WHATCOM, Wash. – As part of a growing effort to deliver higher education and community outreach services to Pacific Northwest tribes, the Nisqually Indian Tribe recently approved and presented Northwest Indian College a $75,500 grant to support and bolster training and education services for the promotion and maintenance of the cultural integrity of Native tribes.
The funds will be used for ongoing program activities for the college’s Traditional Plants and Foods Program. The program – developed, facilitated and offered through the college’s Cooperative Extension department – provides a long-term, multi-step, culturally-relevant, holistic approach to improve individual, family and community wellness for Native Americans through participatory-based empowerment and collaborative teaching approaches.
The program emphasizes lifestyle changes based on cultivating and harvesting traditional plants and foods and returning to more customary, healthy diets. Now in its fifth year, the program has proven effective in improving health conditions by reintroducing Washington state tribes to the Coast Salish diet. More than 2,500 youth and elders are served by the program annually, instilling traditional health-consciousness in participants by engaging them in activities including training sessions, community workshops, mentoring, food gathering, support for treatment center residents and community-based participatory research.
Nisqually’s generous 2010-11 grant will support continuation and further development of the Traditional Plants and Foods’ proven program activities: Bi-monthly, hands-on workshops on the benefits of using traditional plants and foods; day-long healthy food behaviors’ workshops conducted every other month; culturally-relevant wellness activities based on traditional foods; mentoring programs and workshops to increase the number of community educators; spring and fall traditional food and harvest festivals; the development of curriculum sharing the findings of the department’s 2009 research; the conduct of community-based participatory research activities on access to traditional foods and healthy food behaviors at Lummi; continued work with the Northwest Indian Treatment Center, a 45-day residential recovery program in Elma, Wash.; and development of a Traditional Plants and Foods Program website for participants and community health educators.
The NWIC Cooperative Extension department prefers local knowledge over outside expertise, building on traditional values and practices, and maintaining a strengths-based orientation to program development and organizational learning within the context of tribal communities. Using qualitative methods, such as storytelling, metaphor and community meetings as a way of gathering and sharing information, the department is able to teach through unique methods. These approaches offer an opportunity for reflection, an often overlooked aspect of effective program implementation in Native communities.
A federally recognized American Indian tribe, the Nisqually Indian Tribe is located in Thurston and Pierce counties, near Olympia, Wash. The Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Nisqually Charitable Fund grant uses a maximum of one to two percent of the tribe’s net gaming revenue to support charitable and local government organizations in the community. The funds are distributed to select qualifying organizations, either 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, or those organized to provide religious, charitable, public safety, literary, educational or community-service activities to local community groups. For more information call (360) 456-5221, ext. 1105.