Current Projects

Changing Native Food Economies

Welcome to First Nations’ Changing Native Food Economies

In Native communities, the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed plays a significant role in their overall development, economy, health, and culture. At First Nations, we are committed to supporting Native communities in strengthening their Native food systems. This, in turn, enhances the well-being of community members, fosters local economic growth, and celebrates the preservation of Native cultures.

Changing Native Food Economies Project in 2022-2024

This ambitious two-year initiative merges two of First Nations’ core programs, focusing on food sovereignty and asset building. Our mission is to empower tribal economies to become robust, diverse, and resilient. Through Changing Native Food Economies, First Nations will cultivate a dynamic learning cohort comprising three tribes, a tribal college, and a Native nonprofit organization. These participants are actively involved in food sovereignty and asset-building efforts within the Northwest Area Foundation’s eight-state service area. With the generous support of NWAF, each of the five entities will receive a $40,000 subaward, technical assistance, and professional development opportunities to amplify their community-based food sovereignty efforts. Additionally, an extra grant, made possible by the generous support of Agua Fund, further enhances this endeavor.

Learn About Native-led Community Projects

Bois Forte Food Sovereignty Group: Tower, Montana - $40,000

The Bois Forte Food Sovereignty Group (BFFSG) project is an exciting initiative aimed at leveraging the organization’s achievements and community research to establish itself as an independent nonprofit. The project’s key objectives include creating a digital video series to showcase BFFSG’s history, programs, and its 20-year vision. Additionally, it aims to recruit and train a founding board of 5-7 members to engage in various mission-related activities, from building an online presence to program outreach, development, and administrative tasks. BFFSG plans to establish its online presence with a dedicated website and an active social media presence. Furthermore, it will acquire its own QuickBooks Online subscription and initiate budget planning and fundraising efforts. The ultimate goal is to achieve independent nonprofit status, unlocking opportunities for further growth and community support.

By successfully completing these objectives, the Bois Forte Food Sovereignty Group intends to enhance food sovereignty and traditional food learning opportunities in the Bois Forte community, while also fostering a stable, community-based organization dedicated to this important cause. This project is poised to make a meaningful impact by building awareness, expanding training programs, and contributing to the revitalization of local food systems, all while inspiring greater participation in food sovereignty activities.

Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy: Box Elder, Montana - $40,000

The Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy in Box Elder, Montana, are embarking on a project aimed at forging partnerships and enhancing their community connections. This endeavor seeks to improve access to healthy and traditional foods, boost efficiency in market operations, and expand staff capacity while intensifying marketing and outreach efforts. Gramma’s Market, the reservation’s sole tribal grocery store, faces challenges due to isolation and a lack of proper infrastructure and funding. The project aims to strengthen partnerships with other organizations and departments, allowing for resource leverage and more efficient use of existing food systems. In a community characterized by isolation and limited financial support, this initiative is vital for providing healthier food options and improved services as the population grows. The project’s objectives encompass developing partnerships, offering training for staff, acquiring necessary equipment, enhancing marketing and outreach, and ensuring access to healthy foods and traditional foods. Ultimately, this initiative will benefit the Rocky Boy community by enhancing services at Gramma’s Market, improving access to nutritious foods, fostering partnerships, and expanding local food production and access.

Fort Peck Community College: Poplar, Montana - $40,000

Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Montana, is embarking on a project with the aim of creating a local market for traditional foods and teas within their on-Reservation community. This initiative not only promotes the ethical harvesting of native plants used in traditional foods and teas but also seeks to educate community members in seed saving and traditional food production. By doing so, the project enhances seed security and empowers individuals and the community, while also encouraging a deeper connection with traditional foods. The “One Seed, One Community” program fosters a sense of collective effort and knowledge sharing, resulting in increased access to traditional seeds and foods, which, in turn, can lead to a stronger connection to cultural heritage and improved health within the community. Additionally, the project’s focus on value-added products and community markets promotes a vibrant local food economy and knowledge exchange, enriching the community’s relationship with traditional foods.

