(Left to right) Educator and former government official Ada Deer, Rural Development’s Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (Oneida) and the Forest Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer (Mescalero Apache) at the USDA Native American Heritage Month observance at the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA. Photo by Bob Nichols.
Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa, National Native American Museum shared Native cultures through music and song during the Native American Heritage Month Observance Cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The Cultural Exchange featured Tribal College exhibit booths and cultural food sampling. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
Legendary Native American Indian activist, educator and former government official Ada Deer (Menominee) delivered a charge to those attending USDA’s Native American Heritage Month observance here in Washington last week. “Be activists to achieve change,” she said. “We all pay our rent on the planet. How are you paying your rent?”
A former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she recently retired as director of the American Indian Studies Department and Director of the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In my introduction, I noted that Ms. Deer’s life is a tribute to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. She is a role model to all Native Americans, but especially to Native American women. Not surprisingly, Ms. Deer spoke passionately about the role of Tribal colleges and universities. This year marks the 20th anniversary of their recognition by Congress as land grant institutions. These colleges and universities are central to the Tribes. They mark a firm move away from the old boarding school model and provide life-long learning opportunities in Tribal communities. “Education,” said Ms. Deer, “empowers people to enact positive change.” Read more »
U.S. exhibitors from Washington state and Alaska showcase their seafood products to buyers inside the American Indian Foods Booth at FOODEX 2013. (Courtesy Photo)
The Foreign Agricultural Service recognizes the U.S. agricultural exports grown, produced and harvested by American Indians across the country during Native American Heritage Month
For more than 25 years, the Intertribal Agriculture Council has promoted the conservation, development and use of agricultural resources to benefit American Indians. With the help of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s market development programs, IAC has introduced American Indian foods, grown and harvested in traditional ways established hundreds of years ago, to countries around the world.
The council is a Market Access Program participant, and uses the program to recruit new members, help businesses attend export readiness seminars and international trade shows, lead buyer’s trade missions and conduct promotional activities in worldwide markets. IAC also partners with FAS to conduct the American Indian Foods program, which also helps Indian-owned businesses showcase their agricultural products and culture to foreign markets. Read more »
Members of the Round Valley Indian Tribe retrace the 1863 route of the Nome Cult walk, a forced relocation of Indians from Chico, Calif., to Covelo, Calif. (U.S. Forest Service)
Many of us may think of the forest as a place to reflect upon times long past. There may even be a bit of nostalgia in those ruminations. Yet for members of the Round Valley Tribes, a recent walk through the Mendocino National Forest in California was more than a time to contemplate—it was a time to remember an agonizing event in history.
This autumn marked the 150th anniversary of the Nome Cult Walk, a forced relocation of 461 Native Americans from Chico, Calif., to the Nome Cult Reservation, near Covelo, Calif. Only 277 of those completed the forced march that passed through what is the heart of today’s Mendocino National Forest. Those who did not complete the journey were too sick to go on, some escaped, and others were killed. Read more »
Larry Romanelli, with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema (left) and NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee (right) pose with artist Shirley M. Brauker, the winner of the agency’s Native American Heritage Month poster contest. NRCS photo.
When the Anishinaabe people migrated from the Atlantic Ocean coast to Michigan centuries ago, they were in search of a place where “food grows on the water,” according to their tribe’s legend. Their quest ended when they found wild rice, thriving in shallow waters in the Great Lakes region.
The wild rice, or manoomin, served as a staple of the Anishinaabe diet is still culturally and spiritually important to them. And, today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping keep this tradition alive.
NRCS has worked with two Anishinaabe tribes to increase the number of wild rice beds using financial assistance from Farm Bill conservation programs. The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the first tribe to use NRCS assistance for planting rice. Tribal members planted about 12 acres of wild rice at six locations in 2006. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack (center left, second row) meets with members of the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Late last month it was my privilege to join representatives from multiple USDA agencies at Wisconsin’s Mole Lake Indian Reservation to discuss ways to work together, across agency lines, to provide needed services to Tribes. Thanks to funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other USDA programs, the Obama Administration has boosted federal support for Tribes, but now we are working to step up our effort even more, to work as one to support projects and initiatives that the Tribes have told us they support and need. As we observe Native American Heritage Month, it is important to note that this effort is consistent with Secretary Vilsack’s “One USDA” policy. The intention is to have “one USDA speaking with one voice.”
Because we are such a large department, sometimes those seeking services just don’t know where to start. At USDA we are moving to unify our brand identity and broaden our outreach. We know that when a member of a Tribe approaches a USDA representative, they don’t want a process. They want an answer, and we should be giving them answers from all of our agencies. That was the message I shared with my USDA colleagues at Mole Lake. Read more »
APHIS plant health specialists investigate for Emerald Ash Borer.
For centuries, the Mohawk community of the Akwesasne (pronounced AHG – weh – SAUCE – knee) have created traditional basketry from the abundance of ash trees found along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands area in New York.
But for the last three years, the trees and the matchless creativity of the Akwesasne have been threatened by a particularly harmful insect called the Emerald Ash Borer. Read more »