Shakopee tribe and American Heart Association launch new health initiative with American Indian Cancer Foundation

Fertile Ground Grant Program will promote planning of health and nutrition policy work benefiting Native American communities

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) today announced the creation of a $200,000 grant program to support innovative nutrition-based, health-focused advocacy efforts in Native American communities. The American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF) will serve as the intermediary partner for the new Fertile Ground Grant Program, administering the program and providing technical assistance to grant recipients.

The competitive grant program funds tribes, Native advocates, Native youth, and Native-led organizations to create sustainable community health improvements through nutrition and food sovereignty efforts. The grants of up to $35,000 provide support for Native-led convenings to identify community health priorities; advocacy and policy strategies that address improving health outcomes; access to healthy food; and food sovereignty work rooted in tradition, culture and Indigenous knowledge.

“Our work on prevention of disease among Native people has underscored this basic truth: good health is highly dependent on healthy eating,” said Kris Rhodes, chief executive officer of AICAF. “With the SMSC and the American Heart Association’s help, we are excited about the possibilities for this grant program to stimulate new community-driven solutions.”

The SMSC is providing $100,000 from its Seeds of Native Health philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition. AHA is contributing $100,000 from its Voices for Healthy Kids campaign, a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The grant program represents a continuation of the AHA-SMSC collaboration to address the dietary health crisis in Indian Country. The two entities organized the groundbreaking Fertile Ground conference series, bringing together national funders to discuss Native food access and nutrition in 2015, and Native leaders and activists to share ideas on policy change for improved health and nutrition in 2016.

“The nutrition crisis is acute in many Native communities,” said SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig. “Through our Fertile Ground conference series, we heard that Native communities need more resources to work together to improve Native health through policy change. This grant program was inspired by these conversations and seeks to address this need in our community. Working alongside the American Heart Association, we are excited to grow our commitment and support Native leaders to help solve this crisis.”

“The key to unlocking the overall health and well-being in America is an equity-first agenda. Equity requires us to provide greater investment where there has been disinvestment and bring more voices to the table around food sovereignty and nutrition. We expect results of this program to include healthier foods in local stores and across tribal communities,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “The Fertile Ground Grant Program deepens the strong relationship between Shakopee and the American Heart Association to improve the quality of life of Native people.”

Applications for grants are due December 19, 2017. More information on the Fertile Ground Grant Program and application process is available on the AICAF website.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Native American tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to Native American tribes and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County. More information is available at

About Seeds of Native Health
Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. Launched in 2015, the $10 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Better Way Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota. More information is available at

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. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Voices for Healthy Kids
Voices for Healthy Kids is a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association making each day healthier for all children. The collaboration is working with communities across the nation to ensure that children have access to healthy food and physical activity where they live, learn and play. For more information, visit

About the American Indian Cancer Foundation
The American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF) is a national, Native-governed, 501(c)3 nonprofit health organization dedicated to improving access to prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivor support to eliminate the cancer burdens experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native people. AICAF partners with tribal and urban organizations to co-create effective and sustainable cancer solutions that are culturally appropriate. AICAF believes Native communities possess the wisdom to find innovative solutions that are community-centered to address cancer inequities. AICAF provides capacity building through training, technical assistance, and resources to tribal and urban partners to achieve these shared objectives.