USDA launches several Indigenous initiatives |

USDA launches several Indigenous initiatives

In conjunction with Monday, Nov. 15’s White House Tribal Leaders Summit, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several initiatives that expand USDA’s commitment to serving Indian Country

“USDA respects the unique nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and tribal nations,” said Vilsack.

“Today we launch initiatives that reframe and reimagine how USDA supports Indigenous agriculture and tribal communities. These are among the bold actions by the Biden-Harris administration to ensure that USDA appropriately engages tribal nations in a way that aligns with their sovereignty and our nation’s trust and treaty responsibility.”

Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative

This initiative “promotes traditional food ways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native dietary needs,” USDA said in a news release.

USDA is partnering with tribal-serving organizations on seven projects to reimagine federal food and agriculture programs from an Indigenous perspective and inform future USDA programs and policies.

Among the projects are new seed-saving centers, video series on wild food foraging and Indigenous cuisine, marketing Native-produced foods, and a manual on transitioning from cattle to bison production.

USDA Commits to Expanding Tribal Self-Determination

This initiative “enables greater self-governance and decision making on USDA programs and policies that affect tribal nations,” USDA said.

“The 2018 farm bill authorizes USDA’s Forest Service and Food and Nutrition Service to enter into self-determination demonstration projects for the first time,” USDA noted.

“For decades, tribal leaders have requested that the (USDA) incorporate tribal self-determination policies to enable greater self-governance and decision making on USDA programs and policies that affect tribal communities,” USDA said.

“The first set of tribal demonstration projects, announced on November 1, are important steps to increase tribal food sovereignty and support tribal food economies. USDA Forest Service is conducting demonstration projects to protect tribal lands and communities from risks and restore tribal co-management authority on the National Forest System.

“USDA will also review current statutory authorities that can be used to promote tribal sovereignty, with an eye towards statutory expansion where needed.”

USDA-DOI Tribal Treaty Database

Compiled with the Oklahoma State University, the database will provide online access to tribal treaties and help federal agencies implement treaty obligations.

The database will be publicly available, word searchable, and indexed, USDA said.

USDA Hall of Tribal Nations

Reflects the government-to-government relationship and trust responsibility to tribal nations.

The Hall features tribal nation flags, showcases Native artwork donated from across Indian Country and displays of Indigenous and Native produced foods.

Tribal Homelands Initiative

In related news, USDA and the Interior department announced a joint project to “improve federal stewardship of public lands, waters, and wildlife by strengthening the role of tribal communities in federal land management.”

“The departments also committed to ensuring that all decisions relating to federal stewardship of lands, waters, and wildlife include consideration of how to safeguard the treaty, spiritual, subsistence, and cultural interests of any Indian Tribes,” a news release said.

“We are committed to the values of equity and inclusion rooted in justice and equal opportunity for those we serve,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

“Shared stewardship of land management is a priority for USDA, and an important part of our responsibility to tribal nations. Management challenges like extreme wildfires, severe drought and invasive species do not recognize borders or boundary lines. Through shared stewardship, USDA Forest Service is coming together with tribal governments, states, and other partners to address these challenges and explore opportunities to improve forest health and resiliency.”

“From growing crops and taming wildfires to managing drought and famine, our ancestors have spent millennia using nature-based approaches to coexist among our lands, waters, wildlife, and their habitats,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“As tribal communities continue to face the effects of climate change, this knowledge — which has been passed down since time immemorial — will benefit the department’s efforts to bolster community resilience and protect Indigenous communities.”


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