NDSU Extension Service


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Reaching Native American Audiences

The NDSU Extension Service mission is “to create learning partnerships that help adults and youth enhance their lives and communities.” To create learning partnerships, we develop educational environments by collaborating with others. Research-based and local knowledge provides the basis for learning. We help people explore solutions and discover new opportunities. Identifying needs and potential answers is key! Our work benefits both youth and adults. We strive to positively enhance what already exists. We provide opportunities that promote positive change for people in their lives and communities, recognizing that communities can be a group with a common interest or a place.

We also are committed to the creation of an inclusive and multicultural organization that appropriately serves all the people of North Dakota. We want the NDSU Extension Service to reach beyond legal requirements to incorporate a recognition and appreciation of the values and benefits that diversity contributes to our organization’s life and mission.

Extension: Who we are and what we do

History of North Dakota’s land-grant university

Map of land-grant colleges and universities (PDF)

Examples of program efforts

In addition to the examples below, please visit the NDSU Tribal College Partnership Program.

Fargo, North Dakota

Served by the staff of the Cass County office of the NDSU Extension Service

The staff of the NDSU Extension Service-Cass County works in multi-faceted ways to serve the Native American community of Cass County.

In fall 2011, the Cass County 4-H Youth Education Assistant partnered with the Fargo and West Fargo Public Schools Indian Education Center, the Native American Center Project, the NDSU Native American Student Association and, the NDSU Division of Equity, Diversity and Global Outreach’s Tribal College Partnership Program to promote, establish and support a Native American community 4-H club. The collective goal was to create a culturally responsive learning opportunity for late elementary and middle school-aged youth to engage with hands-on 4-H science and leadership opportunities. The 4-H Tech Wizards program model provided a way to offer a small-group mentoring program, fostering life skills development, community engagement and career exploration. Youth were able to explore 4-H robotics activities, teaching them design fundamentals, by challenging them to think creatively and critically as they built their own robots to solve an engaging set of problems. Most importantly, they were able to receive guidance form caring adults and members of the NDSU Native American Student Association who offered instruction and motivation, emphasizing their strengths and helping them to realize their fullest potential. The Native American Community 4-H Club is expandinGrandmother Earth's Gift of Life Gardeng opportunities for youth in fall 2012 and will focus their teaching opportunities on cultural projects, including traditional beading, crafting and foods.

The Cass County Extension horticulturist, along with other entities, planned and implemented an educational Native American garden site on the NDSU campus in 2010-2011 called "Grandmother Earth's Gift of Life Garden." Plants utilized by Native Americans and native to North Dakota are found there. The teaching garden creates awareness of the beauty and functional uses of native plants, and provides the plants’ common and scientific names.

Fort Berthold Reservation

Served by the staff of the Fort Berthold office of the NDSU Extension Service

The staff of the NDSU Extension Service-Fort Berthold office is working in diverse subject areas to meet the needs of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people residing on the Fort Berthold Reservation.Fort Berthold Earth Lodge Garden 2012

During the summer of 2011, they partnered with the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT) Boys and Girls Club to teach youth at both the Culture Camp and Science Camp about natural resource, gardening and nutrition topics. They engaged youth to learn about the cultural and nutritional importance of beans by providing them with the opportunity to plant Arikara Yellow Bean and Hidatsa Shield Figure Bean seeds then take their plants home to grow.  In addition, the staff collaborated with TAT Tourism and the Four Bears Boys and Girls Club to plant a traditional garden (including Arikara Red Bean, Hidatsa Sunflower and Mandan Corn) at the Earth Lodges. Youth were also able to participate in tending a 4-H garden plot in the community garden and sell some of the produce at the local farmers market.Fort Berthold Traditional Garden 2012Fort Berthold Horse Fun Day Rodeo 2012 1

The Fort Berthold Extension staff coordinated several large-scale community events in fall 2011, including collaborating with staff from the Fort Berthold Community College to hold the ninth annual Fort Berthold Horse Fun Day Rodeo, which was well-attended by local youth and families. They also organized the first Fort Berthold Family Harvest Festival to garner local interest in traditional foods and agriculture, as well as to build positive family traditions.

Fort Berthold Harvest Festival 2012During fall 2011, the staff partnered in teaching the Banking on Strong Bones program to fourth grade students at Edwin Loe Elementary School in New Town to encourage improved nutrition and increase their agricultural literacy. Enrichment programming in nutrition topics was also offered to middle school students in the Mandaree school district.

Throughout the past school year, Agriculture in the Classroom and nutrition/health lessons have been taught each week to students at Parshall Elementary School, and a new after school 4-H club has also been organized that is reaching the tribal youth there to get them actively involved in learning about birds, plants, dogs, bike safety and more.

