California Tribes to Advance Native Food Sovereignty and Local Food Systems

First Nations awards $450k in grants to 11 California-based tribes and tribally controlled nonprofits

LONGMONT, Colorado (November 17, 2023) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today announced the community partners that have been awarded technical assistance and financial support as part of the Food Sovereignty and Local Control of Food Systems grant opportunity. Through First Nations’ California Tribal Fund, 11 California-based tribes and tribally controlled nonprofits will receive grants of $45,000 each to invest in capacity and projects to advance food systems that are self-directed, well-resourced, and supported by community policies and systems.

The grants are made possible through the support of the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Elizabeth R & William J Patterson Foundation, the Sierra Health Foundation, and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.

Rebecca Tortes (Cahuilla, Payomkawichum, and Assiniboine Sioux), Director of First Nations’ California Tribal Fund, said the 11 California Native organizations were chosen for their vision and commitment to increasing access to healthy and fresh foods, increasing awareness of and involvement with where food comes from, and promoting tribal economic growth.

“These organizations recognize the importance of Native foods to the culture, lifeways, health, wellness, and future of Native communities, and that tribes have inherent sovereignty to control and protect their food systems,” Tortes said.

With the funding, the 11 tribes and tribally controlled nonprofits will launch or continue a variety of projects, each designed to advance Native food sovereignty and Native food systems. The organizations were selected through an application process that began in May 2023, with project work beginning in July 2023.

The selected community partners and their projects are:

Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley, Big Pine                    

The Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley’s Environmental Department will create and implement a weekly student center program to grow produce in the Tribe’s garden. A farm-to-table program will be created with produce grown being sold at the Nawanaki-Ti Farmer’s Market.

Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, Geyserville

The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians will conduct a community foods assessment to evaluate the economic impact of current food system assets within their local tribal community. The Tribe will also host monthly Indigenous food sovereignty events, focusing on intergenerational transfer of traditional knowledge through hands-on cultural food harvesting activities.

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Rohnert Park

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria will increase their ability to distribute healthy foods through the winter season by investing in infrastructure, including high tunnels for the Tribe’s current gardens and increased refrigeration space.

Mechoopda Indian Tribe, Chico

The Mechoopda Indian Tribes will launch a multi-pronged food access program that will focus on traditional fishing, food gathering and processing, and encouraging establishment of family and community gardens.

Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, Ramona

The Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians will launch an intergenerational tribal gardeners’ program. Tribal youth will learn to grow and tend traditional, sustainable foods and will help increase fresh food access for tribal families.

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, North Fork

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians will increase their current access to healthy foods through purchase of a new evaporative cooler and expansion of their outdoor and greenhouse space.

Northern California Tribal Court Coalition, Eureka

The Northern California Tribal Court Coalition will conduct a series of workshops that will focus on gathering protocols related to traditional foods, including mussels, seaweed, and acorns. As part of this effort, a guidebook on traditional foods will be created.

Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Lakeport

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians will conduct a community foods assessment to evaluate the economic impact of current food systems assets within their local tribal community, creating a formal plan to create a community gardens system and begin to research sustainable agricultural practices.

Sherwood Valley Rancheria, Willits   

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria will focus reintroducing traditional foods in their tribal community by implementing a series of acorn gathering and processing classes in addition to planning the first Northern California Acorn Conference.

Tubatulabals of Kern Valley, Weldon

The Tubatulabals Tribe will begin planning and developing a fruit orchard on their recently acquired property. The Tribe will partner with Owens Valley Community Development Center to create a formal outreach and distribution plan for fruits grown.

Wukchumni Tribe, Visalia

The Wukchumni Tribe will increase its health and fresh traditional food production at Wukchumni Farms and distribute healthy foods by creating a tribal food pantry.

First Nations created the California Tribal Fund to support California-based, California-Native-led nonprofits and tribal programs in controlling and protecting their food systems, water, languages, traditional ecological knowledge, and land.

About First Nations Development Institute

For 43 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit