Skip to Content

Bold Ideas Planted at #FertileGround Advocacy Convening


Advocates for Native health gathered this week in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Fertile Ground II: Growing the Seeds of Native American Health. The two-day event agenda included inspiring Native American leaders from several tribes as well as public health advocates committed to finding solutions to the nutrition crisis in Indian Country.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) co-convened the event with support from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, MAZON and the University of Arkansas School of Law. Here are some of the key highlights of the event and we will provide an in-depth report in the coming weeks.

In his opening remarks, SMSC Chairman Vig shared with the audience the underlying crisis at hand, “We have important work to do. The future well-being of Native people and tribal nations is at stake.”

This sense of urgency and hope for the future carried through the working groups as they dug in deep on issues ranging from the lack of food sovereignty to ‘diabesity’ to poverty –all too common public health trends in Native American communities.

Each working group was tasked with developing bold ideas for what the future could hold in response to the question "What does successful improvement in Native health policy look like in 5 years?” In all, participants developed 35 bold ideas, 21 capacity-building needs to get there and 7 next steps for action. Youth advocates came forward with a particularly inspiring presentation of the path forward to health, leading to standing ovation from the audience.

In their own bold next step, the SMSC and AHA announced plans for a Policy Innovation Fund with starting financial commitments already in place. The fund will be a specific investment in advocacy, implementation and evaluation of food policy for Native nutrition. This commitment from both organizations is expected to spur additional funding support and move the needle on bold ideas developed at the convening.

Inspiring quotes from speakers as seen on the Twitter feed are included below, and for a peek into more of the amazing discussions, read the posts online with #FertileGround – you will find profound statements and inspiring stories!

“We all have civic responsibility to help build healthy communities.” – Denisa Livingston, Navajo Nation

“We must reclaim food in a way to dramatically change the health and well-being of our community.” – Wilson Pipestem, Otoe-Missouria Tribe

"We are deeply committed to working with you so we can achieve groundbreaking improvement in Native health." - Lori Watso, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

“Policy has a role in this web, a foundational role we cannot ignore.” –Janie Hipp, Chickasaw Nation

On a lighter note, the event included a wonderful cooking demonstration by The Sioux Chef that included a tasty and healthy traditional menu of celery root soup, bison filet and sunflower seed cake. On a related note, the American Indian Cancer Foundation noted that they no longer serve fry bread at their healthy pow wows, a step forward in moving back to traditional healthy foods.