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Two CRST members spark Native Youth Food Sovereignty Board, giving voice to Indian youth in Indian Agriculture

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HISTORY | Like their adult counterpart, American Indian Youth have limited access to information, resources, and venues to learn about opportunities in Indian Agriculture.

Since 1987, the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) has become recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles onagricultural policies and programs in Indian Country.

Native youth are coming to the table more informed, more passionate and more prepared to bridge the age gap that exists in Indian Agriculture.

Two young leaders from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Sha’Teal Pearman and Ryia LeBeau attended IAC’s 2013 Membership Meeting and experienced a major shift in consciousness around Indian Agriculture which in turn had them rethinking their career paths and sparked a Youth in Ag movement.

After attending the inaugural Youth Ag Summit in Fayetteville, Arkansas their resolve to create a forum for a Youth voice in Indian Agriculture was solidified. By the conclusion of the 2014 IAC Membership Meeting, the two had presented their idea to leadership, from which they received unanimous support in pursuing this new facet of Indian Agriculture.

Fast forward to the 2017 IAC Membership Meeting held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada; where the establishment of the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance (NYFSA) was formalized with the seating of their first national Board of Directors.

These 12 passionate, motivated leaders guided policy discussion to support the goals of the 80 youth in attendance, representing more than 35 tribes.

The IAC has established a platform for the voice of Indian Agriculture’s youth to forever be heard, after seating a voting representative upon their national Executive Board of Directors.

You’ll be able to follow the future of this organization at www.indianaglink.com/youth , and learn more about the organization’s leadership below:

CINDY FARLEE, CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX

Vice Chairwoman, Southern Plains Region

What do you advocate for in your community?

Currently being away at school it is hard to be overly involved in much going on at home, but when I am back on break or even when I get the chance to on social media I am a huge advocate of higher education relative to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). I am a senior at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) in Lawrence, Kansas and choosing to transfer there was the greatest “adult” decision I have made so far in my life.

Our unique perspective and understanding as Indigenous ing to organize the 2018 Native American Nutrition Conference. So far it has been a great

experience, and one that I plan to continue with after graduation this spring. I have realized how much work

goes into gathering people together in order to have the important conversations we need in our communities,

and I believe that more organizing work is in my future.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

As a full-time college student and a teacher’s assistant, working two jobs and volunteering keeps me very busy

and it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is important for me to spend my free time clearing my mind and focusing

on my mental, emotional, and physical health. Meditation, exercise, and creating healthy meal plans is what I do

to ensure that I have the necessary inner strength to accomplish my goals. I aspire to use more of my free time

to study and practice Ojibwemowin (language).

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

I work as an Organizing Apprentice for a native non-profit organization, Hempstead Project Heart, advocating

for industrial hemp in tribal communities. I strongly believe that industrial hemp is brings so much potential for

tribal economic development, and can form the foundation of a new “green” economy in Indian Country. I am

grateful for the opportunity to sit on the youth board with so many incredible and hard-working youth from

across the country. Chi-Miigwech for all of your support. The future of Indian agriculture is in good hands

thanks to all of your hard work.

SHELBI FITZPATRICK, BLACKFEET

Rocky Mountain/Alaska Regions

What do you advocate for in your community?

When I first entered high school, I saw a need for acceptance, tolerance, and support for those who were not

receiving it from their families or my school system. These students came from many different backgrounds –

low-income families, poorly represented heritages, and mental and physical disorders. As a freshman, I created

a safe haven for these students called H.O.P.E. (Helping Others and Providing Encouragement). With the

schools boards permission and supervision, the students and I met once a week for snacks, discussion, and

academic tutoring. Of the accomodations provided, snacks were always the first to go, making me aware of the

food disparities that my school and community faced. H.O.P.E dwindled as students from the group made

friends with one another and started to improve in their academic fields. Before I became aware of the terms,

“food sovereignty, food scarcity, food deserts,” I was being exposed to people who struggled with hunger and

food-related health disease and illnesses. I unknowingly advocated for a multitude of adversities affecting my

community then, and have since started learning the names of those adversities and their effects on

communities.

The first mention of “food sovereignty” was heard when I was a Senior in high school at an Intertribal

Agriculture Conference in Las Vegas, NV. I got involved with the IAC through my short, but life-changing

experience in 4H. After going to the conference, I was hooked. I wanted to learn more about food sovereignty

and how I could help my community. After being a student leader at the youth summit in Arkansas and meeting

Janie Hipp, I knew I wanted to make my future somehow involve food and bettering tribal nations the country

(essentially, being Janie Hipp). Since then, I’ve declared my major in Environmental Studies and Native

American Studies at Dartmouth College. I am going to take the LSAT this coming fall, graduate in 2019, then

head to law school. Throughout the course of my high school and college education, I’ve advocated for Native

Success, specifically through education. I’ve spoken at the Vegas summit on the importance of education and

how Native youth must use this as a tool to shape the future of Indian country. In addition, I am often the only

indigenous person in the classroom at my college. As an Indigenous women, I find it imperative to spread the

significance of food sovereignty in tribal nations in my environmental studies classes, and advocate for the

education of non-Native’s to do their research about federal Indian law and policy and food.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

The most important thing to me is my family. It doesn’t matter what I am doing; If I’m with my family, I’m

happy. If there is coffee and a good book involved – even better.

I enjoy listening to people’s stories and learning what makes up a person’s identity.

I honestly and full heartedly LOVE to learn. I don’t mind professor’s pilling on reading, especially if it is about

federal Indian law and policy related.

I love to try new things, go on adventures to places I’ve never been, dance, fish, and camp.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

I am grateful for the chance to sit on the first Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance Board and I am very

excited to keep in touch the next couple of years!

