Shakopee Mdewakanton and national partners launch $5 million campaign to improve Native American nutrition

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and three nationally significant partners today announced Seeds of Native Health, a major philanthropic campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans across the country. The SMSC is committing $5 million to launch the campaign and plans to recruit other funding and strategic partners.

“Nutrition is very poor among many of our fellow Native Americans, which leads to major health problems,” said SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig. “Our Community has a tradition of helping other tribes and Native American people. The SMSC is committed to making a major contribution and bringing others together to help develop permanent solutions to this serious problem.”

Generations of extreme poverty and the loss of traditional foods have resulted in poor and inadequate diets for many Native Americans, leading to increased obesity, diabetes, and other profound health problems. “Many tribes, nonprofits, public health experts, researchers, and advocates have already been working on solutions,” said SMSC Vice-Chairman Keith Anderson. “We hope this campaign will bring more attention to their work, build on it, bring more resources to the table, and ultimately put Indian Country on the path to develop a comprehensive strategy, which does not exist today.”

The Seeds of Native Health campaign will include efforts to improve awareness of Native nutrition problems, promote the wider application of proven best practices, and encourage additional work related to food access, education and research.

“Native health problems have many causes, but we know that many of these problems can be traced to poor nutrition,” said SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Lori Watso, who has spent much of her career in community public health. She provided the original idea for the SMSC’s nutrition campaign.

“Traditional Native foods have a much higher nutritional value than what is most easily accessible today,” Watso continued. “By promoting best practices, evidence-based methods, and the re-introduction of healthy cultural practices, we believe that tribal governments, nonprofits, and grassroots practitioners can collectively make lasting strides towards a better future.”

Having donated more than $325 million since opening its Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s, as well as providing more than $500 million in economic development loans to other tribes, the SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian Country nationally and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota.

Seeds of Native Health partners

The SMSC has enlisted three nationally significant strategic partners in the campaign: First Nations Development Institute, headquartered in Colorado; the Notah Begay III Foundation, based in New Mexico; and the University of Minnesota.

First Nations Development Institute has longstanding expertise in efforts to eliminate food insecurity, build the health of communities, and support entrepreneurship and economic development. It is receiving $1.4 million from the SMSC for re-granting to projects relating to food access, food sovereignty, and capacity building.

“First Nations has spent 35 years working to build healthy economies in Indian Country, and we are thrilled for the opportunity to be a strategic partner in an initiative that will coordinate so many of the crucial efforts happening today,” said Michael Roberts, president of the First Nations Development Institute.

The Notah Begay III Foundation is dedicated to promoting wellness among Indian children. It is receiving $1.1 million from the SMSC for re-granting to projects relating to childhood nutrition.

“The problems facing many young Native Americans are great, but none is more fundamental than health problems which have their root cause in poor nutrition,” said Notah Begay III, creator of his namesake foundation. “This philanthropic effort led by the SMSC will be a game-changer.”

Chairman Vig said that selecting the University of Minnesota as a strategic partner in this initiative was natural. “The University is a world-class research and teaching institution in the fields of agriculture, food science, nutrition, and public health. We are fortunate to have a strategic partner in our own backyard.”

The University’s campaign role will include serving as the convening partner for a new series of annual conferences on Native American nutrition, developing appropriate cultural interfaces between academic research and its application by Native communities, and creating a repository of best practices and national expertise.

“The University of Minnesota and the SMSC have a remarkable partnership, which includes, among others the tribe’s support of scholarships of our Native American students and support for our athletics programs. We are thrilled to lend our expertise and leadership to this crucial campaign,” said University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler.

For more information about Seeds of Native Health, visit www.SeedsOfNativeHealth.org.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. With a focus on being a good neighbor, good steward of the earth, and good employer, the SMSC is committed to charitable donations, community partnerships, a healthy environment, and a strong economy. The SMSC and the SMSC Gaming Enterprise (Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino) are the largest employer in Scott County. Out of a Dakota tradition to help others, the SMSC has donated more than $325 million to organizations and causes since opening the Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s and has contributed millions more to regional governments and infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer systems, and emergency services.

About First Nations Development Institute

For 35 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage, or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities.  First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.

About Notah Begay III Foundation

The NB3 Foundation, founded in 2005, is the only national Native American nonprofit organization solely dedicated to reversing childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native children. Our founder, Notah Begay III (Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta Pueblo) is a four-time PGA TOUR winner and the only full-blooded Native American to play on the PGA Tour. He is currently a TV golf analyst for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel.

To date, NB3 Foundation has served over 24,000 Native children and families in 14 states. In the last three years, NB3 Foundation has awarded more than $1.8 million in grants to tribal communities to support childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes prevention. NB3 Foundation has also invested more than $7 million in direct service programming, including nutrition education, food access pilot projects, community garden and traditional foods projects, evidence-based sport programming, physical activity/sports camps and clinics, technical assistance to tribal communities and nonprofits, and research and evaluation work. For more information, visit www.nb3foundation.org.

About the University of Minnesota

Founded in 1851, the University of Minnesota is ranked among the nation’s top public research universities. As a land-grant institution, the U of M is committed to engaging Minnesota, national and global communities to advance interdisciplinary knowledge; enhance students’ academic, civic, career, social and personal development; and apply intellectual and human capital to serve the public good.