Fertile Ground Leadership Institute

The Fertile Ground Leadership Institute provided free, advanced training for Native Americans working toward health and dietary well-being in their communities and searching for new ways to strengthen their effectiveness through traditional knowledge.

The institute’s intensive, Native-led curriculum centered on skills development for community engagement rooted in traditional Indigenous knowledge. It provided tools for effective, strategic campaign planning and navigating the historic trauma which hinders efforts to fully engage Native communities. The Native Organizers Alliance and the American Indian Cancer Foundation have served as lead trainers.

The Fertile Ground Institute hosted its first cohort of 25 Native leaders in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota, in June 2018. A second cohort was hosted in Seattle, Washington, in August 2018.

Fertile Ground Leadership Institute learning and training topics

  • Indian Country Today and the Path of Our Ancestors –This training explores the current context, and how to discern a path towards health and well-being in Indian Country by revealing the history of organizing. Participants create a timeline to map government policies, responses and initiatives that led to improvements to living conditions.
  • The Power of Community – The training explores concepts of power and how the power of policy shifts rests in the ability of grassroots Native community leaders and activists to build a circle of relationships and activism in the 21st century. Through small group discussions and role playing, participants define power and realize the power which exists in our communities.
  • Strategic Campaign Planning –The session builds on previous discussions by learning about the skills needed to map community assets that can be organized to shift policies and deepen the awareness of decision makers on community needs.
  • Broadening the Circle – Organizing community engagement is a series of conversations around kitchen tables, in supermarket aisles, and at tribal gatherings. Through role playing and guided discussion, participants explore the impact of active listening and on-ramps to involvement, which are cornerstones of community organizing.
  • Organizing as Medicine –Historical trauma is one of the most tangible roadblocks to building unified action by Native communities. Participants learn how to handle the reflections of historical trauma while working in our communities. Community engagement is the medicine that can help the entire community towards healing practices.
  • The Path Ahead – Participants reflect on their own commitment to build capacity for organizing for health and wellness in their own communities, and what kind of support they may need to share the new skills and knowledge learned in the Leadership Institute.