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This week, USDA is hosting a series of consultations, listening sessions with tribal leaders

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is hosting a series of annual Nation-to-Nation consultations and listening sessions on barriers tribes face to food supplies and public lands, and hearing from representatives of the 574 federally-recognized tribes about how the agency can better support Indian Country.

These formal consultations with tribal leaders will focus on a lot of topics, including, economic development, trade, food safety, farming, ranching, conservation as well as forests and public land management.

“We have this amazing, ongoing expanding relationship with tribes relative to management of the forest,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in co-stewardship opportunities.”

Vilsack shared these dialogues between Monday and Friday are incredibly important steps toward advancing tribal food sovereignty, which wasn’t always valued by the federal government.

“We can be respectful of the Nation-to-Nation status,” added Vilsack. “We can be respectful of tribes’ desires to be more self-determined in the area of their food and the food programs.”

Gabriel Pietrorazio is a correspondent who reports on tribal natural resources for KJZZ.