During today’s historic White House Tribal Leaders Summit, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several new initiatives that expand USDA’s commitment to serving Indian country through equitable policies and programs.
“USDA respects the unique nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and tribal nations,” said Secretary 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.”
The USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty 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 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 include the launch of new seed-saving centers, video series on wild food foraging and Indigenous cuisine, featuring Chef Sean Sherman (founder of the company The Sioux Chef), marketing Native-produced foods, and a manual on transitioning from cattle to bison production.
USDA Commits to Expanding Tribal Self-Determination, (enabling greater self-governance and decision making on USDA programs and policies that affect tribal nations. 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. 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. Importantly, USDA will also review current statutory authorities that can be used to promote tribal sovereignty, with an eye towards statutory expansion where needed.
The new USDA-DOI Tribal Treaty Database, compiled together with the Oklahoma State University, will provide online access to tribal treaties. This database will assist federal agencies with implementing treaty obligations. The database will be publicly available, word searchable, and indexed. Users can search the database by tribe, state, and key words such as rights-of-way and hunting and fishing provisions.
Finally, the secretary has launched the new USDA Hall of Tribal Nations reflecting the government-to-government relationship and trust responsibility to tribal nations. The Hall currently features tribal nation flags, and USDA invites more tribal nations to contribute flags. The Hall also showcases Native artwork donated from across Indian country and displays of Indigenous and Native produced foods.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.
To learn more, visit usda.gov.