President Begaye and Council Delegate Hale attend historic meeting with USDA

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WASHINGTON—Along with leaders of nine other Indian tribes, President Russell Begaye and Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oaksprings, St. Michaels) met with the deputy secretary of USDA Krysta Harden, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, the director of the Office of Tribal Relations Leslie Wheelock and other high level USDA officials on Feb. 23. The purpose of the meeting was to update the USDA officials on the issues surrounding the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Most people may recognize this as the commodity foods programs.

During his presentation, President Begaye emphasized the need for USDA to consider traditional foods as part of their package. He also wanted more Navajo farmers and producers to be the suppliers of food to the USDA. President Begaye stated that, "It would help us grow our economy, to help USDA to partner with Tribal nations, like Navajo, where we can package and grow our own food."

President Begaye also emphasized the need for a tribal leader consultation group in order for tribal leaders to have input on USDA issues and their budget. Currently, no such group exists. President Begaye stated, "It would be a legacy from the standpoint of the Indian nations, that the President would leave behind, if you would institutionalize the input of tribal leaders into the federal processes."

With input from Councilman Hale, President Begaye also highlighted the need for more funding for Navajo in order to replace old vehicles, upgrade Navajo's facilities, such as repair and replace equipment, training, and other needs.

Tribal leaders from the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Chickasaw Nation, Crow Creek Sioux, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indian, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Quinalt and the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma were also present at the meeting and each discussed their food distribution issues with the USDA officials.