WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday announced new resources and new agreements of the USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative, which promotes traditional food ways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) dietary needs.
USDA is partnering with tribal-serving organizations on these projects to reimagine federal food and agriculture programs from an Indigenous perspective and inform future USDA programs and policies. The USDA Food Sovereignty Initiative was one of several efforts announced at the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit to better serve tribal governments, citizens, and organizations.
“USDA is committed to empowering tribal self-determination and bringing Indigenous perspectives into agriculture, food, and nutrition,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These new videos, publications, and guides will support Indian Country and educate the wider agriculture community.”
The new resources raise awareness of Indigenous and native foods at USDA and among tribal youth, communities, and Native agricultural producers. Created in partnership with tribal-serving organizations, these new resources include:
- A users’ manual for interested ranchers titled “Transitioning from Cattle to Bison,” created in partnership with Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC).
- Regional Seed Saving Hubs created in partnership with Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance - Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN). Six seed cleaning/fanning mills were purchased and distributed to help establish regional Indigenous seed hubs in the Midwest region and Southwest/Western region.
- Twelve videos on foraging wild and Indigenous plants, produced in partnership with foraging and ethnobotany experts Linda Black Elk, Lisa Iron Cloud (Oglala Sioux), and Addelina Lucero (Taos Pueblo/Yaqui). The videos highlight how sustainable foraging practices can increase nutrition security and promote sustainable Indigenous foods. These videos look at foraging in the Midwest, Mountain Plains, and Southwest regions.
- Twelve recipes and instructional cooking videos using Indigenous foods. The recipes and videos show ways to integrate foraged and Indigenous foods with foods available through USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). In partnership with the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), the videos feature award-winning chefs and restaurateurs Chefs Sean Sherman (Oglala Sioux) and Crystal Wahpepah (Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma). The recipes and videos focus on foods in the Midwest, Mountain Plains, and Southwest/West regions.
In addition to these resources, USDA is also announcing new cooperative agreements with tribal-serving organizations that will expand the USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative. These new agreements include:
- USDA will partner with Native Realities media company and Dr. Lee Francis (aka Indigi-Genius) to produce “Sovereignty Gardens,” a short form digital media series combining puppetry, animation, and live action video to engage Native youth in food sovereignty and gardening.
- USDA will partner with new foragers and new chefs to create additional recipes and videos on foraging and cooking Indigenous foods for the Northeast and Southeast regions.
- USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will partner with two tribal land grant colleges (Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College and United Tribes Technical College) on Great Plains Indigenous seeds and plants research. This research centers around Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK).
- USDA will partner with Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) to produce a handbook on the best practices for the humane handling and harvesting of bison in the field, a hands-on curriculum and training focused on food sovereignty and food safety of bison field processing, and a model for a mobile bison field processing trailer.
The USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s and USDA’s commitment to empower tribal self-determination, promote equity and remove barriers to services and programs, and incorporate Indigenous perspectives into agriculture.