Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)
Many children look forward to gathering pumpkins in the fall. For some Native American children, another well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition (NIFA) provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.
Maple syrup is one of the oldest agricultural products in the United States and is one of the foods the first Americans shared with European settlers. Dr. Steven Dahlberg, director of Extension at White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC), used part of a $100,000 NIFA’s Tribal College Extension Grant to support four seasonal camps for at-risk youth, including one where they learn to keep their traditions alive at sugar bush camps. A “sugar bush” is a grove of maple trees used to produce syrup. Participants also discover how to transform watery maple sap into the syrup we know and love. In Minnesota, the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribes hold sugar bush camps in spring when most trees are full of sap. No fancy machinery is required here; campers use the traditional method of cooking sap over a wood fire, where it often takes days to process the syrup. Read more »
An undated photo of Black Elk who lived from 1863 to 1950. He was known amongst his people as Heȟáka Sápa and was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ or medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota and Sioux tribes.
Earth Day is April 22 and on this unique and special day the U.S. Forest Service is celebrating our nation’s forests and grasslands. Looking from space, the world has been described as the great blue planet. But you don’t need to travel beyond our atmosphere to see the Earth for what it is — a planet rich with vibrant life. And, sadly, it is facing one of its greatest challenges — the destructive impacts of a changing climate.
Today I offer an indigenous view of what many Native Americans refer to as Mother Earth from Black Elk who lived from 1863 to 1950. Black Elk, known amongst his people as Heȟáka Sápa, was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ or medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota and Sioux tribes. Read more »
Nanebah Nez connected to her past in a recent visit to the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum, where a rug made by her great-great-grandmother is part of the museum’s trove of historical pieces. (U.S. Department of Interior/Tracy Baetz)
Nanebah Nez turned to a roomful of U.S. Department of the Interior employees and asked quietly for a moment to herself. When the group of curators left, Nez turned her attention to an 80-year-old piece of her ancestral past and quietly began her private prayer in Navajo, “Yáat’eeh Shinaali,” or “Hello, grandmother.”
Bahe Shondee is a great-great-grandmother to Nez, an archeologist on the U.S. Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix. Bahe Shondee, also known as Bull Snake Springs Woman, spent two years in the early 1930s preparing the yarn then weaving the 13-foot-by-12-foot rug “Sandpainting of the Arrow People.” Read more »
A bull trout habitat in the upper McKenzie River is one of five segments in the McKenzie where bull trout can spawn. Most of the wood in the photo is material added during a U.S. Forest Service restoration and enhancement project. (U.S. Forest Service)
Stewardship of the land is a sacred principle for many American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages. For those looking to create a conservation strategy, however, it is important to understand early on that the terrain doesn’t stop where your land ends. Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) helps strengthen local collaboration and promotes a comprehensive, regional approach to landscape management.
NRCS recently offered a total of $24.6 million to seven (7) RCPP projects that will benefit Tribes: Read more »
Wickiups, conical-shape dwellings used by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of southwestern Colorado, are still in use for ceremonial purposes. This photo shows a leaner Ute tipi from the 1870-1880s. The U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region partnered with the Dominguez Archaeological Research Group as part of the Region’s mission focus on historic and cultural preservation goals. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Martin, Dominguez Archaeological Research Group)
There are small piles of fallen wooden timbers on national forests in the Rocky Mountain Region that tell a story of the area’s past. They are part of aboriginal wooden structures known as wickiups, a conical-shaped dwelling used by native people.
These relics are known to be part of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of southwestern Colorado and are still in use for ceremonial purposes. The relics are part of the tribe’s legacy of living on these lands and are a part of the cultural history on the Grand Mesa – Uncompahgre – Gunnison, San Juan, White River and Rio Grande national forests. Read more »
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 »