Traditional farming methods practised by Native Americans for thousands of years have received a boost thanks to fund set up as a result of a discrimination case taken against the US government.
The Native American Agriculture Fund distributes monies to farmers in tribes throughout the States, with the first grants signed off in recent weeks.
It was set up as a result of a lawsuit, Keepseagle v Vilsack, during which the US Department of Agriculture was accused of bias towards the native people when it came to farm grants and loans.
After an initial payout, the fund was established to provide grants to Native American food producers and communities to revitalise ancient food systems.
Chickasaw nation member Janie Hipp, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund, said the support, which will run for the next 20 years, was badly needed.
“Native American farmers and ranchers require support, just as food people across the country require support,” he told Food Tank, a body which seeks to spotlight and support environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty.
Hipp said the ability to feed communities was contingent on understanding the unique historical, legal, environmental, and cultural context of the lands in which the tribes lived and worked.
“The fund can’t provide all the support they need – there is not enough money for that. What we believe we can do is affect change on a more systemic level while leveraging this opportunity at a very critical time to strengthen our opportunities today and support future generations to come.”
The fund will provide grant aid for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and legal services.
Last month the first round of grants was confirmed, with 80 bodies receiving monies.
Hipp said the methods of growing foods had a history stretching back millennia with varying diets and processes because of factors such as climate, terrain, soil, water and culture.
There are more than 200 officially recognised tribes in the United States. However, despite official acknowledgement, they still find it difficult in modern America.
Hipp told Food Tank: “Indigenous people have been killed, ostracised, ignored, removed, and relocated from our original homelands.
“Indigenous nations had the lands we originally lived upon taken from us and it is a painful reality that continues to this very day.”