USDA is supporting economic development strategies in Oklahoma's Indian Country.
Rural Oklahoma is home to many important tribal communities. Among these, the Choctaw Nation spans over ten counties in southeastern Oklahoma, while the Cherokee Nation runs along the state’s northeast border, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation lies farther west.
These communities play a critical role in developing businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure like water, roads, and telecommunications. However, these areas endure chronic poverty, limited opportunities and countless other economic challenges. For instance, most of the 1,100 residents of Boley, Oklahoma – located in the heart of Creek nation – live on less than 25 dollars per day.
Earlier this year, I joined Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, on a visit to the area. Read more »
“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”
With their family of eight, Myron Doud and Stephanie Richards were in tight quarters when they were living with Myron’s parents in a four-bedroom house. Like them, Joe and Danielle Donnell and their young one had resided with Danielle’s family.
“Our daughter was very excited about her new bedroom, and she wasn’t even scared to sleep in a room all by herself!” said Stephanie Richards. “The kids now have room to have sleep-overs with their friends and a nice backyard to play.”
These South Dakota families, like many starting out in rural America, just needed a little assistance to begin their lives — and begin building assets for the future — as homeowners. They found the help they needed through USDA Rural Development’s Direct Housing Loan, which offers 100-percent, affordable mortgages to rural homebuyers who cannot access affordable conventional financing. Read more »
A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.
In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.
Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year. Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.
In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »
Agriculture Deputy Krysta Harden speaks to a Menominee Tribal biology class in Green Bay, WI on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014. USDA photo.
This month’s Midwest tribal forum brought together USDA state and national officials, including Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to promote the growth of healthy food systems for Native Americans. The annual Food Sovereignty Summit was held at the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, Wis.
Deputy Secretary Harden’s speech to attendees of the summit focused on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. She said that young people need to be encouraged to make a living off the land. She also told the tribal community that USDA is here to assist and that we have a common goal of feeding the next generation. Deputy Secretary Harden is particularly focused on providing resources for new farmers and Native Americans well into the future. Read more »
These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.
Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting. Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.
Food security is a top priority for the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.” Read more »
Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.
Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?
USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »