Tribal teams collaborate on food sovereignty, affordable housing and more

The Native Community Development Institute supports and strengthens the capacity of Native communities to reach their community development goals through collaborative, self-styled trainings, peer-to-peer workshops, and customized assistance. 

Hosted by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, the Native Community Development Institute (NCDI) met in May for its second two-day workshop. Similar to the Housing Institute, sponsored by MHP and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, the NCDI is an opportunity to build capacity and foster regional collaboration among Tribal departments from three tribes in Northwest Minnesota. The White Earth, Leech Lake, and Red Lake teams have expressed interest in a wide range of issues, from land use planning to food sovereignty to increasing community engagement.

This second workshop focused on establishing goals, timelines, and assigning tasks for the project that each team has established. Featured guest presentations included:

  • Dr. Richard Todd, a Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and Advisor to the Center for Indian Country Development, who discussed data collection for use in obtaining funding resources
  • Cris Stainbrook, Executive Director of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, who spoke about issues surrounding the development of Tribal land, particularly the use of GIS as a tool to uncover land use obstacles
  • Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s Nate Dorr presented an introduction to the Foundation and its work
  • MHP’s Jeremy Schroeder and Libby Murphy gave a policy update

The Leech Lake Team, based out of north-central Minnesota, described a number of motivations to participate in the NCDI. These ranged from internal community topics, like drug and alcohol abuse, education, and loss of spirituality, to broader organizational issues, like data sovereignty, desire for increased institutional knowledge and vision for the future, and increased capacity in the form of larger shelters and homes.

Initially, the team decided to focus on a data management and data sharing project to improve how the tribal community stores, manages, and shares data within tribal government agencies. With the purchase of data management software and training to go with the software, that project is well underway. The team is now creating a workforce development program to build skills, training, and job opportunities for tribal residents, to prepare for future job markets.

The Red Lake Team, based in northwestern Minnesota, highlighted three key priorities before the NCDI convened:

  • Youth empowerment: Addressing concerns such as suicide and drug/alcohol abuse with cultural teachings and other social programs
  • Foods initiative: Developing local food production and food sovereignty for the Red Lake Nation, addressing access to healthy foods, and decreasing health issues such as obesity and diabetic issues
  • Land use collaboration: Connecting land use and zoning plan with the comprehensive and strategic planning currently happening

The Red Lake Team is pursuing the creation of a land use plan that ties into their strategic plan and departmental activity plans and incorporates physical features including motorized and non-motorized transportation, natural and built environments, infrastructure and energy locations, and culturally significant land uses and sites. The benefit of the plan is that it’s reservation-wide, incorporates the input of all tribal offices and Red Lake citizens, and will guide future growth and development activities.

The White Earth Team, also based out of northwestern Minnesota, hopes to build on the strategic planning initiative that began before the NCDI and focused on assisted living facilities, community business opportunities, and financing of community facilities as their NCDI goals. They emphasized further issues like affordable housing, workforce development, and increased programs for youth as other topics they hope to address in the future.

During the workshop the team articulated the need for supportive housing that would give Tribal members a safe place to live and at the same time receive the services needed to be successful as they move forward with their lives. The team is working on a development that would provide housing and services for families and an additional program that would serve single men. The team laid out a time line, objectives, and duties for each team member.

The next NCDI workshop will be September 20-21.