American Heart Association and Shakopee tribe join forces for Native American health

Unprecedented roundtable gathering of funders will address the nutritional health crisis in Indian Country

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) will convene a groundbreaking gathering of national philanthropic organizations in Minneapolis on October 14-15. The event will focus on the crisis in Native American nutritional health and food access and the interconnections these issues have with tribal economies and health disparities. Representatives of 40 national, regional, Minnesota and tribal funders and philanthropic organizations will discuss the possibilities for greater involvement by and coordination among funders to solve these problems.

This roundtable follows the launch in March of Seeds of Native Health, the Minnesota tribe’s initiative to improve Native American nutrition, and the recent release of Feeding Ourselves, a comprehensive report commissioned by the AHA that examines the barriers to food access and their link to health disparities in Indian Country.

“Native Americans are experiencing extreme health disparities. Native people are twice as likely as the rest of the U.S. population to experience nutrition-related health problems,” said SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig. “This discussion around nutrition and dietary problems is unprecedented and desperately needed.”

At the convening, funders will discuss the Native American nutrition crisis, Native food and agriculture, tribal economies, health and opportunities to make critical, high-value investments in research, capacity-building, education, policy changes, market-based solutions, and community-driven strategies.

“We know heart health is shaped by what you eat, and without sufficient access to nutritious foods, Indian Country is facing a public health crisis,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “In partnership with the SMSC, we want to bring together top experts and philanthropists to develop permanent solutions to the serious problems in Native American nutrition.”

At the event, SMSC and AHA leaders will lead discussions with senior officials from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Indian Health Service, as well as representatives from major national foundations including the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Bush Foundation, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the Northwest Area Foundation.

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. 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. The Seeds of Native Health campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans was launched in March 2015 with a $5 million contribution from the SMSC.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.