The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long standing
challenges to the economic and public health of
tribal communities. In 2020, infection rates among
tribal citizens were 3.5 times greater than among
non-Hispanic Whites. Associated market disruptions
for local and regional food markets resulted in a
significant negative impact on producers and their
communities. Bottlenecks in livestock and seafood
processing presented significant challenges to
producers, and closure of farmers markets and other
market channels caused negative cascading impacts
across indigenous operations.
Tribal nations collaborate through coordinating
entities, such as the Indigenous Food and
Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) to develop policy-based
innovations while supporting new programming and
sharing best practices. Important areas of work
during COVID-19 include targeted efforts to expand
livestock processing facilities, coordinating the
development of model food and agriculture codes for
tribal nations, and reconfiguring food aid and
distribution programs for elders and children.
Despite generations of dispossession and structural
inequalities enacted by European settlers and the US
Government, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN)
food producers epitomize the resilience critical to
both cultural and economic vitality for tribal nations.
By centering tribal food sovereignty in policy and
program development, indigenous agricultural
initiatives work to support reinvestment of economic
and cultural wealth in the tribal nation.