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Secretary Perdue Affirms USDA’s Commitment to Indian Country

Within a month of his start, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue followed through on his promise to Indian Country to visit tribal leaders. Joining tribal representatives, Senators Rounds and Thune, and Congresswoman Noem at Oglala Lakota College’s Rapid City Extension Center, Secretary Perdue aimed to learn more about the topics significant to both tribal nations and colleges in South Dakota. When the meeting closed, one thought was clear: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stands ready to partner with tribal nations in their pursuits.

USDA Foods Help Nourish a Culture

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

Traditional foods are of significant value to Native American and Alaskan Natives today.  The same foods that have been used to feed our ancestors not only feed our bodies, but they feed our spirit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes this importance and works diligently to offer program and partnership opportunities that help enhance traditional food access in Indian Country.

If your tribal community is looking to donate traditional foods to serve at food service programs at public or non-profit facilities, the Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities memo provides guidance for organizations and institutions operating under the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). The acceptance of these donations is largely possible due to changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that defines traditional foods as including wild game meat, fish, seafood, marine mammals, plants, and berries.

New Farm Bill Conservation Program Benefits Tribes Nationwide

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:

Native American Civil Rights Legend Urges Action

Legendary Native American Indian activist, educator and former government official Ada Deer (Menominee) delivered a charge to those attending USDA’s Native American Heritage Month observance here in Washington last week. “Be activists to achieve change,” she said. “We all pay our rent on the planet.  How are you paying your rent?”

A former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she recently retired as director of the American Indian Studies Department and Director of the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In my introduction, I noted that Ms. Deer’s life is a tribute to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. She is a role model to all Native Americans, but especially to Native American women.  Not surprisingly, Ms. Deer spoke passionately about the role of Tribal colleges and universities.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of their recognition by Congress as land grant institutions.  These colleges and universities are central to the Tribes. They mark a firm move away from the old boarding school model and provide life-long learning opportunities in Tribal communities.  “Education,” said Ms. Deer, “empowers people to enact positive change.”