facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has teamed with the Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish (NHS) College in an agreement to conduct research supporting Indigenous Seed Sovereignty. 

This collaborative effort will increase the number of traditional seed varieties for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation crops.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

"As we celebrate our one-year anniversary, ARS is excited to announce that we have produced new seeds and seedlings of vital native crops which will be distributed to MHA Tribal members this spring via NHS College,” Dr. Simon Liu, ARS Administrator said. “Our partnership with NHS College enables us to gain a better understanding of the unique agricultural research needs of tribal communities.”

This agreement builds upon USDA’s strengthened partnerships with tribal communities to advance food sovereignty and ARS’ efforts to further incorporate tribal research priorities, including Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, into its research portfolio.

This partnership came to life in 2023 with a blessing of garden space, a traditional way of preparing for a successful harvest, after discussions between ARS and NHS College emphasized the need to expand NHS's seed cache and increase seed accessibility to MHA's tribal members.

“ARS’ partnership with NHS College will improve seed health through multiplication, germination, and viability. It also includes data collection to determine the traditional use and characteristics of MHA Nation’s traditional varieties. This work is essential for protecting seed intellectual property, providing data to support increased consumption, and demonstrating the link between traditional varieties and health while sharing cultural protocols and traditional ecological knowledge throughout the project.

During the project’s first year, ARS researchers at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) in Mandan, North Dakota, successfully grew a wide range of traditional crops necessary for seed and seedling distribution. The yield included eight varieties of corn (totaling 28 gallons of corn seeds), seven varieties of squashes (totaling over 500 squashes), four varieties of beans (producing half a gallon of seeds), and more than 150 of one variety of watermelon (over 150 watermelons) grown on half an acre. 

The NHS College established a Project Advisory Team that includes representatives from each of the three Tribes. This team provides direction on strategies to increase the number of seeds, to determine seed distribution, to collect program data, and to integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge within the project.


“By reconnecting the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people with our traditional seeds, we are bringing life back into the relationship between our seeds, our people, and our land,” said Dr. Ruth Plenty Sweetgrass-She Kills, Director of NHS College's Food Sovereignty Program. “This act of seed sovereignty also strengthens our tribal food system and provides access to nutrient-dense foods that our people’s DNA recognizes and remembers.”

More Stories Like This

Army to Send Home 11 Native Children from Former Indian Boarding School
Tribal Nations Receive $411,000 to Document Impact of Federal Indian Boarding School Era
Tribes Ask Court to End North Dakota’s Appeal of Native Voting Rights Victories
Mourning Morningside

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].