Fort Berthold Horse Fun Day Rodeo 2012 3The Fort Berthold Extension staff is excited to be the recipient of a 2012-2013 4-H Tribal Youth National Mentoring Program grant awarded through the National 4-H Council and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. They have been actively partnering with the TAT Boys and Girls Club staff in the Twin Buttes and White Shield communities to implement this unique program.  Thirty youth gain hands-on experience and applied skills in gardening, beading, food preservation and other areas by working in mentoring groups then entering an individual project they have created at the fair.  Youth will also have the opportunity to gain practical experience in entrepreneurship by developing small products to sell at the local farmers market and online.

Fort Berthold Youth Gardening 2012The staff is working closely with staff from the White Shield School to promote youth gardening and secured an NDSU Junior Master Gardener grant to purchase additional supplies and equipment for their school garden. They recently provided a high tunnel kit to the community of Twin Buttes as part of a youth gardening pilot project between their office and the Twin Buttes Boys and Girls Club.  Youth will directly engage in hands-on learning about organic high tunnel gardening practices while striving to improve the self-sufficiency and food security of this isolated reservation community through increased access to fresh local produce.

Protecting natural resources from invasive species is another Extension priority to maintain the productivity and health of pastures and rangelands at Fort Berthold.  Last summer their office participated in a group flea beetle collection field day on the Standing Rock Reservation.  Beetles were then distributed to interested producers to control leafy spurge on Fort Berthold rangelands.

They recently partnered with the Three Affiliated Tribes Environmental Division to implement a Farm Family Water Well testing project among rural households at Fort Berthold.  They worked with regional EPA staff to collect over fifty water samples from private wells across the reservation to test drinking water quality and ensure the health of the families there.

Their office is also working to promote improved health by offering the NDSU Extension Dining with Diabetes program for the first time on an Indian reservation in North Dakota. They are collaborating with the Fort Berthold Diabetes Program, Tribal Health Educator, and N.D. Department of Health to offer this series of classes to local people with diabetes, and they hope to expand this program to other segments of the reservation in the future.

Spirit Lake Reservation

Served by the staffs of the Benson County and Ramsey County offices of the NDSU Extension Service

Ramsey County staff works with instructors to present greenhouse management strategies to students of Candeska Cikana Community College.  Classroom activities include maintaining and managing all parts of a greenhouse, and hands-on experiences of planting, watering, fertilizing, atmospheric greenhouse conditions and transplanting are covered.

Benson Four Winds Parent Fair 2012The Benson and Ramsey County offices have an active nutrition education program with the Spirit Lake Nation working with Benson County Social Services, the Food Distribution Center, Candeska Cikana Community College, Four Winds and Warwick Elementary schools, the Elder’s Program and the Tokio, St. Michael, Fort Totten and Crow Hill Head Start programs. Here are some highlights:

  • During the school year, monthly nutrition lessons were provided to grades K-6 at Warwick Elementary School and lessons about fruits, vegetables and dairy were taught at the Spirit Lake Head Start. In June, 2011, the staff provided lessons on nutrition to summer school and gifted program students in grades K-8 at Four Winds School. One of the units was on the health benefits of beans and included information about growing beans.
  • Over 100 people attended the Health Food Expo at Fort Totten and learned about the benefits of eating healthful foods to live a longer and better life through home-grown and locally-made products.
  • Benson County staff regularly sets up displays covering a variety of nutrition topics at the Food Distribution Center.  Clients receive educational materials, recipes and food samples. Cooking classes at the Center are being planned.
  • Nearly 1,500 students and adults were reached with information about “My Plate” at the Four Winds Parent Fair.
  • In partnership with the Food Distribution Center, staff held a cooking camp for youth of Spirit Lake Reservation. They learned about “My Plate,” whole grains and the importance of physical activity while working together as a team.
  • In partnership with the Health and Nutrition Education Program at Candeska Cikana Community College in Ft. Totten, nutrition education is delivered to adults in the program about “My Plate,” food safety, fruits and vegetables, food shopping and preparation, the importance of breakfast and many others.

The Lake Region has experienced continual rising lake waters, high ground waters and associated flooding of buildings over the past 18 to 20 years.  The Ramsey County staff has partnered with the Lake Region District Health Unit, FEMA, the Southern Baptists Convention Disaster Relief and emergency managers for Spirit Lake Nation to provide individual and train–the-trainer programs on how to prevent and remove mold.  Staff from two tribal housing authority offices and one private mold-removal company attended the training held on the Spirit Lake Reservation that was tailored for professionals doing mold removal and communicating with homeowners concerning the work being done. The number of homes under the housing authorities and those reached by the private company is in the hundreds.

Standing Rock Reservation

Served by the staff of the Sioux County office of the NDSU Extension Service

The Sioux County Extension staff provides educational opportunities that are research-based, relevant and sensitive to the culture.  Tribal programs, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, public schools, Elders, and youth and community members provide the direction for their programming.  Being a reservation community, their programs often take on a different look and feel than a non-reservation community with all programs being open to the family as a whole with no age restrictions.  Skills are learned in a cross-generational environment within the culture.  The Elders take an active part in mentoring the youth.

