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Biden-Harris Administration Announces Actions to Strengthen Tribal Food Sovereignty, Co-Stewardship, and Knowledge of Tribal Agriculture Policy

Press Release
Release No.
USDA No. 0109.24
Contact: FNS Press Team

CHEROKEE, North Carolina, June 5, 2024 – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a series of actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Biden-Harris Administration to strengthen Tribal sovereignty and fulfill long-standing Tribal requests for USDA to better partner with Tribal Nations, and make our overall food system more resilient.

Today’s announcements include over $42 million for awardees under the Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grant Program, $18 million for projects under the Tribal Forest Protection Act, and $2.3 million to support the service of Indigenous foods in school meal programs. Secretary Vilsack also announced that USDA has welcomed a class of interns specifically focused on Tribal agriculture and food sovereignty, and he noted that later this month USDA will sponsor its first-ever international trade mission focused on Tribal Nation and Native Hawaiian Community businesses, products and priorities.

“USDA has worked hand-in-hand with Tribal Nations to ensure our programs incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. As part of our commitment to Tribes, we are making good on our promises and investing in projects that advance food sovereignty and self-determination for Tribal Nations,” Secretary Vilsack said. “These investments create economic opportunities in Tribal communities, enhance co-stewardship of precious forests and grasslands, and ensure Indigenous foods are available to Tribal students participating in school meal programs, all while furthering USDA’s goal of creating a more resilient food system.”

Secretary Vilsack made these announcements in Cherokee, North Carolina at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2024 Mid Year Convention and Marketplace, where he reaffirmed USDA’s commitment to Tribal self-governance and self-determination.

Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grants

USDA is awarding $42.5 million in grants to eight Tribal Nations through Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grants. Funding will help expand processing opportunities using modern and traditional harvesting methods for animals that are native to North America like bison, reindeer and salmon. Grants will benefit Tribes in Alaska, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington. Examples of Tribes receiving funding are:

  • The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in Cherokee, North Carolina is receiving a $6.5 million grant to build a center to process animals its members raise and hunt, including cattle, hog, goat, sheep, deer, bear, elk, beaver, boar, rabbit and groundhog. The new facility will allow the EBCI to create a Tribally owned brand of fish and meat that include rainbow trout and bison. Portions of the meat will be donated and distributed to community members in need, as well as schools, hospitals and other organizations.
  • The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township in Princeton, Maine will use a $4.3 million grant to build an aquaculture facility and use new technology to grow North American eel. The Tribe will process the eel into a Japanese delicacy known as kabayaki, filet and other food products. This project will create jobs for the Tribe and economic opportunities for hundreds of harvesters.
  • The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska in Niobrara, Nebraska will use a $4.8 million grant to build a facility to harvest, process, manufacture and store buffalo meat which the Tribe will distribute to community members in need and across the U.S. The project will allow the Tribe to sustainably harvest buffalo, according to their traditions.

In 2023, USDA partnered with Oweesta Corp., a Native Community Development Financial Institution, to provide grants under the Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grants. Oweesta Corp. is selecting the grantees under the program.

USDA designed the program to support priorities voiced by Tribal Nations during consultations held over two years. The program reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to work in partnership with Tribal Nations to advance prosperity and dignity for all Native peoples. It also supports the Administration’s priority to build a fairer, more competitive and more resilient food system by supporting local farms and businesses.

Tribal Forest Protection Act

Thanks to funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, USDA’s Forest Service is investing $18 million in 23 projects that support the Tribal Forest Protection Act. Projects are focused on hazardous fuels risk reduction, including prescribed and use of fire, to help make reservations and communities safer and watershed restoration to provide clean drinking water. Implementation of projects will also focus on incorporating Indigenous knowledge to support long-term use of the land in a sustainable way. These efforts advance the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal climate, clean energy, water and wastewater infrastructure, and other covered investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. Federally Recognized Tribes are also identified as disadvantaged, regardless of whether or not they have land.

Examples of funded projects include:

  • The Keex'Kwaan Community Forest Partnership is a landscape scale, multi-stakeholder, community forest approach to plan and implement projects to restore and promote forest access, healthy habitats, climate resilience, food security, and local economic diversification. This funding will support cooperative work between Organized Village of Kake and Forest Service that has been identified by Keex'Kwaan Community Forest Partnership on Kuiu Island, and will create jobs, restore and promote resilient ecosystems, provide food security, and strengthen relations by working together on shared interests.
  • Rio Chama Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and Watershed Restoration will work with Tribal forest crews in the Santa Fe, Carson, San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests. The funding will support capacity to expand fuels, watershed, and reforestation programs on forest lands to improve the health and resiliency of natural resources.
  • The Lac Vieux Desert Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa in collaboration with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest are working to address lake water quality, habitat, access, food sovereignty and preservation of Tribal culture. This project will improve wild rice habitat to support Tribal food sovereignty by replacing road stream crossing on the Wisconsin River.

