The Scholarly Emergence for Environmental Design and Stewardship (SEEDS) program was designed to grow the capacities of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) in environmental and natural science programming and partnerships to support tribal land stewardship, while fostering the integration of placed-based traditional ecological knowledge and intergenerational knowledge exchange. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and the Indigenous knowledges imbedded within it are rooted in Indigenous peoples’ long-standing relationships to place. These relationships underpin the identity structures; values; and mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of Indigenous peoples and tribal nations. As a result, issues like climate change, land loss, and water pollution cause Indigenous peoples to not only suffer physically and economically, but also psychologically and spiritually. Such environmental impacts inflict multi-generational harm.
As tribal land grant institutions and Indigenous institutions of higher education dedicated to place-based and culturally relevant teachings, TCUs are well positioned to lead Indigenous land stewardship and land sovereignty initiatives to address these challenges and help remedy the historical trauma that tribal nations and their lands have suffered (Crazy Bull and White Hat 2019).
SEEDS and initiatives like SEEDS support TCUs in building stronger academic programming, place-based research opportunities, and career experiences in the sciences that are greatly needed within tribal communities and that help restore tribal nations’ relationship with, responsibility for, and sovereignty over their lands using Indigenous cultural models.
SEEDS emphasized linking institutional capacity building, curriculum development, faculty development, student learning, and broader partnership-building in the environmental and natural sciences. It also empowered the TCUs to articulate their vision for this capacity-building work through implementation plans and then implement those plans with College Fund technical assistance.
Nine TCUs located in five states – Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin – received a total of $850,000 in SEEDS support.
Those TCU grantees included: Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC), College of Menominee Nation (CMN), Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC), Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College (LCOOC), Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC), Little Big Horn College (LBHC), Red Lake Nation College (RLNC), Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC), and United Tribes Technical College (UTTC).