Current Projects

Indigenous Breastfeeding, Birth Work, and First Foods

Linked to the Native food sovereignty movement, the practice of breast/chest-feeding not only improves health outcomes for infants and children, but also impacts taste bud development based on the foods lactating parents consume. Removing barriers to access and uplifting traditional first foods for young Indigenous families is a critical step toward creating a vibrant Indigenous food system and reconnecting families to cultural and spiritual aspects of birth.

Based on this, First Nations’ Indigenous Breastfeeding, Birth work, and First Foods project area launched in January 2022 to expand and support what is considered to be part of our food system.

To date, through the Keepseagle Endowment Fund and Kellogg Foundation, First Nations has awarded 10 Breastfeeding & First Foods grants  to community partners across the country to invest in efforts to support lactating parents and ensure babies grow up with a taste for and connection to traditional foods.

2022 Breastfeeding & First Foods Grantees

American Indian Family Center

The American Indian Family Center serves the urban Native community in St. Paul, Minnesota, and provides a variety of services and resources to Indigenous families. The center will use funds to build upon an existing program, Wakanyeja Kin Wakan Pi (Our Children are Sacred), to host breastfeeding awareness workshops, first food cooking demonstrations, and monthly support groups with a traditional lactation counselor.

A’nowa:ra Owira Doulas

The A’nowa:ra Owira Doulas serve the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesasne, New York. This funding continues their successful cooking workshop for prenatal and postpartum families using Indigenous foods to increase familiarity and experience using traditional foods sourced directly from the community. Alongside the cooking classes, the Doulas will offer lactation support to families and increase staff capacity by providing lactation counselor training for two doulas.

Bois Forte Tribal Government

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Nett Lake, Minnesota, has no grocery store in their community. It is considered a food desert, and access to fresh food is limited. The Maternal Child Health Department will use this grant to increase fresh food availability for young families by providing Farm Bucks to visit the new Ode’imini Gizis Farmer’s Market. The project will also use promotional materials, demonstrations, and tasting opportunities to uplift traditional first foods.

Catawba Indian Nation

The Childcare Services Division of the Catawba Indian Nation (yeh is-WAH h’reh) is filling the gap where the local clinic lacks prenatal care for residents on the reservation. Through this grant, staff will conduct a needs assessment of the community to better understand what obstacles families face in regard to breast/chest feeding to direct future services. Additionally, they will provide monthly food boxes containing nutritious and traditional foods to 20 tribal households with lactating parents, launch a promotional campaign to raise awareness about breastfeeding, and provide individualized lactation counseling.

Center for Indigenous Midwifery

The Center for Indigenous Midwifery in Olympia, Washington, gathers Tribal communities across the country with their virtual and in-person forums. As a result of their Indigenous Childbirth Educator training, the idea for a traditional first foods recipe book for prenatal and postpartum wellness was born. Recipes and medicines will be created, evaluated, and ultimately published in a shared document as a resource to Native pregnant and parenting families.

Chickahominy Indian Tribe

This project by the Chickahominy Indian Tribe is the first direct engagement with beginning and young families by the tribe and will lay the groundwork for future maternal and childhood programs. Breastfeeding kits and educational resources on breastfeeding and first foods gardening will be distributed to families. Additionally, workshops on canning will educate community members on first foods baby food preparation.

Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council

The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council serves tribes throughout Wisconsin, and its project will be in conjunction with the Native Breastfeeding Coalition of Wisconsin. Using project funds, the council will host an Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor (IBC) Training for 15 community members. It will also host virtual maternal health education classes that are open to Native families across Wisconsin, assist in creating lactation policies in work-place settings, and provide breastfeeding parents local, traditional foods during Native Breastfeeding Week.

Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition

“Hozho Healing through Bodyfeeding” is the Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition’s project that aims to support lactating parents through a variety of virtual support and education groups. Doulas and lactation counselors will provide additional support to families. They will also integrate Indigenous producers into their programming by hosting field days during which participants will learn how to make organic baby food, soil health, and composting.

Nitamising Gimashkikinaan

Anishinaabe for “Our First Medicine,” Nitamising Gimashkikinaan is a team of Indigenous birth workers serving Native communities in Minnesota and beyond. Their project continues their work of hosting virtual support circles that empower Indigenous mothers with knowledge of traditional lactation practices while building community. Alongside the virtual convenings, they will begin a program with Dream of Wild Health to purchase traditional foods community support agriculture (CSA) boxes for Indigenous families. This project also includes assisting lactating parents with accessing donor milk from the Minnesota Milk Bank.

Yurok Tribe

In Klamath, California, the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program (YTEP) Food Sovereignty Division will utilize funding to increase traditional first foods access through a pilot program. While hosting planning meetings and engaging with external partners, they will provide 250 pounds of Yurok traditional foods, such as tan oak acorns, seaweed, and elk, to young families, which will help connect babies and their parents to their culture and place.