USDA announces new resources to empower Native American young people at White House Tribal Youth Summit

At the 2023 White House Tribal Youth Summit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers new resources to inspire Native American youth to explore Indigenous foodways and knowledge and highlight career paths at USDA and beyond.

These efforts are part of USDA’s commitment to empowering tribal self-determination and bringing Indigenous perspectives into agriculture, food, and nutrition.

“USDA is reimagining how we support Indigenous agriculture and tribal communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This includes reaching out to the next generation with educational opportunities both formal and informal.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Among USDA actions
“Sovereignty Gardens” Children’s Educational Animated Series. This series of short educational shows will help build excitement and pride with children about using Indigenous knowledge in gardening, food sovereignty, traditional foods, and healthy eating habits. “Sovereignty Gardens” uses animation and puppetry to follow Stompy the buffalo and his friend Bran through a series of learning adventures, which include cameos by Indigenous and scientific leaders. USDA Office of Tribal Relations entered into a cooperative agreement with Dr. Lee Francis (Pueblo of Laguna) (Indigi-Nerd/Native Realities) to create this animated series.

Indigenous Foods Foraging and Cooking Videos for Northeast and Southeast Regions. The Office of Tribal Relations Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative partnered with the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems to produce a series of videos on Indigenous foods foraging and cooking for the Northeast and Southeast regions to complement USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (commonly referred to as “commodities”) food packages. Last year, USDA released videos for the Midwest, Mountain Plains, and Southwest regions. Next year videos will be produced for Alaska and Hawaii.

Indigenous Knowledge Research Track Winners. USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, in partnership with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, announces the first students selected for the newly launched AISES research track celebrating the intersection of Indigenous knowledge (IK) and western science and engineering. Selected students will carry out research projects studying topics such as ethnobotany, mental health, and traditional medicine. This year’s cohort will be the first in a three-year series.

New Four-Year Tuition Coverage for Tribal Scholars Program. The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program provides full tuition, fees, books, a housing stipend, and paid workforce training to any interested and eligible student pursuing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, or related academic disciplines at a tribal college or university. Eligible applicants include graduating high school seniors, full-time students currently enrolled at a 1994 land-grant tribal college or university, or recent TCU associate degree graduates. For FY 2024, 27 scholarship slots are available at: Agriculture Research Service, Farm Service Agency, Farm Production and Conservation, Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The application deadline is Dec. 1, 2023. Visit the USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program or email 1994@usda.gov for further information.

New Forest Corps National Service Opportunity for Native Youth. AmeriCorps and U.S. Forest Service launched Forest Corps – a five-year $15 million agreement, and the first major interagency partnership under President Biden’s American Climate Corps. Beginning Summer 2024, this program will engage 80 young adults, ages 18-26, in wildland fire prevention, reforestation, and other natural and cultural resource management projects to support the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy and Reforestation Strategy. Native youth will be recruited for Forest Corps in key locations to support cultural resource management projects. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps/Forest Corps members will receive a compensation package equivalent to $15 an hour, including lodging, transportation, clothing, a living allowance, health benefit, and more. Members will receive extensive training, hands-on-experience, and leadership skills for future careers in natural resource management, forest health, and climate resilience at the U.S Forest Service or other organizations.

USDA Expands Access to Traditional Indigenous Foods in Schools. Soon, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will open applications on Grants.gov for the Supporting the Use of Traditional Indigenous Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs Cooperative Agreement. FNS will award a total of $2 million in grants to four organizations – either led by or partnering with an Indigenous organization or tribe – to provide regionally focused training and technical assistance to school nutrition professionals. The training and technical assistance will focus on school food procurement, preparation, and crediting of traditional Indigenous foods. Funds may be used to support the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school lunch, school breakfast, summer meals, meals and snacks served to children after school, and culturally relevant nutrition education for students. Each of the cooperative agreements will be awarded in four different regions of the country to maximize the number of tribes being served.

These actions are part of USDA’s efforts to better serve tribal governments, citizens and organizations and build a more diverse pipeline into public service and the agricultural sector.

About the USDA
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in 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 and fairer markets for all producers. USDA is dedicated to ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers. In order to reach these goals, USDA encourages the use of climate smart food and forestry practices. USDA is making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America and is committed to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.