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NRCS Embraces American Indian Heritage Month

story by Jaime Tankersley

NRCS employees share stories and artifacts during an American Indian Heritage month event.The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff took time to observe American Indian Heritage Month on November 6, 2013, in Temple, Texas. Every year NRCS takes time to recognize and commend the cultures that we embrace and provide both technical and financial assistance to, including American Indians.

On display was a variety of handmade jewelry, ancient artifacts, and ceremonial pieces. Participants also enjoyed samples of historical cultural dishes of buffalo stew and wild rice. Employees saw firsthand the craftsmanship of an arrowhead, the medical value of a plant, and artistry of making pine needle baskets, pottery, and jewelry.

Attendees had the chance to visit with NRCS staff that serve as agency representatives and work directly with the three federally recognized tribes in the state. Melony Sikes, NRCS American Indian/Alaskan Natives Emphasis Program Manager, and Gary Stephens, NRCS American Indian Liaison, welcomed staff and offered a brief historical overview of the state’s tribes and the conservation work that has come from the agency’s working partnerships.

Texas is home to the Tigua of the Yselta Del Sur Pueblo, located in El Paso; Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, located in Eagle Pass; and the Alabama Coushatta in Livingston. Currently, the NRCS has working relationships with all three tribes in the state which have resulted in conservation plans and active program participation.

NRCS employees embrace American Indian Heritage month during November.“Every year we have a poster that commemorates a segment of American Indian heritage; this year’s selection highlighted the harvest of wild rice in Michigan,” Sikes said.

Texas wildrice, Zizania texana, was highlighted at the observance since it was historically important to the Native American people who populated the headwaters of the San Marcos River for centuries.”

American Indian Heritage Month enhances our efforts to honor tribal sovereignty and provides a portal for us to work one-on-one, incorporating conservation and protecting tribal resources with the Texas American Indian population.

“This event offered an opportunity to highlight the assistance NRCS has provided to enhance the natural resource base on tribal and private lands in Texas, while observing the contributions Native Americans have made to Texas and the United States,” Sikes noted.

For more information about NRCS and American Indian Heritage Month visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.

NRCS employees learn about cultural resources and artifacts during American Indian Heritage month.Native American artifacts were on display during the American Indian Heritage month event.