USDA Welcomes 2023 Tribal College Fellows to Washington, D.C.

USDA Headquarters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is welcoming five faculty and staff from tribal colleges and universities and one state land-grant university to learn about USDA research opportunities, programs, and services through the Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Fellowship (The Tribal Fellowship). The program is part of USDA’s commitment to remove barriers to service for tribal nations and encourage tribal economic development opportunities, workforce development, and tribal and national food security. The Tribal Fellowship Program is administered by USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.

“Tribal colleges are anchors in their communities, and these fellowships enhance the collaborations between tribal nations and USDA,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Every day, USDA is striving to better serve tribal governments, citizens, and organizations and honor our nation’s trust and treaty responsibility.”

From June 12-16, USDA headquarters is hosting four tribal college faculty and one extension staff member to introduce them to USDA services and programs that will help them and their students. The fellows will participate in intensive cross training with USDA program leaders across the department to identify areas for collaboration. At a later date, select fellows will spend a week at a USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research facility to collaborate on research between the tribal colleges and USDA. On their return home, the fellows can share their insights and experiences with students and colleagues in their communities. The program aims to strengthen tribal college research capacity, introduce faculty to USDA programs and resources, and engage more tribal college students in agriculture-related career paths.

Tribal colleges and universities are cultural, educational, and community cornerstones within tribal nations. For reservation communities, they provide education, career, and technical training; they support research and extension to improve local agriculture, and they uphold Native languages and cultural traditions. USDA supports tribal colleges and universities through scholarships, internships, fellowships, and support for research, classroom education, and extension (sharing knowledge, training, and informal education with agricultural professionals and local communities). There are 36 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities designated as land-grant institutions through the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994.

The 2023 Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Fellows are:

  • Kristy Kinlicheenie, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
  • Melanie Kirby, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM
  • Teresa Quintana, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM
  • Abhishek RoyChowdhury, Navajo Technical University, Crownpoint, NM
  • Sudha Shanmugam, Little Priest Tribal College, Winnebago, NE

USDA is including Indigenous perspectives in agricultural research and education and recognizes the importance of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK). In addition to the Tribal College Fellows program, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is partnering with Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish (NHS) College in North Dakota on a research program to integrate Western and Indigenous knowledge in propagating Indigenous plants important to tribes in the region. USDA is also collaborating with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) to fund an Indigenous knowledge research track at their annual youth conference.