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

Roundtable gathering of funders will address the need for a national strategy to solve complex nutrition crisis

Today the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) announced their collaboration to accelerate the development of a national framework to improve Native American nutrition. This announcement 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 a new report detailing the grave dietary crisis facing many Native American communities.

The AHA and the SMSC will convene an unprecedented gathering of national philanthropic organizations on October 14-15 in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, entitled “Fertile Ground: Planting the Seeds for Native American Nutrition and Health.” Funders are being invited to discuss the Native American nutrition crisis and opportunities to make critical investments in research, capacity-building, education, policy changes, market-based solutions, and community-driven strategies.

“Our goal through the Seeds of Native Health campaign is to bring together top experts and philanthropists to develop permanent solutions to the serious problems in Native American nutrition,” said SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig. “The American Heart Association’s experience in advocating for public health will be integral to accomplishing our shared goal of long-term improvements in Native nutrition.”

Through Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, communities across the country are mobilizing to increase access to healthy foods and safe places to be active. The two organizations recently commissioned Feeding Ourselves, a comprehensive report that examines the barriers to food access and their link to health disparities in Indian Country. The report found that Native Americans are twice as likely as the rest of the U.S. population to experience nutrition-related health problems.

“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. “The Shakopee tribal leaders are strategically investing in the health of Native Americans through the Seeds of Native Health campaign. We are honored to join the SMSC and extend our support to plant more seeds of health – increasing awareness and energizing organizations across the country to invest in reducing health disparities of Native Americans.”

The American Heart Association joins the First Nations Development Institute, the Notah Begay III Foundation, and the University of Minnesota in supporting the SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health campaign.

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.