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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Vilsack: "USDA is committed to empowering tribal self-determination"

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committing new resources to programs and partnerships that raise awareness and use of traditional Native American foods and agriculture, the department announced recently.

The USDA's Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative (IFSI) is meant to promote "traditional foodways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) dietary needs," the USDA states in its Nov. 14 announcement on the program's expansion. The initiative is one of several announced at the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, according to the statement.

"USDA is partnering with tribal-serving organizations," the agency states in the announcement, "on these projects to reimagine federal food and agriculture programs from an Indigenous perspective and inform future USDA programs and policies."

Resources and cooperative agreements were developed to increase appreciation for and experience with Indigenous foods among tribal communities, Native agricultural producers, and the USDA, according to the announcement. Programs include creating regional seed-saving hubs, videos on foraging wild and Indigenous plants, recipes and instructional cooking videos using Indigenous foods, and a "user manual" handbook on handling and harvesting bison, among other efforts.

USDA partners on the IFSI include the Intertribal Buffalo Council, Native Realities media company, the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance - Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN, award-winning Native chefs and food experts, among others.

“USDA is committed to empowering tribal self-determination and bringing Indigenous perspectives into agriculture, food, and nutrition,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the announcement. “These new videos, publications, and guides will support Indian Country and educate the wider agriculture community.”

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