The Tribal Forest Protection Act projects help the Forest Service and Tribes work together through co-stewardship, restoring traditionally significant plants, reducing hazardous fuels and protecting Tribal lands and communities while incorporating Indigenous knowledge, creating job opportunities for Tribal crews and increasing youth engagement. These projects recognize the unique, shared responsibility in ensuring decisions related to federal stewardship of lands, waters and wildlife consider the treaty rights and spiritual, subsistence and the cultural interests of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations.

Indigenous Foods in School Meal Programs

USDA will award a total of $2.3 million in grants to five organizations to support child nutrition programs serving more Indigenous foods to Tribal communities. As part of USDA’s commitment to expanding the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school meals and other child nutrition programs, these grants were awarded across the country to maximize the number of Tribal communities being served. Examples include:

  • As part of the Wind River Food Sovereignty project, the Center for Popular Research, Education and Policy (C-PREP) will support four school districts on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Through training and technical assistance for school nutrition and other school staff, youth will have increased access to traditional Indigenous foods of their cultures and region and will learn about Indigenous foods across North America.
  • The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement actively engages in the preservation and enhancement of Indigenous food systems. They will expand their efforts to school districts by providing training and technical assistance to native food producers, vendors, and school nutrition staff to expand the use of traditional Indigenous foods and nutrition education for students in eight charter schools across six Hawaiian Islands.
  • The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Fond du Lac Ojibwa School will educate school nutrition staff in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan on food sovereignty and Indigenous food procurement and preparation. Federally Recognized Tribes throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will be served through this project.
  • With the expansion of their Indigenous Food Lab, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) will benefit 11 sovereign nations within Minnesota and neighboring states, as well as school districts in Minnesota and parts of neighboring states, facilitating access to and utilization of Indigenous foods.
  • A number of Federally Recognized Tribes will benefit from the Powhatan Confederacy’s expertise in procuring and preparing foods for Indigenous Peoples Feasts, which will be applied to school districts in Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Virginia.

The organizations awarded are led and primarily staffed by members of the Federally Recognized Tribes and/or Native Hawaiians. The funds will be used to support culturally relevant nutrition education and the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school and summer meals and snacks. For more information about the awardees, please visit this FNS webpage.

This funding is part of a suite of resources that USDA released to support the use of traditional Indigenous foods in the child nutrition programs. These resources are available online through the Serving Traditional Indigenous Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs webpage.

USDA 2024 Class of Tribal Policy Interns

This summer, USDA is launching a historic new program welcoming interns to learn about Tribal agriculture and Tribal food sovereignty. Through the Future Leaders in Public Service Internship Program, 14 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students will work on USDA agriculture, food, and nutrition programs that benefit Indian Country.

Sponsored by USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, the program seeks to develop a new generation of agricultural professionals with a better understanding of Tribal food and agriculture issues. During their summer internships, the Future Leaders interns will learn about USDA support of bison conservation, Indigenous foods in youth nutrition programs, Tribal community and economic development, Tribal college community outreach, and much more. At the Office of Tribal Relations, they will support the ongoing review of USDA policies and program authorities to see where USDA can continue to remove barriers to service in Indian Country.

Participants include Native and non-Native students who are pursuing a wide range of degrees, including law, public policy, economics, environmental sciences, sustainable agriculture, public health, nutrition, and food sovereignty. Students hail from Tribal colleges and universities and other higher education institutions. During the summer, they will participate in professional development sessions and orientation and networking events.

The Future Leaders program is part of USDA’s commitment to improve equity and access, eliminate barriers to its programs for underserved individuals and communities, and build a workforce more representative of America.

First-Ever Trade Mission on Indigenous and Tribal Nation Products

From June 17-20, USDA will conduct the first agribusiness trade mission showcasing Tribal and Native Hawaiian products to prospective buyers in Canada, one of the top markets for U.S. agricultural exports. USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis M. Taylor will lead the historic mission to Vancouver, British Columbia, and will be joined by 15 Tribal agribusinesses and 13 Tribal Nation agricultural leaders.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and 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


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Page updated: June 05, 2024