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  • Writer's pictureRose High Bear

It’s a New Year!

It’s a new year, and a time that some of our friends who are seeking to transform their lives make New Year resolutions. It is not a Native American tradition, but I was excited to wake this New Year Day filled with a sense of healing and hope. It was unexpected and somehow felt like a gift from the Spirit World.

Whatever caused it, it stimulated me to reflect again on Elderberry Wisdom Farm, its bright future, my commitment of service to the community, and what we might expect in 2023.

Amazingly, when we returned to work this week, another staff member mentioned that she had the same experience. We both felt we received a blessing that can only help to strengthen our commitment to our work at the Farm.

It felt like a blessing back in 2017 when we found and purchased our small two-acre farm in the South Salem Hills. Soon after our move, we were inspired to form our Native American nonprofit, Elderberry Wisdom Farm. As we fulfill our third year of service later this spring, we remember our first successes.

Thanks to our 2021 partnership with Chemeketa Community College and a five-year U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, we began creating habitat restoration workforce development training for Native adults. For the past two years we have been expanding our curriculum and training Native Americans to integrate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) concepts into habitat restoration work. These internships provided an opportunity for Native students to increase awareness of the importance of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), or traditional knowledges (TK), and how they integrate with their conservation and agricultural career pathways. This was comfortable to us because it was similar to the work we accomplished at our prior Portland nonprofit.

Our partnership with Chemeketa created the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Development Project which continues through the spring of 2026. We are helping to raise awareness of traditional knowledges and how these cultural values and spiritual principles easily fit into Western science practices here in the Willamette Valley.

The White House Acknowledges Indigenous Knowledge

Once unknown by most ecologists and scientists, the December 2022 release by the White House of the Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Indigenous Knowledge accelerated awareness nationwide of traditional ecological knowledge. At the White House Tribal Nations Summit, it was stated that “in order to make the best scientific and policy decisions possible, the Federal government should value and, as appropriate, respectfully include Indigenous Knowledge.” It was so beautifully expressed that I’d like to share another quote from the release with you:

Indigenous Knowledge is a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, practices, and beliefs that promote environmental sustainability and the responsible stewardship of natural resources through relationships between humans and environmental systems. It is applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural and spiritual systems. Indigenous Knowledge has evolved over millennia, continues to evolve, and includes insights based on evidence acquired through direct contact with the environment and long-term experiences, as well as extensive observations, lessons, and skills passed from generation to generation.

We are constantly encouraged by the diverse community that increasingly supports Native perspectives. This especially includes our funders, the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development Grant program, Chemeketa Community College, Meyer Memorial Trust, and The Collins Family Foundation. Since we formed only three years ago, they have all been willing to support our capacity building activities along with our internship and outreach activities.

Additional thanks to our partners, colleagues, monthly donors and followers who, along with our consultants and volunteers, recognize the value of our work and continue to encourage us with their friendship and support. I am grateful for the partners who stepped up to write Letters of Commitment for our recent proposal to US Department of Agriculture, incluidng Institute for Applied Ecology, Oregon Agricultural Trust, Friends of Family Farmers, Mercy Corps Northwest, Good Rain Farm, Warm Springs Community Action Team’s Shuwiyasha food sovereignty project, Northwest Cooperative Development Center, OSU Extension Small Farms Program, Alder Street Consulting, Chemeketa Community College, Oregon Community Food Systems Network (OCFSN), and OSU’s Dry Farm Project Team. It is a blessing for you to surround us and hold us up!

We are especially humbled by the tireless support of our board of directors and our staff. Very special appreciation goes out to the members of Elderberry Wisdom Farm’s Board of Directors who continue to support our work. At the same time that we have accomplished projects and services for our Native American community, the board has stepped up to help us strengthen our young organization’s infrastructure so our successes and outreach can continue to grow and blossom.

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