February 26, 2024

Native American Heritage Month

Bison roam on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, a 1.5-million-acre reservation on the Rocky Mountain front.

WASHINGTON — November was Native American Heritage Month, and the theme of this year’s event was “Indigenous Foods: The Intersection Between Land, Food and Culture.”

“For millennia, tribal nations have sustainably hunted, foraged and cultivated these lands,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture employees.

“Indigenous foods are the product of hundreds of generations and tribal traditions that still hold strong today.”

Nationwide, there are about 664,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. public school system.

Schools across the country are incorporating traditional foods including bison, mesquite flour and wild rice.

“Indigenous foods continue to hold cultural and traditional importance to tribal nations and strengthen USDA’s priorities in addressing climate change, tackling food and nutrition insecurity and creating market opportunities that advance rural prosperity,” Vilsack said.

“One example is our joint USDA-DOI Tribal Bison Initiative to restore tribal bison through both conservation and market development opportunities. When managed as wildlife with adequate land to roam and graze, bison contribute to healthy grasslands ecosystems.

“Many other indigenous foods are nutrient-dense and support landscape resilience and ecosystem diversity.”

The “Serving Traditional Indigenous Foods in Child Nutrition Programs” website provides a hub of resources. Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/y2puwuu8.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor