Yakanal: Putting Our Culture Back Into Agriculture;

funded by First Nations Development Institute


The First Nations Development Institute located in Longmont, Colorado, announced the 10 recipients of the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative in May, 2016. The goal of the First Nations' Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) is to assist targeted, rural and/or reservation-based Native American communities in ensuring adequate food supplies for their communities. The initiative focuses on locally grown, healthy foods, and in developing or expanding a locally controlled and locally based food system to provide healthy foods to community members, supporting native food producers and the local economy.

Mr. Kyle Swimmer, a Laguna Pueblo tribal member from central New Mexico was one of the recipients for the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.  Kyle’s project, Yakanal: Putting Our Culture Back into Agriculture, ran for one year beginning in May, 2016. The effort strengthened and ignited renewed interest in traditional Pueblo farming practices. The project mentored and built capacity in interested youth in growing traditional Pueblo gardens, and helped the local community understand their food consumption, food supplies, and healthy foods through the project’s Food Sovereignty Assessment evaluation. The project youth gathered over 570 surveys and 25 interviews. Laguna Community Foundation was the fiscal sponsor for this project.

“For me, what was really, really, beautiful, was like the emotions and the understanding I gained just from planting seeds…I just never knew where the culture was born out of; I never saw the field as an emerging place where our people’s knowledge comes from. -- Youth Farmer, 2017

The participating youth’s collaborative efforts in this project have opened a portal to creating awareness around the Laguna community regarding the role of food, food access, and importantly, use of land for traditional farming and agricultural practices. The youth shared results of the project with the six villages and Tribal Council of Laguna Pueblo, including the detailed data from the survey and interviews. Their efforts raised a greater awareness around areas of food sovereignty, such as: food consumption, availability of food sources, policies that affect food consumption, including access to communal land and water rights, etc. The project has had its greatest impact in motivating youth to plant their own traditional gardens.