By Alan Sorensen
ROCKY BOY The Chippewa Cree Tribe was well represented at a 3-day outreach symposium promoting working relationships between tribes and U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a recent NRCS news release. Representatives from the state's seven reservations and members of the Montana/ Wyoming Indian Stockgrowers Association also brought up concerns they have about participation in USDA programs and services.
The symposium, held in Bozeman, was sponsored by State Food and Agricultural Council (SFAC), the tribes and the stockgrowers association. Three federal agencies under the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Rural Development were represented at the symposium.
Chippewa Cree Tribal leaders Alvin Windy Boy and Kelly Eagleman were among those who voiced their opinions about how to increase tribal participation in USDA programs. They helped USDA officials understand the difficulties they have in working with diverse cultural groups. They offered their insight and information relating to tribal cultures, history and land ownership.
Robert "Sonny" Belcourt of the Chippewa Cree Department of Natural Resources participated in the outreach symposium as a member of the intertribal planning committee. The purpose of the symposium was to provide a collaborative effort between the SFAC Outreach Council and the tribes.
"The USDA agencies in field service offices located on all seven reservations have worked aggressively to establish a strong partnership with Montana Tribes over the past decade" said Bruce Nelson, FSA state executive director and current chair of the SFAC Outreach Council. "Our recent Outreach Symposium was an important milestone in this ongoing effort to provide USDA programs and services to tribal governments and agricultural producers."
The Outreach Council was established by the state FAC to identify outreach needs of different customer groups, especially under-served groups including women and minorities, and ways to address their needs.
Chippewa Cree Tribal member Shawn Big Knife is an NRCS district conservationist at Rocky Boy. Tony Belcourt, also of Rocky Boy, sits on the Hill County FSA committee.
Gene Helgeson and Peggy Doney of Fort Belknap attended the symposium, too.