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 »
Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:
Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.
The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative. 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 »
Earlier this week, I hosted a White House Rural Council discussion with farmers, business owners, board members, commodity groups, youth leaders and academics to discuss opportunities for women in agriculture. The group included women and men, conventional farmers and organic producers and organizations like Food Corps, the Future Farmers of America Foundation and the American Farm Bureau. There were major corporations including Coca Cola and Land O’ Lakes as well as smaller operations like Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards from Texas.
In preparation for the meeting, I asked the participants to use #womeninag to identify inspiring women in agriculture. The overwhelming response on Twitter stimulated our discussion and motivated the group to identify what we can do to continue supporting women in agriculture. Read more »
Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From biobased products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.
As part of our commitment to strengthening rural economies, USDA this week released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” factsheets. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America. Read more »