. Native leaders still recognize that strong, ethical and innovative leadership from various sectors has the ability to transform American Indian communities.”

Here’s the link again. Then select “American Indian Leadership: Strengthening Native Communities and Organizations.” http://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/strengthening-nonprofits.

2014 Webinar Series

For the second year in a row, we announced we will host a series of free webinars called “First Nations Knowledge” during 2014. This year’s series focuses on food safety, and will provide specialized and technical webinars to develop the capacity of tribes, Native businesses, farmers, ranchers and other individuals involved in growing, processing, packaging and/or marketing food products.

We will present the webinars in partnership with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. Each webinar will last 1-1/2 hours, with the first hour for presentations followed by a half-hour of questions and answers.

The first of this year’s nine-part series was held on March 20.   It was the first of two webinars on biological, chemical, radiological and physical hazards. The second part will be scheduled for April.

Over the webinar series, presenters from the University of Arkansas will include Steven C. Seideman, Ph.D., who is extension food processing specialist at the Institute of Food Science & Engineering; Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M. (Agricultural Law) (Chickasaw), who serves as founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative; and John Marcy, Ph.D., a food microbiologist with more than 35 years associated with the meat and poultry industries.

The planned remaining schedule for this year is as follows. Dates will be formalized on a monthly basis, and scheduling or topics may change depending on availability of expert presenters. To receive information about each webinar as it is scheduled, follow First Nations on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to receive informational emails from First Nations at this link. You can also check on the First Nations Knowledge webpage at this link: http://firstnations.org/programs/foods-health?qt-native_american_foods_health=7#qt-native_american_foods_health.

  • March (Completed) – Part 1: Biological, Chemical, Radiological and Physical Hazards
  • April – Part 2: Biological, Chemical, Radiological and Physical Hazards
  • May – Basic Legal Environment for Food Safety
  • June – Documentation and Record-keeping; Validation and Verification
  • July – Your Business Plan & Food Safety
  • August – The Five Principles of Good Agricultural Practices
  • September – Raw Products, Wild Products and Value-Added Products
  • October – Food Labeling, Nutrition and Allergens
  • November – Food Defense

 

Students Practice Money Management in “Crazy Cash City”

Students received prizes for taking turns in the Money Machine at the event

“Thank you for the experience. I finally got an idea of how things are in the real world.”Comment from a student after participating in Crazy Cash City.

On December 10, 2013, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) partnered with First Financial Credit Union to provide the “Crazy Cash City” money-spending simulation for students at Gallup Central High School in Gallup, New Mexico.  The program was offered to the entire school, and 85 students participated.

The Crazy Cash City event  was held in the school’s gym and consisted of two 90-minute reality fairs in which the students had to navigate a series of simulated financial tasks designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills. It was all in fun — since they were spending play money and not really buying things — but it was also informative and highly interactive.

Bernadine Lee from the Navajo Partnership for Housing explains recreational expenses

All participants were given a folder containing a fictitious family profile that listed what their income was, the income of a spouse, the age of any children, and any outstanding debt or benefits they received.  The high school kids then visited about 10 booths that provided various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and were asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile.  At the conclusion of the seminar, the students were expected to have a fully balanced budget that they logged in their check register and budgeting sheet.

Jason Valentine of Coldwell Realty (right) pitches a "hard sell"

The event was made possible by a partnership between First Nations, faculty and leadership at Gallup Central High School, and First Financial Credit Union. Other community partners chipped in including volunteers from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, Navajo Partnership for Housing and local retailers. Gallup Central High School Teacher Arnold Blum, First Financial Business Relations Manager Dale Detrick, and First Nations Financial Consultant Shawn Spruce coordinated the event. The event was partially funded by a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation and resources from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Mike Chavez of Lowe’s Supermarkets (right) discusses grocery spending

Students who filled out an evaluation form for the event expressed their support for the workshop and stated that the Crazy Cash City money simulation was a valuable experience.  Most importantly, all agreed that the simulation helped them learn to manage their money and that they could now successfully make and use a monthly budget.   Some students had such an enjoyable time during the first simulation that they participated again in the second event.  Many of the students who repeated adjusted their approach from the lessons they learned during the first go-around and even served as mentors to first-timers when they needed help.

The purpose of the event was to give the youth the opportunity to practice good spending and budgeting habits prior to entering the “real world” after graduation.  The idea was to promote smart and informed decisions that will last a lifetime.  When asked what was the most challenging part about managing monthly expenses for her fictitious family, one student responded, “Keeping up with my bills, and putting food on the table and caring for my one-month old baby. Also, keeping (the baby) in good hands when I leave.”

Liz Sanchez from My Closet (right) sells to a student

“This event really brings together community partners and it is always great to work with the leadership at Gallup Central High School and First Financial Credit Union,” Shawn said. “We are happy that we found an exciting way to teach youth practical budgeting and banking skills that they can soon apply in the real world.”