People’s Food Sovereignty Program: Ronan. Montana - $40,000

The People’s Food Sovereignty Program (PFSP) in Ronan, Montana, is seeking funding to support its foundational development and the expansion of its annual programs provided to the Flathead Reservation tribal community. This assistance is crucial in addressing administrative labor and labor costs for their “Garden Bed Network” program, which empowers local gardening and sustainable food practices. Additionally, the funding will help PFSP acquire a facility for their dry meat program and a reverse osmosis water treatment system, ensuring access to clean water for their traditional meat program. With this support, PFSP can continue its essential work, collaborate with local organizations, seek further funding opportunities, and meet the community’s evolving needs in the realm of indigenous food sovereignty.

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians: Belcourt, North Dakota - $40,000

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, North Dakota, has initiated a project to address critical food shortages and rising food costs by enhancing the capacity of community members, particularly elders, to grow food. This endeavor combines hands-on assistance and demonstration initiatives to establish new gardens, with a focus on imparting essential gardening skills, from soil preparation to planting and weed control. The project acknowledges the lack of knowledge in food production on the reservation and aims to provide intensive training to 25 first-time garden families, alongside ten demonstration projects and three interns receiving in-depth training in various gardening methods. The goal is to expand food production capacity and improve long-term food access for the Turtle Mountain community. The project will also use workshops, demonstrations, and newsletters to reach a wider audience, fostering sustainability and sharing knowledge. The impact of the project will be measured through workshop participation, video documentation, end-of-season surveys, and community engagement, ultimately enhancing food security within the community.

Wisdom of the Elders: Portland, Oregon - $40,000

Wisdom of the Elders, based in Portland, Oregon, aims to create opportunities for urban Native groups and communities in Portland to participate in growing and preserving first foods and plants, utilizing Traditional Ecological Knowledge, donated lands, and partnerships to train interns in environmental and agricultural skills that contribute to food sovereignty. The project seeks to address Food Sovereignty deficits and food deserts in the Greater Portland area, focusing on the gathering, harvesting, and preservation of First Foods and medicinal plants. They plan to host three internships, expand outreach efforts, and provide education in food preservation, agroforestry, seed saving, and sustainable practices. Additionally, they aim to increase Native American voices in the ecological sector and enhance Food Sovereignty awareness while building capacity through HR consulting and certification for environmental professionals. This initiative ultimately strives to reconnect urban Native Americans with their cultures and food traditions and promote sustainable practices in the community.

Unlocking the Potential of Native Food Economies in 2018

In 2018, with continued support from the Otto Bremer Foundation, First Nations launched the Changing Native Food Economies project in Minnesota and North Dakota. This project was designed to assist three Native communities in regaining control of their community food systems. We did this through a multi-pronged approach that encompassed financial support, technical assistance, and peer networking. Each of these three communities developed a customized project tailored to their unique circumstances.

Download the Changing Native Food Economies in Minnesota and North Dakota publication here

Learn About Native-led Community Projects

Prairie Island Indian Community in Welch, Minnesota

Spirit Lake Tribe in Fort Totten, North Dakota

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates, North Dakota

Our Ongoing Commitment Since 2015

First Nations’ journey towards nurturing Native food systems began in 2015 with support from the Otto Bremer Trust. Through the Food as Economic Development in Native Communities project, we provided essential financial support, mentorships, and regional gatherings for three tribal organizations in Minnesota. Our goal was to expand access to resources, knowledge, and networking opportunities, ultimately fostering economic opportunities and strengthening local food systems in tribal communities.

For insights into the outcomes of the Food as Economic Development in Native Communities project, please download the report here.

Learn About Native-led Community Projects

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

White Earth Reservation Tribal Council

Gratitude to Our Supporters

We extend our sincere appreciation to Otto Bremer Trust and Northwest Area Foundation for their invaluable support in advancing our “Changing Native Food Economies” work. Their commitment has been instrumental in driving positive change within Indian Country, fostering healthier, more resilient communities while preserving indigenous food traditions. Together, we look forward to continuing our journey toward stronger and more vibrant Native food economies.


Learn more about First Nations’ Nourishing Native Foods & Health Program.