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

Trainers Are Trained to ‘Build Native Communities’

In January 2013, First Nations concluded another successful Building Native Communities train-the-trainer event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We were joined by many of our friends from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), along with a high school financial-education teacher and representatives from tribal housing programs.  It’s all part of our mission to provide financial education to Native American people so they can be financially empowered and better control their financial destinies.

As part of our work funded by FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, First Nations provides Building Native Communities train-the-trainer events. First Nations often partners with the Office of the Special Trustee to conduct the train-the-trainer workshops.  The goal of these workshops is to provide training for OST Fiduciary Trust Officers and other employees, and high school teachers who teach financial education to predominantly Native American students.  First Nations is partnering with OST officers because they often provide financial education resources to their clients, many of whom are the recipients of Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts or other tribal trust programs.  In an ongoing partnership with high school teachers in McKinley County, New Mexico, First Nations also reached out to teachers who have participated in other First Nations youth financial-education programs such as the Invest Native online challenge and the Crazy Cash City reality fair.

At the recent training, we had 10 OST officers from all across the country, a high school teacher from McKinley County, and five other tribal employees from the Pueblo of Laguna and Pueblo of Nambe.  The two-and-a-half day event took place at the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indian’s headquarters in Albuquerque.  It served as an introduction to the Building Native Communities suite of workbooks and training materials including Financial Skills for Families participant workbook, 4th edition, and the Investing for the Future workbook.  The train-the-trainer workshop also served as a forum for financial educators to share ideas, resources, and experiences.

On the final day of the training, participants took part in First Nations’ money reality fair, the “$pending Frenzy,” which is designed to address the needs of Native American youth who will be receiving a large tribal per-capita or minor’s trust payment.  The experiential learning model is designed to give kids a trial run at what it’s like to have a large sum of money and give them a chance to practice making smart spending decisions. The purpose of the simulation was to demonstrate to participants how to disseminate financial education topics in a fun and interactive way, and learn how the workshop could be offered to adult participants, as well.

Additionally, on the final day, the participants were required to practice-teach some of the lessons they learned over the past two days of training.  On participant evaluations, many stated that this task was especially helpful, including one person who claimed: “It was very helpful to have us teach a practice session. It brought up issues we might not have anticipated when teaching a course for the first time.”

Many of the participants are already making plans to use the skills and information they acquired at the training.  Some of these activities include facilitating a $pending Frenzy for high school students, making use of a presentation on managing expenses and modifying it for a youth financial fair presentation, and a housing entity employee creating informational materials for one-on-one counseling sessions.

“The training was packed with valuable information and it was a very engaging learning environment,” noted one participant on an evaluation form.

By Benjamin Marks, Research & Program Officer