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NIFA Invests Nearly $7M for Tribal College Research and New Beginning for Tribal Students

Navajo student sits with laptop. Photo by Getty Images.

NIFA's investment supports innovative research projects at Tribal-serving Colleges and Universities to address specific needs of Tribal communities. Photo by Getty Images.

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 10, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced today an investment of nearly $7 million for projects at Tribal Colleges and Institutions that support Tribal students and their communities.

The Tribal College Research Grant Program helps colleges in the 1994 Land-grant University System become centers of scientific inquiry and learning for remote and rural reservation communities.

“This funding supports crucial, innovative research projects at Tribal-serving Colleges and Universities to address the specific needs of their communities,” said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “The research projects focus on high-priority areas such as protecting reservation forests or monitoring water quality to promote sustainability and climate-smart agriculture and forestry on Tribal lands. Other projects aim to ensure food and nutrition security and support healthy Tribal populations through improving bison herd productivity, uncovering the ways traditional plants can impact diabetes, or controlling invasive species.”

Examples of the 10 funded awards for Tribal College Research Grant Program, totaling $4,298,438, include:

  • College of Menominee Nation (Wisconsin)’s project is a collaborative effort with University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Menominee Tribe's Historic Preservation Office to reclaim Menominee culture, food sovereignty, and community wellbeing by using and teaching agricultural techniques of their ancestors. ($500,000)
  • The prevalence of diabetes is increasing every year across the country and is twice as high in the Native American population. Potatoes contain flavonols that have anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects. Fort Peck Community College (Montana) will conduct laboratory studies to test low glycemic potatoes to determine if these plants can lower the effects of diabetes and obesity.  ($493,094)  
  • Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (Michigan) will build on its partnership with Michigan State University's Institute of Water Research to address potential human health risks from drinking water in Baraga County, Michigan, home of the L'Anse Indian Reservation. The project will expand efforts to include uranium and manganese testing in addition to arsenic. ($500,000)

“NIFA’s New Beginning for Tribal Students provides competitive grants to Land-grant Colleges and Universities specifically to support Tribal students,” Castille said. “Funding in this program may include recruiting, tuition, experiential learning, student services, tutoring, counseling, academic advising, and more, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.”
Examples of the 13 funded awards for New Beginning for Tribal Students, totaling $3,416,862, include:

  • Kansas State University’s project aims to elevate the goals of Native American students and provide them with equitable access to higher education. Project leaders will work with the Indigenous Faculty and Staff Alliance, Kansas Association for Native American Education, Haskell Indian Nations University, and the Kickapoo Nation School to use research on food sovereignty and community gardens to provide role models for Native youth and help them prepare for college. ($176,425)
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s Student Retention Through Experiential Learning and Culturally Competent Mentoring Program aims to increase the number of Indigenous students graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech with an engaging and comprehensive retention program for the increasing number of enrolled Tribal students. ($200,000)
  • There is a great need to increase the number of Native Americans in the nursing profession. Native American individuals have experienced greater health problems than any other group in the United States.  South Dakota State University will increase the number of Native American nurses, increase awareness of health issues, and build a more diverse nursing workforce, joining with "Future of Nursing 2020-2030 Campaign for Action: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity," that focuses on improving the well-being of Native communities. ($250,000)

As we celebrate National Native American Heritage month throughout November, NIFA is proud to continue strengthening its agricultural investments in support of Native American communities. Visit NIFA’s Tribal Programs site to learn about our investments and funding opportunities.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2020, NIFA’s total investment was $1.95 billion.
Visit our website:; Twitter: @USDA_NIFA; LinkedIn: USDA-NIFA. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science (searchable by state or keyword), visit


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