USDA establishes tribal Food Sovereignty Initiative for federal lands

CARINA DOMINGUEZ Indian Country Today

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced new initiatives marking its commitment toward Indian Country and tribal self-determination. 

“USDA respects the unique nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and tribal nations,”  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said recently. “Today, we launch initiatives that reframe and reimagine how USDA supports Indigenous agriculture and tribal communities.”

The Food Sovereignty Initiative includes partnering with tribal organizations on seven projects for federal food programs and promoting traditional foodways.

Among the programs announced is a tribal seed saving project with Indigenous Seed Keepers Network.

“The Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative is amazing and historic,” said Heather Thompson, director of the USDA Office of Tribal Relations.

The tribal relations office wants to provide seed cleaning mills and create two regional seed processing hubs. The agency is aiming to create seed bank policies that are informed by local Indigenous communities.

Indigenous food products, including Chokecherry syrup, featured in the USDA Hall of Tribal Nations.

Thompson, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, said the USDA has historically operated from a very Western perspective.

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