“Seeds of Native Health” Launched: A Campaign for Indigenous Nutrition

Teaching children good nutrition while young pays off with healthy lives

Teaching children good nutrition while young pays off with healthy lives

Shakopee Mdewakanton and National Partners Launch $5 Million Campaign to Improve Native American Nutrition

MINNEAPOLIS — The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and three nationally significant partners today announced Seeds of Native Health, a major philanthropic campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans across the country. The SMSC is committing $5 million to launch the campaign and plans to recruit other funding and strategic partners.

SMSC_Logo_1Nutrition is very poor among many of our fellow Native Americans, which leads to major health problems,” said SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig. “Our Community has a tradition of helping other tribes and Native American people. The SMSC is committed to making a major contribution and bringing others together to help develop permanent solutions to this serious problem.”

Generations of extreme poverty and the loss of traditional foods have resulted in poor and inadequate diets for many Native Americans, leading to increased obesity, diabetes, and other profound health problems. “Many tribes, nonprofits, public health experts, researchers, and advocates have already been working on solutions,” said SMSC Vice-Chairman Keith Anderson. “We hope this campaign will bring more attention to their work, build on it, bring more resources to the table, and ultimately put Indian Country on the path to develop a comprehensive strategy, which does not exist today.”

The Seeds of Native Health campaign will include efforts to improve awareness of Native nutrition problems, promote the wider application of proven best practices, and encourage additional work related to food access, education and research.

“Native health problems have many causes, but we know that many of these problems can be traced to poor nutrition,” said SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Lori Watso, who has spent much of her career in community public health. She provided the original idea for the SMSC’s nutrition campaign.

“Traditional Native foods have a much higher nutritional value than what is most easily accessible today,” Watso continued. “By promoting best practices, evidence-based methods, and the re-introduction of healthy cultural practices, we believe that tribal governments, nonprofits, and grassroots practitioners can collectively make lasting strides towards a better future.”

Having donated more than $325 million since opening its Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s, as well as providing more than $500 million in economic development loans to other tribes, the SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian Country nationally and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota.

Seeds of Native Health Partners
The SMSC has enlisted three nationally significant strategic partners in the campaign: First Nations Development Institute, headquartered in Colorado; theNotah Begay III Foundation, based in New Mexico; and the University of Minnesota.

First Nations Development Institute has longstanding expertise in efforts to eliminate food insecurity, build the health of communities, and support entrepreneurship and economic development. It is receiving $1.4 million from the SMSC for re-granting to projects relating to food access, food sovereignty, and capacity building.

“First Nations has spent 35 years working to build healthy economies in Indian Country, and we are thrilled for the opportunity to be a strategic partner in an initiative that will coordinate so many of the crucial efforts happening today,” said Michael Roberts, president of the First Nations Development Institute.

The Notah Begay III Foundation is dedicated to promoting wellness among Indian children. It is receiving $1.1 million from the SMSC for re-granting to projects relating to childhood nutrition.

“The problems facing many young Native Americans are great, but none is more fundamental than health problems which have their root cause in poor nutrition,” said Notah Begay III, creator of his namesake foundation. “This philanthropic effort led by the SMSC will be a game-changer.”

Chairman Vig said that selecting the University of Minnesota as a strategic partner in this initiative was natural. “The University is a world-class research and teaching institution in the fields of agriculture, food science, nutrition, and public health. We are fortunate to have a strategic partner in our own backyard.”

The University’s campaign role will include serving as the convening partner for a new series of annual conferences on Native American nutrition, developing appropriate cultural interfaces between academic research and its application by Native communities, and creating a repository of best practices and national expertise.

“The University of Minnesota and the SMSC have a remarkable partnership, which includes, among others the tribe’s support of scholarships of our Native American students and support for our athletics programs. We are thrilled to lend our expertise and leadership to this crucial campaign,” said University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler.

For more information about Seeds of Native Health, visithttp://seedsofnativehealth.org/.

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