First-ever scientific conference on Native American nutrition calls for alignment of Indigenous knowledge and academic research

Two-day national convening focuses on dietary health crisis in Indian Country

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute last week hosted a milestone event in the growing movement to restore Native American health by reclaiming traditional diets and foodways and increasing access to nutritious food.


The First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition on September 26-27 in Prior Lake, Minnesota, brought together more than 450 Native leaders, academics, and public health workers to collaborate and integrate traditional, Indigenous knowledge and Western, scientific research in order to combat the significant dietary factors contributing to profound Native health disparities.

“As Native people of this land, we are taking charge of our nutritional destiny, and we invite others to join us in this exciting and game-changing work,” said Lori Watso, chair of the SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health campaign, which hosted the conference. “The success of this conference is an example of the good work that results from open minds and thoughtful collaboration.”

The First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition is a project of Seeds of Native Health, a two-year, $5 million campaign to improve Native nutrition across the country. It is one of the three research projects that the SMSC is supporting through Seeds of Native Health.

“As a land-grant university, we have an important role to play in providing the Native community with supportive, useful interdisciplinary research that truly advances Native interests,” said Brian Buhr, dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences.

The sold-out conference featured more than 30 world-renowned Indigenous nutrition experts and included participants from 32 states, five countries, and dozens of tribes. A summary report, videos of the speeches, and other resources will be available on the conference website in the coming weeks. The conference proceedings will be published in 2017.

Because of this inaugural conference’s success and high attendance, planning is already underway for the Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition for fall 2017.

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. Through the campaign, the tribe has brought together top experts and philanthropists in an effort to develop permanent solutions to this serious problem. Seeds of Native Health also includes grant-making, education, and research efforts related to Native nutritional health.

About the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute

The University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute increases and sustains the university’s impact in the interdisciplinary arena of food, agriculture and health by building capacity in research, learning, and community engagement in food safety, prevention of obesity and chronic disease, food policy, and food security.