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Research and Program Officer

FN+FIMO+FINRA+SEC+OST = Navajo Financial Ed

Attendees closely listen to workshop presenters and take many notes

To help tribal citizens of the Navajo Nation prepare for a potential financial windfall, the Federal Indian Minerals Office (FIMO) teamed up with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) to offer a series of financial education workshops in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in December 2013. Staff from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) also assisted with the trainings.

Participants engage in an interactive activity during the training

The outreach event was held at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and consisted of two three-hour workshops designed to help people learn about managing their money, avoiding fraud, and investing. Interactive exercises, videos and presentations were used to provide information on financial topics.   FIMO was established in 1992 by the U.S. Department of Interior to provide services to individual Navajo mineral owner beneficiaries regarding their mineral interests and rights. To date the organization has approved 70 of 344 pending negotiated leases worth about $195 million to over 20,000 people.  There are also plans to auction off roughly 200 additional leases as a result of the current oil boom on the Navajo Nation.

Another activity helped drill home the information

The training began with a financial self-assessment and guided the participants through making goals, budgeting, tracking expenses and making a financial plan. The participants then learned about different types of fraud and effective means of combating fraud.   First Nations Financial Consultant Shawn Spruce coordinated the event in partnership with Charles Felker from the SEC, Susan Arthur from the FINRA Foundation, and Leona Begay from FIMO. The event was partially funded by grants from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.   The purpose of the event was to assist oil and gas lease beneficiaries with money management by promoting smart and informed decisions that will help with budgeting and protect beneficiaries from fraud. When asked about the training, many beneficiaries responded that the workshop was extremely valuable.

Visual aides were used during parts of the presentations

“It was really exciting to partner with staff from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Indian Minerals Office to provide this training,” Shawn said. “We look forward to providing many more, and having an even wider reach in the future enabling us to effectively build money management skills for this community.”

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy & Asset-Building Programs, and Rachel Vernon, First Nations Program Officer.

Improving Food Security at the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation

In the Hayward, Wisconsin, area, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is pushing forward with its recently funded First Nations grant to increase food security for the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation. The grant was made available through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, and is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The college’s Sustainable Agriculture Research Station (LSARS) works to increase food security through agricultural production within the reservation. Fish have traditionally been very important to the way of life for Ojibwe people. However, modern issues of mercury poisoning and other types of contamination have limited fish in their diet, so the station proposed providing tribally raised poultry, eggs and farmed fish as a way to incorporate more affordable and healthy protein into the diets of the Lac Courte Oreilles community. An alternative purpose is to inform tribal members so they better understand where their food comes from.

From the program, many tiers of “experiential learning” and “experimental infrastructure” have helped increase the capacity of students and faculty to advance aquaponics research as well as innovation in the community’s agricultural efficiency.

LSARS has run into some challenges with inclement weather since the project began, so its assessments will not be finalized until the end of the growing season. The biggest success so far has been in acquiring a tractor that has significantly boosted production by doubling the amount of tilled space. In addition, many new partnerships have been developed with the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network, WestWinds Community Cooperative, University of Wisconsin Extension, Spooner Agricultural Research Station, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Plant Pathology.

Locally there have been new partnerships forged with county extension offices and the local casino. A unique aspect of these partnerships is that the casino will start composting and will purchase LSARS produce.

The program has been very successful in community outreach and engagement.  Some examples of the programs include a farmers market, monthly education activities at the farm, and an annual sustainable fair.  The project also plans to start tours and open houses.

By Katy Gorman, First Nations/Ogallala Commons Intern

First Nations & Native America Calling Team Up on Radio Programs with Financial Focus

The national radio program Native America Calling and First Nations Development Institute teamed up this summer to offer a series of radio programs with a financial focus.   The series, which first aired June 14, was broadcast each Friday through July 12.

In the first program, host Tara Gatewood and expert guests discussed common selling and lending practices by automobile dealers in and around Native communities. Calvin Lee, an attorney with Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, shared information about problems people have had with unethical car dealers near the Navajo Nation.   A second broadcast featured a conversation about minor’s trust payments and how young people can successfully prepare for receiving these large payments, or their “Big Money.”

Another program provided information about how to use credit wisely. The remaining shows focused on “an Indigenous perspective on spending” and understanding retirement planning.

These programs were sponsored in part by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Each weekly broadcast included a brief conversation with the “financial warrior” known as Dr. Per Cap. Dr. Per Cap originated as an advice column sponsored by First Nations that was designed to assist individuals and families in becoming financially independent.  On each program, producer Monica Braine consulted Dr. Per Cap for advice on a financial topic, and he shared his insights, advice and wisdom.

Native America Calling, produced by the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation (a Native-operated media center in Anchorage, Alaska), is a live, call-in program linking public radio stations, the Internet and listeners together in a thought-provoking national conversation about issues specific to Native communities.  It is heard on more than 52 stations in the United States and Canada by approximately 500,000 listeners each week.

For more information about the radio show, please visit www.nativeamericacalling.com, and for information about the Dr. Per Cap advice columns, visit http://www.firstnations.org/AskDrPerCap.

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy & Asset-Building Programs, and Benjamin Marks, First Nations Research and Program Officer.

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 www.NativeFoodSystems.org.  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 www.NativeFoodSystems.org 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