Shortly after taking office, I joined other Cabinet officials on a visit to rural Southwest Alaska. We met with Alaska Native leaders and heard firsthand the difficulties facing Native Americans living in small communities in remote, rural areas. Since that time, this administration has worked each day to provide Native Americans with improved housing, better educational opportunities, clean water and sanitation, and the opportunity to create good jobs. Across government, and here at USDA, we’ve made progress.
This past week, I joined President Obama and members of the Cabinet at the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to serving as the Chair of the White House Rural Council, I am also a member of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Our priorities in Indian Country include promoting sustainable economic development; supporting greater access to and control over healthcare; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems; expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. Read more »
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 »
Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets. I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants. Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.
Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices. A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation. The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »
A sampling of foods produced for sale by Native American businesses. USDA photo by John Lowery.
During the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 71st Annual Marketplace & Convention, I had the privilege to host “Made in Native America: A Workshop on Native Business Exporting”. In this seminar, Tribal leaders and Native business owners came together to discuss the benefits and challenges of moving Native-made/Native-harvested products abroad.
“I believe as we start growing and working together, we’ll never have the poverty that we’ve seen in Indian Country,” says Karlene Hunter, CEO of Native American Natural Foods, during the workshop’s first panel. She continued by remarking, “You need to know your market. You need to know your capacity.” Read more »
Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)
There were many things to celebrate about the newly paved nine-mile stretch of the Diamond Bar Road in Western Arizona, a road that links state and county roads to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. At the ribbon cutting celebration for the completed road, Tribal, state and federal officials all noted the obvious benefit of the paving: The trip for the thousands of visitors every year to Grand Canyon West would be smoother and faster. Hualapai Tribal member Rory Majenty, who emceed the road celebration, pointed out another benefit for tribal members, “We probably won’t have to buy a new truck every few years like we used to have to do because of the rough road!” Tribal members weren’t the only ones dogged by the undulating washboard road. Visitors and tour buses were plagued by flat tires, bent oil pans and hubcaps that flew off into the desert.
The Hualapai Tribe operates the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk over Grand Canyon West. The glass platform juts out in a horseshoe 70 feet over the canyon and is an attraction that draws over 700,000 visitors from around the world annually. Read more »
USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (left), Chairwoman Lori Bear of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute, and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (right) discuss the impact of flooding on tribal lands. USDA photo.
A massive wildfire followed by heavy rains greatly damaged the landscape of a Utah valley, home to the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute Indian Tribe. The natural disasters broke water delivery systems and disrupted vital community infrastructure.
Recently, the band’s leadership met with USDA officials to find solutions on how they could recover and prevent future flooding events.
At a StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity meeting held in Tooele near the reservation, Tribal Chairwoman Lori Bear and Vice Chairwoman Kristen Bear-Stewart took the opportunity to share with USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska some challenges they face on the reservation. The USDA officials also toured the flood-damaged area. Read more »