University of Minnesota Extension works in Indian Country through mutually beneficial community-University partnerships. These partnerships aim to improve American Indian communities' access to and representation in the University and to develop, in partnership with American Indian communities, culturally appropriate programs using innovative approaches to achieve mutual goals.
Current work with tribal nations
Extension faculty and staff provide educational programming in several topic areas and in many tribal nation communities.
Extension educators train professionals on content and teaching of personal finance and they in turn teach their clientele, in this case American Indians. This program is offered in the Fond du Lac, Red Lake and Leech Lake nations.
- A federally recognized Tribal Extension Program focuses on improving traditional ecological knowledge of Anishinaabe food and food systems.
- Cooking Matters are hands-on, cooking based nutrition education classes for audiences living on a limited budget. The classes are offered to people in the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and White Earth nations as well as at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
- SNAP-Ed programs provide group nutrition education as well as working on strategies to improve access to nutritious food and physical activity. Programming is offered in Minneapolis as well as to people in the White Earth and Fond du Lac nations.
- Food systems work in White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake involves hosting and attending workshops and gatherings as well as organizing community garden projects.
- Dream of Wild Health, an Extension partner, aims to recover cultural practices and knowledge, to reclaim traditional knowledge of foods, gardening and indigenous culture, to cultivate healthy eating patterns, to recover traditional relationships between land, plants and people.
- Extension, through its partnership with the University of Minnesota's Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Initiative, participates in the annual Seeds of Native Health nutrition conference.
- A two-decade partnership with the White Earth Tribal College for hands-on science, technology and math education includes an annual three-week program in June; a science fair in December; Snow-Snake Festival in March; after-school programming and berry camps in July. Find out how or contact White Earth 4-H Program Coordinator Dana Trickey
- 4-H programming on the Fond du Lac reservation has included mentoring and citizenship experiences for young people.
- On the White Earth reservation, 4-H provides cultural and leadership experiences including theater showcases, a winter camping event and Ojibwe Youth Leadership. All programs include community elders as guides and take place outside of school hours.
- More than 100 students in grades 4-8 take part in an annual science fair involving young people from the White Earth, Leech Lake and Red Lake nations.
- The Suntanka 4-H project club near the Lower Sioux community focuses on Dakota language and heritage as well as horses. It's led by screened 4-H volunteers from the tribal community.
U of M Extension’s Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program focuses on securing traditional Ojibwe food systems by building and strengthening capacity of diverse networks of community members, Tribal and natural resource professionals.
Extension educator Shirley Nordrum works with Ojibwe communities to preserve and share traditional ways of understanding nature and ecological systems. The following articles combine historical perspectives with practical information for people in Native lands.
Water and land stewardship
- Stewardship guide for Leech Lake lands
- Nibi: our water our life
- We are related: a relationship with water
- Helping solve wastewater challenges in Indian country
- Non-timber forest products and sustainability video
The Extension Center for Community Vitality helps tribal communities choose their future, with consultations and programs focused on strengthening leadership and civic engagement, community economics and tourism development. With partial funding from the Economic Development Administration, Extension educators are listening to tribal leaders and community members, and are working to bring new support to assist their local leadership and economic development planning.
Leadership and civic engagement
Extension educators Dawn Newman, Jason Schlender and Fawn Sampson serve American Indian Nations across Minnesota, Urban Indians and those not affiliated with a Minnesota band. These educators form Extension’s Minnesota Indigenous Leadership Network.
They and other leadership and civic engagement educators are working with non-native people to end racism and build diversity, equity and inclusion with organizations and community.
We are partnering with some tribal leaders as they consider the economic impact of business development options. And as Red Lake and White Earth seek to scale up food sovereignty efforts, Ryan Pesch advises them in local foods production and marketing.
The Tourism Center provides educational resources and ideas to support tribes’ tourism development efforts. A representative from the Mille Lacs Band serves on the Tourism Center Advisory Committee.