2015 Safeguarding Natural Heritage Diné College summer youth students, Mansi (left), Thomasina (middle) and Tenaya (right) weed a corn field as a part of learning about Navajo traditional farming, from community elders Ferlin and Gwen Clark. Students weeded several corn field plots, helped build a taller fence around the field, and listened in on traditional teachings from the elders. Photographer: Amy Redhorse
The land and our strong ties to the earth as humans are a source of culture and livelihood throughout Indian Country. Native youth carry the hopes of their ancestors forward, and many tribes have visited with me at the Office of Tribal Relations, interested in learning how their children and grandchildren can discover more about the world around them. Through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Safeguarding Natural Heritage (SNH) program, the USDA partners with Tribal Colleges and Universities to promote youth exposure to agriculture, natural resources, and wildlife biology.
Since 2007, the SNH program has served as a 2-week outreach program for students 14 to 17 years of age, bringing APHIS experts—as well as Tribal elders, Tribal professionals, and university professors—together with Tribal youth for instruction and mentoring. SNH students pay only the cost of transportation to and from their homes to the participating campus, and APHIS covers the cost of tuition, room and board, and laboratory supplies. Tribal Colleges and Universities work with APHIS to develop workshops and trainings to help students learn how to safeguard the natural world within and outside Tribal boundaries. Activities often include hands-on labs, workshops, discussions, and field trips. Read more »
Sierra Ezrre, Tlingit high school student from Juneau, Alaska, and Carrie Sykes, Haida Cultural Educator from Kasaan, Alaska, participate in the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Change Leadership Congress, July, 2015.
Recently, ninety Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian high school students came together at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia for a week of intensive education and peer-to-peer training about the impact of climate change on tribal communities. Organized by the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Leaders Congress and supported by a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the gathering included Jadelynn Akamu, Ylliana Hanato, Alisha Keli’i, and Aaron Knell from Honolulu’s Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps and Forest Service partner KUPU, as well as a team from Juneau, Alaska, including Alaska Native student Sierra Ezrre and her mentor and culture keeper Carrie Sykes. Read more »
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaks ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents.
The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market. I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.
As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community. Read more »
Dakota Williams said raising cattle is her career. At age 18, she already has plenty of experience and within the next 10 years she hopes to own her own farm. Photo by Kim Whitten Photography.
At age 18, Dakota Williams knows exactly what she wants to do with her life — own a farm and raise cattle.
“[Farming] is all I’ve ever known. I’m a third generation farmer, working the same land as my grandparents and I don’t want to see it end,” said Dakota. A member of the Cherokee tribe, Dakota said her ancestors lived off the land and she wants to honor them in her work. “Not many people can say they live in an area where their ancestors came from and they are still trying to make that land better.”
Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to improve housing, better educational opportunities, improve infrastructure and create employment and business opportunities for Native American families, including veterans and youth. Read more »
Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.
Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:
During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.
According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs. Read more »
Lamprey, or Asum in the native language, are a culturally significant food source to the Yakama Tribe. Here, Deputy Under Secretary Mills joins members of the Tribe in releasing lamprey into the Toppenish Creek as part of the tribe's reintroduction program. NRCS photo.
Recently, I visited the 1.1 million acre Yakama Nation reservation located in southwestern Washington State. Touring the reservation, I was able to see first hand how funds from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) will help the over 10,000 members of the Yakama tribe.
Through RCPP, NRCS is working with the tribe to accelerate the recovery of fish stocks, including the Middle Columbia Steelhead, reconnect floodplains and improve irrigation water conservation. Read more »