MARIAH GLADSTONE, CHEROKEE NATION OF OKLAHOMA & BLACKFEET

Rocky Mountain/Alaska Regions

What do you advocate for in your community?

My advocacy is focused primarily on encouraging Native people to learn how to harvest, hunt, and prepare their

traditional foods.

How have you identified your role within supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty? How do you foresee this

role changing in the coming years?

By starting Indigikitchen, I’ve been working to provide information about traditional ingredients and teach

cooking classes about how to prepare them. Idealistically, I’d like to continue this work by expanding and

teaching/traveling full time. Recognizing that we have the capacity to feed ourselves is central to our ability to

regain it.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

In my free time, I spend a lot of time outside. I enjoy kayaking, hunting, skiing, and hiking. Not only does this

allow me to connect with my environment, but it reminds me of the importance of taking care of my physical

body.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

Thank you for the opportunity to serve my community and assist Native youth with the quest to regain food

sovereignty.

SHA’TEAL PEARMAN, CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX

Great Plains Region

What do you advocate for in your community?

I advocate to choose life. I am the founder of a non-profit organization called “Just Breathe Suicide Awareness

Campaign.” I bring awareness to the epidemic of suicide in our young people and campaign and raise funds to

help support awareness activities and assemblies and provide scholarships to local seniors. I began my mission

in 2015 after being personally affected by suicide twice within a year. To date I have provide over $3500.00 in

scholarships and sponsorships. Along with myself I have reached out to high school students to help promote

awareness. My team of ambassadors help in my endeavors while I attend college, to provide valuable resources

to our adolescents, fundraising efforts, aid in youth awareness activities as well as participate in several

volunteer community projects.

“Just Breathe” was derived from all the emotions and how helpless one must feel while contemplating suicide.

My mission is to let those know that are struggling within that moment that “Life goes on, just breathe, take a

moment to be brave and believe in yourself, your pain is only temporary.” It’s time to step up so no one else

feels like they have to step out.

How have you identified your role within supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty? How do you foresee this

role changing in the coming years?

My role in supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty is to continue my education in Agricultural Business as well as

Banking and Financial Services. I aspire to cultivate financial stability and provide resources for food

sovereignty and food sustainability. In the future I would like to play a key role in Native American agricultural

lending to work for an institution that is Native owned and operated specifically to secure lending and financial

training to Indigenous people so that we can build a strong economic community and opportunity for our

Tribes, our Native people, our future and our next generation to thrive on their traditional values and culture.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

Being a fulltime college student with a part time job and plenty of homework, I don’t see a lot of free time. I

was raised with strong family values, so when I do, I like to return to my hometown to visit my family and

attend hometown sporting games. I also meet with my non-profit ambassadors to facilitate upcoming awareness

activities and fundraisers.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

I would like to say, “Thank You!” Thank you for the life changing opportunities IAC has provided me during

the last 4 years. You have empowered me to further my education in agriculture by creating access to valuable

resources and educational tools in food sustainability and food sovereignty. You have planted a seed that I want

to continue to grow and cultivate into a viable and thriving economical asset to our Tribes and Indigenous

people. By investing in me, IAC has invested in its next generation so together we can build a financially

sustainable future for many generations to come.

MASEWA MODY, COCHITI PUEBLO

Southwest Region

What do you advocate for in your community?

In my community I advocate the importance of learning our culture. Our culture is the very essence of who we

are and where we come from. Through my culture I can advocate agriculture. Agriculture plays a very

important role in a variety of cultures. Making a greater connection between agriculture and our own culture

will help lead us in the direction of food sovereignty.

How have you identified your role within supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty? How do you foresee this

role changing in the coming years?

I have identified my role within supporting Tribal Food sovereignty by advocating agriculture and the Farm Bill

to tribal leaders in my community and the surrounding communities. Informing our tribal leaders about the

importance of agriculture is a role I enjoy and hope to continue.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

In my free time I like to make traditional crafts, visit our local offices during the day to see what programs are

currently doing, driving through the community, and surrounding land, and of course visiting with family and

friends.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

In the hopes of moving forward as a community and I a nation I cannot wait to see what these next two years

hold for each and everyone one of us.

BRENNEN JONES, NAVAJO

Navajo Region

What do you advocate for in your community?

I advocate for my community is how important agriculture reflects and defines our people. I want to emphasize

the importance of agriculture by targeting the youth because they are our future. In ties with agriculture I also

want to stress the importance of land management in taking care of livestock.

How have you identified your role within supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty? How do you foresee this

role changing in the coming years?

When I attended my first IAC conference in Las Vegas as a youth it made me feel like I had a role to fulfill in

educating the youth back at home. Although I didn’t know what the full definition of “food sovereignty” meant

until my first semester in college. By attending various camps, it has helped equipped me with the knowledge I

can apply back at home. In the future I see myself becoming ever more knowledgeable in Indian AG.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

In my free time I am either examining the anatomy of a horse or watching surgery videos performed on dogs.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IAC Executive Board?

I would like to say thank you for this amazing opportunity for letting me sit as a representative on the board. It

is an honor to work with such an amazing organization that has not only brought together people, but give

opportunities to such talented natives.

The 2017 Native Food Soveriegnty Alliance included two Cheyenne River members, Cindy Farlee and Sha’Teal Pearman. The board members consist of Mariah Gladstone, Megan Forcia, Karli Moore, Zachary Ilbery, Farlee, Masewa Mody, Pearman, Brennon Jones, Shelbi Fitzpatrick, Azelya Yazzie, and not pictured, Angela Heay and Chance Crutcher. Photo submitted by Donita Fischer