Submitted to: CSA News
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/17/2022
Publication Date: 10/13/2022
Citation: Ashworth, A.J. 2022. Doing research on U.S. Tribal Lands: Strengthening nation-to-nation collaborations. CSA News. Article 20888. 1-2. https://doi.org/10.1002/csan.20888.
Technical Abstract: A unique set of obstacles face Native American agricultural producers. The first being infrastructure. Tribal Nations do not have the tax base for building necessary infrastructure to harness the potential of their food systems. Secondly, tribal lands have an intermixed land ownership and designation status, which as you can imagine, can create resource management and production challenges. Tribal communities have also long been excluded from government programs including conservation programming and Farm Bill funding, but this has increasingly improved since the 1990s, as Congress began recognizing the unique legal status of tribes which is reflected in the 2018 Farm Bill having a historic number of references to Tribes in the law (Johnson et al., 2018). Climate change is also greatly impacting Tribal farmers, particularly those in the Southwestern U.S. - as they are experiencing extreme and persistent drought which is exacerbating poverty and food insecurity (Fuentes et al., 2021). This is illustrated by an overall 37% poverty rate for Tribal families, compared to 15% nationally. On the Navajo Reservation alone, about 40% of homes have no electricity and about one-third of people lack running water (compared with 1% of U.S. households; Ferguson et al., 2011). And during the pandemic, Native Americans were roughly twice as likely to die from COVID-19, and all of this has led to increased health, food, and resource scarcity on U.S. Tribal lands. These challenges, however, offer tremendous opportunities for researchers to collaborate with Tribal producers, Tribal Colleges, and First Nation students to improve agricultural resiliency and close yield gaps on Tribal Lands. Here are a few items to keep in mind before initiating collaborations with Tribal Nations: 1) Tribal Nations are Autonomous Nations; 2) Tribal Governments Own Their Data; and, Tribal Lands Have Religious and Spiritual Significance. As we reflect on Native American Heritage Month, there are many collaborative opportunities and research needs on U.S. Tribal Nations that can be filled by Tri-Society members. However, mutually beneficial research, conditions and use of data, privacy issues, and government approvals should be taken into consideration.