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September 16, 2011
By Jim Sloan
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension faculty Staci Emm and Loretta Singletary taught their "People of the Land" course focusing on working with American Indians to a variety of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Program Leaders in Washington, D.C., recently.
The program examines the historical, social and economic attributes of Indian reservations within a four-state region of the West. It is designed to increase the capacity of agricultural and natural resource professionals to work as effectively as possible with Indian farmers and ranchers.
The original People of the Land curriculum focused on issues on the 10 largest reservations in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. But Emm, the Extension Educator for Mineral County, and Singletary, the Area Director for Extension's Central/Northeast Area, are expanding their research with the assistance of USDA to include reservations in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
This week's seminar reached some of the national program leaders and specialists who seek to improve outreach programs to American Indians.
"The course was held over two days to give insight into Indian Country, especially when dealing with the impacts of historical federal policy, tribal government, Indian land tenure and water issues," Emm said.
These NIFA leaders expressed interest in People of the Land for some time, but hadn't been able to make it to a one of the courses en masse, Emm said. Thanks to grants from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Emm and Singletary were able to travel back East to teach the course.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to be able to reach program leaders from USDA and teach them about Indian Country," Emm said. "The impacts of this program have reached so many professionals, and this impact was evident when the Senior Advisor/Director of Tribal Relations to the Secretary of Agriculture stopped in the training to meet participants and applaud them for taking time out of their schedule to learn about American Indians."
One of the outcomes of Emm and Singletary's visit to D.C. this week is the request by USDA and NIFA program leaders to feature People of the Land as an online professional development course, making it accessible to over 135,000 USDA employees.