This week marked the sixth consecutive year tribal leaders have gathered here in Washington at the President’s invitation to meet with key members of the Obama Administration, but this time is different: more than three dozen youth ambassadors were in attendance to kick off “Generation Indigenous” (Gen-I) – a new initiative calling for programs focused on better preparing young American Indians and Alaska Natives for college and careers as well as developing leadership skills. And it all started with the President’s visit last summer to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. The President and First Lady met with Native American youth and saw their promise, but also the challenges they face.
In addition to issuing a White House Native Youth Report, outlining past government shortcomings, current challenges and a path forward for Native youth, we will look at ways to improve educational opportunities for Native youth, including improving schools, and reforming the Indian education system. At USDA, that means we will be supporting the Generation Indigenous initiative by focusing on the support we provide to the Tribal Colleges and Universities, internships and other opportunities for Native youth, healthy food at their schools and at home, and funding for broadband, school construction and other community facilities. Read more »
Tim Mentz Sr., Standing Rock Sioux cultural resource expert, explains the historical significance of the area that is now the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. (U.S. Forest Service/Fred Clark)
Our curiosity was palpable in our expressions, we visitors to this South Dakota field, as we pondered the patterns produced by the tops of rocks pressed into grass and soil, patterns tantalizingly organized and purposeful: shapes of things that have been. What stories were held in this small corner of the Black Hills National Forest?
As members of the Forest Service’s sacred sites executive and core teams, our task is to develop ways to fulfill the recommendations from the Report to the Secretary of Agriculture: USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites.
Visiting this sacred place was the starting point of our learning and working together as a team. We needed to experience firsthand the feeling and meaning of this place to help us incorporate an appropriate attitude as we started three days of meetings on how to best implement the recommendations, to better protect and provide access to Indian sacred sites. Read more »
Last week it was my privilege to attend the annual United Tribes Tribal Leaders Summit and associated conferences in Bismarck, North Dakota. This annual gathering is an opportunity for tribal leaders from around the region to exchange information about current issues in Indian Country.
While there, I discussed the importance of the recently-appointed Council for Native American Farming and Ranching. The Council was selected by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suggest changes to USDA regulations and to provide internal guidance or propose measures that would promote the participation of American Indian farmers and ranchers in USDA programs and support government-to-government relations between USDA and tribal governments. The Council is a discretionary advisory committee established in furtherance of Keepseagle v. Vilsack, which was a lawsuit alleging past discrimination by USDA against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated its farm loan program.
I also met with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Charles Murphy and shared that USDA will fund a water quality project to rehabilitate and expand a failing sewage treatment system serving members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Read more »