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Student Blog: My first stop working with Native communities

This summer, Civil Society and Community Studies graduate student Becca Dower is helping the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) develop a tribally-supported agriculture program—or TSA—to distributes Native American produced goods to Native American communities. During this time, she will be conducting preliminary research with funding from SoHE’s Summer Time Academic Research (STAR) Award, supported by the Catherine K. Sheehan Fund.

Currently in the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana, Becca plans to be with tribes in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Montana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Below is her first blog report.

This summer, my research will take me to various Native communities throughout the states exploring food sovereignty. First stop, the Minneapolis American Indian Center in the heart of Minneapolis’ Native community. The center serves as a gathering space for cultural events and programs. The space also hosts the Two Rivers Gallery supporting Native artists and Gatherings Café serving up dishes featuring traditional ingredients from wild rice salad to bison melts to fresh seasonal berries and nuts. All My Relations Gallery store front.I then head to the very cleverly named Pow Wow Grounds Coffee attached to All My Relations Gallery, both a part of the Native American Community Development Institute of Minneapolis.

I came to drop off two tribally supported agriculture orders, or TSAs for the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). The TSA program of the Great Lakes Region Intertribal Agriculture Council seeks to distribute Native American produced foods, especially within Native communities. Part of the work I am doing this summer is to help the program establish distribution sites through relationships. Distribution sites would help to lessen the cost and increase efficiency in distributing TSA orders throughout communities. Ideally, these distribution sites serve as a common place for the IAC to ship bulk orders of food to which can then be divided and distributed to local consumers. Here in Minneapolis for example, instead of shipping ten individual TSA orders to the urban Native community of the area, a bulk order could be shipped to a common place in one order. In this case that common place, or distribution site, could be Pow Wow Grounds Coffee.

After handing the TSAs to the barista, I ordered my coffee and walked around the art space. I imagined the folks picking up their TSAs later that afternoon also ordering coffee and admiring the art. This cooperative model of distribution can work to highlight a spectrum of the incredible initiatives happening in Indian country, both rural and urban.

Becca Dower is a Civil Society graduate student at SoHE. With support from the STAR Award, Becca will spend the summer conducting preliminary data collection in order to understand feasibility and desire for community distribution sites. She’ll then work with community members to establish accessible site locations.



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