Sioux County Tech Wizards 2012The residents of Sioux County have a strong desire to create a sustainable community.  The community is in an extreme food desert and is seeking methods to become self-sufficient.  Historically, residents had small family gardens along the river, but those areas with rich, productive soil are now flooded. The soil on the “flat top land” was poor quality, making gardening no longer productive.  Over the years the knowledge and skills about gardening have been lost.  Sioux County Extension staff has been working with the community to re-establish a strong gardening program including a community garden consisting of three, high tunnels measuring 16’ x 24’ each, twenty 4’ x 8’ box gardens, container gardens, a no-till garden, and a small apple orchard.  The garden is cared for by community members, youth and Elders.  Extension provides educational support, location and other skills needed to make the garden successful.

The Sioux County Extension staff partners with many others to create successful programs such as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Sioux County Commission, Standing Rock Community schools, the Selfridge and Solen/Cannon Ball schools, the St. Bernard Mission School, Sitting Bull College, local businesses, the faith-based community and many more. Here are some highlights of their youth programming:

  • Archery has been a strong program in Sioux County for several years.  During the summer months 3-D archery events are held with the average number of participant’s exceeding fifty youth and adults.
  • Robotics is a program that has allowed Extension to help the youth see their true potential. As shown in annual testing results, Native American students struggle with math, reading and problem-solving skills.  By providing robotics as school enrichment programs, the schools have witnessed students developing stronger math, reading and problem-solving skills.
  • Extension assisted in construction of a garden at the Cannon Ball Elementary School using four 4’ x 4’ box gardens, and two small high tunnels.  The garden was planted and cared for by the students and a teacher.  The produce was shared in the community and used in the school’s hot lunch program.  One student said, “It tastes better when it comes from the school garden.”
  • Five youth from Standing Rock developed leadership skills and shared their culture at Citizenship Washington Focus in Washington, DC, June 3-9, 2012.  These outstanding youth also performed traditional dance at the National 4-H Center and the National Museum of American Indians. Enjoy the video.

Turtle Mountain Reservation

Served by the staff of the Rolette County office of the NDSU Extension Service

The Extension nutrition education assistant works with the Head Start program to provide education to classroom teachers and students, parents and parent aide volunteers on healthy eating and portion control.
Rolette Head Start Parent Aide Graduates 2012
Other highlights:
  • The agriculture Extension agent is a member of the Board of Directors for St. John’s community building, providing space and opportunities for youth with horsemanship activities, roping, etc. He also works with the Belcourt High School athletic director on youth programming and assists with Rodeo Club. He is also a member of a problem-solving work group that meets quarterly to address the needs of Native American population related to agriculture and natural resources. Members include FSA, USDA Rural Development, BIA, Tribe, and the Tribal Chairman. He is also the tribal liaison to NRCS; assists natural resources department staff with noxious weed issues; has conservation day camps; and partners with Soil Conservation to provide cover crop/range management programs.
  • The family and consumer sciences Extension agent is a member of the Wellness Conference Committee at the Turtle Mountain Community College.
  • The Rolette County Extension staff began archery and shooting sports programs in Dunseith and Rolette.
  • A number of educational programs are held within the schools reaching 1,300 youth in 2011 alone.
  • Youth camp reaches an average of 80 to 120 kids in grades 1 through 12.
  • Day care certification training is held throughout the year.

United Tribes Technical College

Served by the staff of the Burleigh County office of the NDSU Extension Service and Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist

With the goal of promoting wellness and entrepreneurship in the Bismarck region, Tom Kalb and other Extension educators worked with the United Tribes Technical College to establish a research and education garden, and a youth garden on the UTTC campus. They also renovated and dedicated the college’s existing community garden as the Anne Kuyper Community Garden.

The new 1.5 acre research and education site, named Dragonfly Garden, is becoming a center for gardening education in the region. The first research project was an evaluation of the state’s largest collection of hardy, cut flower roses. Several television stations have used the site for gardening stories, and it has been host to several large garden tours. Students of the Theodore Jameson Elementary School learn about native plants and tribal gardening practices through classes held at the garden.

Beds for vegetable crops have been established and an irrigation system was installed. Campus families harvested beans and corn from the renovated community garden. Teachers donated additional produce from the garden to campus cafeterias.

A community orchard was won through a national contest sponsored by the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The orchard that started with seventy fruit trees and many beds of berries and grapes has grown into over 100 varieties of fruits for evaluation, including 40 varieties of apples. Several trees were grown on rootstock from Siberia that allows for commercial production of applies on dwarf trees.  Hundreds of gardeners toured the site in 2012 including groups of scientists from Canada and Kosovo.


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