Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Native Gardens Project

Background information from CDC: The title of this project is “Native Gardens Project: An Indigenous Permaculture Approach to the Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes.” The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is reclaiming cultural knowledge and traditions to promote health and prevent type 2 diabetes across eight districts in North and South Dakota. Strong partnerships with the Standing Rock Nutrition for the Elderly Program, United States Department of Agriculture, Senior Farmer’s Market Program, Sioux County Extension Service, Boys and Girls Clubs, and National Relief Charities have yielded early results, aligning with a number of CDC’s recommended strategies for communities striving to promote health and prevent obesity. The partners increased availability and access to fresh local foods in their first year. Three farmers’ markets and four roadside stands were established and over 60% of local foods vouchers distributed to elders have been redeemed, totaling over $17,000 in fresh foods and encouragement for local farmers. In 2011, there was a 11 percent increase in the number of vouchers exchanged for produce through the Nutrition for the Elderly USDA program. 71 percent of vouchers were redeemed.

The Lakota Foodway by Kibbe Conti.

An interview with Mr. Aubrey Skye & Ms. Aiko Allen

What’s your favorite thing about being involved in your traditional foods project?

I like planting seeds- planting for the future, watching them grow, and having a vision for the future. Cultivating and having the seeds grow into something that you can eat and use to sustain yourself. The project involves me in traditional agriculture and perpetuating this system for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Bringing about positive change in the community in regards to good health and wellness.

What traditional foods and physical activities do you have going on this summer?

We tilled more than 100 gardens and distributed seeds this spring. The gardens involve people in physical activities – weeding, watering, etc.  Traditional foods that were planted include corn, hubbard squash, beans, tomatoes, and chile peppers.

Which local traditional foods did you choose to cultivate, hunt, gather or plant for your program?

Field-dressing a buffalo. Photo and caption by Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country Today.

We provided gathering trips with youth from the Boys and Girls Club, McLaughlin, North Dakota. I identify areas where wild gathered fruits are available.  The youth (ages 16-21) hike with me and usually a few elders from the Nutrition for The Elderly/Native Gardens Project Advisory Board.  During the trips, the elders share stories about gathering these foods and other topics of interest related to Lakota culture and traditions.

We didn’t have a lot of chokecherries and wild plums this year because there was a series of late frosts this spring which wiped out these fruits. Each year, timpshila (wild prairie turnips) are gathered.

We have food demonstrations on traditional preparation of these fruits (such as making chokecherry patties). To preserve the harvest, canning demonstrations are provided to community members interested in learning how to make jams and jellies.

Fruits are sold at the Farmers’ Market at Fort Yates.


In the fall, we will go on some hunts for deer  and prairie chickens.  Deer is shared with elders after they dressed and packaged.

Last year, we had a buffalo harvest with Tribal Game and Fish.  We hope to have another buffalo harvest this fall.

We work with knowledgeable elders who help prepare traditional meals with foods that are hunted, gathered, and cultivated.  Meals are prepared at the tribal Diabetes Program.

Four Winds Nutrition Guide by Kibbe Conti.

How has this project impacted your community?

The project has gotten more people involved in gardening.  It makes locally grown foods more available.

People have been involved in gardening for many years before I got here but we didn’t have a farmer’s market. The entire reservation (North and South Dakota) resides within a nationally recognized food desert.  Because of the Native Gardens Project, within a hundred mile radius, fresh and locally grown foods, including traditional foods, are now available through vendors at the farmer’s market in Fort Yates.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food voucher program for elders (through the Nutrition for the Elderly Program) encourages elders to buy traditional foods and locally grown foods.  Elders are provided $50.00 vouchers to exchange for produce.  See attached summary report.

Additional Outcomes

Gardens:  128 gardens were tilled across all 8 districts constituting 102,400 square feet of garden space devoted to gardening. Three community gardens were developed:  Senior Center, Sioux County Extension Service 4-Helping Hands garden, and Long Soldier Community garden that constituted 410 square feet of space. Square footage of garden space was adopted as a measure of combined grantee efforts (17 projects). The gardens provide a hands-on approach to learning gardening skills and encouraging production of traditional foods.

Participation of Elders Advisory Board:  The Board met 12 times.  Approximately 16 elected board representatives and their alternatives attended these meetings where information is shared about the project as well as traditional foods and physical activity.  Total involved (average of 120 participants). Advisory board members are tasked with updates to their Tribal Council Districts about the project and its availability as a community resource and program.

Promotion and Awareness:  Promotion of the Project more than doubled from 129 media events last year to 330 media events this year with a potential audience reach of 12,588,600 readers, viewers, and listeners.  Media events included interviews and PSAs on the radio for the Farmers’ Market and garden tilling; articles and announcements in the local newspaper; community flyers; three articles in Indian Country Today and a Huffington Post article that featured the Native Gardens Project, and a South Dakota Public Broadcasting segment from “Dakota Life” aired January 2011.  This indicator demonstrates the message saturation potential throughout the year.  Much of the media saturation is due to airing PSAs on KLND twice a day.

Aubrey Skye, Healthy Native Gardens project director, hunting pheasant. Photo and caption by Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country Today.

What are your plans to sustain this project?

Based on project outcomes, continue to seek new funding resources at federal and private foundation level through collaborative partnerships that have been established over the course of the Native Gardens Project.   Partnerships were established with Nutrition for the Elderly Program, the Diabetes Program, and Game and Fish.  Each of these partners may have opportunities to apply for grants and could offer a stronger application through collaboration and leveraging of existing resources.  Partners are invested and engaged in sustaining the project beyond its current funding.

Apply for Joint Tribal Advisory Committee (JTAC) funds that have a focus on cultural preservation projects.  Continue to serve, personally, as a community resource for traditional foods knowledge, skills and practice.

In the media

Standing Rock Sioux Harvest Gardens and Buffalo to Fight Diabetes, Restore Health” – By Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country Today, November 29, 2011

Native Gardens Project” – By Jackelyn Severin, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, June 11, 2012

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Special thanks to the Native Garden Project staff,  particularly  Mr. Aubrey Skye and Ms. Aiko Allen,  for sharing their time and stories. For more information on the Native Garden Project, contact Aubrey Skye ‎at or Aiko Allen at

One response to “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

  1. Hello, I work with National Relief Charities. Thanks so much for mentioning us in the terrific list of collaborative programs that are supporting Standing Rock’s Native Gardens project and return to traditional foods. It’s an important initiative and great to note the continuing progress. I wanted to mention that we have a related story on the National Relief Charities blog about the gardens project and our Program Partner, Aubrey Skye. You can view the post at Hope to see you there!!

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