By Gail Ellis
The northeast district of Oklahoma State University Extension has received two Native American Agriculture Fund grants to support new and ongoing partnerships with multiple Native American tribes and nations in Oklahoma.
NAAF provides funding to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers. Nancy Johnson, director of OSU Extension in the northeast district, said OSU Extension received similar grants from the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program in the past, but this most recent award is the first distributed by NAFF.
The two grants, one allotted to the Muscogee Nation and another designated for a group of nine tribes in the northeast part of the state, will provide approximately $335,000 over the next four years for agricultural projects tied to the preservation of Native American culture.
Objectives outlined for the Muscogee Nation grant by Johnson and co-principal investigator Leslie Lewis include establishing a new OSU Extension educator position to help relaunch an archery club, introduce anti-bullying and health curricula and train youth in meat judging. Native Farmers and Ranchers programming will explore pecan grafting as well as beef and small animal production and management.
Other portions of funding for the Muscogee Nation will support community development with training in resume writing, job skills and soft skills, along with education on the dangers of substance abuse and social media safety. Tribe members will learn about county and tribal government, the benefits of growing their own food, food distribution and how to ensure a healthy diet.
“Some of the training opportunities will be intertwined with their native language, and we hope to incorporate elders into the process of cultural preservation through customs such as basket weaving,” Johnson said.
The Muscogee Nation has about 87,000 members in Oklahoma; the nation covers Okmulgee, McIntosh, Okfuskee, Hughes, Creek, Tulsa and Wagoner counties along with portions of Mayes, Rogers and Seminole counties. Johnson said the NAAF grant was written in collaboration with the College of the Muscogee Nation, and the new educator will be housed on its campus when hired.
The goal of the nine-tribes grant, co-authored by Kathy Enyart, is to fund an educator to build upon resources already in place, including free water testing and childcare training.
“The Eastern Shawnee Tribe has an outdoor classroom it’s going to let us use, and the Quapaw Nation could potentially let us use its meat processing plant for meat judging,” Johnson said.
The nine tribes of the Inter-Tribal Council are the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Miami Tribe, Modoc Nation, Ottawa Tribe, Peoria Tribe, Quapaw Tribe, Seneca-Cayuga Nation, Shawnee Tribe and Wyandotte Nation, all located in Ottawa County.
In addition to the latest round of funding through NAAF, Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program grants currently support projects involving community gardening in Pawnee County and an OSU Extension educator position and full-time program assistant in Osage County.
“We’ll collaborate with 12 different tribes in this grant cycle, and that’s pretty substantial,” Johnson said. “Our county educators connected and partnered with these tribes to lay the groundwork before we applied for this latest grant, and that has been successful.”
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